4 ways to balance skills and fitness

How do we get a perfect balance of conditioning and skill work? Simple – concentrate on four key elements.


The warm-up

Good use can be made of session warm-ups to do skills work. At an early stage, passing, catching and light kicking skills can be introduced. In unit sessions, simple lifts and throws can be used for forwards.

Dual use of footwork/passing exercises enhances ball carrying skills, passing before contact as well as support lines. These are all areas that need improving.

Use exercises in small areas, making them larger as the session progresses. Focus on accuracy, so keep concentration levels high.



Small-sided and touch games are a good way of introducing skill components while players are getting worked hard. Try switching from a skill practice into a game, then vice versa.

The cycles, like game, skill, game, and the number of players, coupled with the size of the playing area will govern work rate.

Look at how the players are breathing at the end of each section to judge how hard they are working. If they are chatting easily, then they won’t have been working hard enough.



I like to use what I call “blasts” in sessions which have a fitness focus. This is a 10 or 15-minute technical training section, such as rucking. The length and intensity can be managed while including any number of ways to enhance technical performance under pressure.

Work in line with typical phase cycles in a game and at high intensity. Ensure there

are always overloads for fitness gains, such as 7v5, 4v3, etc.


Skills conditioning circuits

Skills circuits are a good way of covering lots of technical areas mixed with additional fitness components.

Equipment such as ladders for footwork or poles for evasion, can also be used. Each coach is responsible for a circuit, involving lots of players and plenty of feedback.


  • Establish with your fitness coach/assistant what you want to achieve.
  • Plan the session together.
  • Control the timings and make them specific to situations they will encounter in a match.
  • Make players aware of what you want to get out of the session.
  • Set targets and always make the session competitive.



  • Three attackers v two defenders, all start and end at same place on halfway line (flagged area).
  • Either A1 or A3 runs to a ball on the 22m touchline. He delivers a quick 5m throw to himself.
  • A2 runs straight back to support the attack.
  • The other A runs to the opposite 22m touchline to also support the attack.
  • D1 and D2 run to the halfway touchline flags before re-entering the field to defend.
  • You could send a defender to a flag or cone nearer the posts so that a different chase line is formed.
  • After the attack is completed (or failed), all five sprint back to the start point.


Two passes, one infield and pass back or switch the play.


10 reps and then move players around – 30 seconds rest between each

Share this
Follow us