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Fitness Corner: Conditioning test

Texans strength and conditioning coach **Dan Riley** writes his popular Fitness Corner column for Riley and assistant strength and conditioning coach **Ray Wright** will continue to post selected answers to your questions throughout the year. Join in by shooting over an e-mail to ****.

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What do the Houston Texans do for a conditioning test when they report?

Coach Jake Sawyer, Northland Christian, Houston, Texas


Our players reported to camp on July 29, Thursday evening. We had meetings Friday morning and the players ran our conditioning test at 2:00 on Friday afternoon ([


]( Our test consists of 14 x 40 yard sprints. Each of our workouts is posted in our Strength and Conditioning manual that you can download from the Fitness Corner.

My advice to coaches regarding a conditioning test is:

  1. Realize there is no conditioning test that accurately measures the specific levels of fitness needed to play the game of football The specific physiological and metabolic adaptations that come from playing the game of football can only be developed by playing the game of football.
  1. If you do administer a test make sure it measuring the energy systems used to play football. The two major energy systems providing energy to play the game of football are the ATP-PC system and the Lactic Acid system. To assess these systems the conditioning test must be short and intense. Administering a one-mile (1/4 mile, ½ mile) run for a football player is a poor test for a football player. You are testing the wrong energy system. Players will waste valuable time and energy preparing for a test that is not football specific instead of preparing the exact energy systems they will use when practice begins. It would be like studying for an algebra exam while taking a geometry class.
  1. A conditioning test should not be designed to eliminate athletes who have invested adequate time and energy to meet the rigors of the first few days of football practice. Remember, only football itself, practiced at game speed, will prepare an athlete to play the game of football. Our conditioning test is the easiest of all our conditioning workouts. If a student studies hard for a math exam and flunks miserably, I would say the exam is not a valid indicator of this students understanding of the material. If an athlete works reasonably hard the conditioning test should simply be an indicator that the athlete has been preparing himself. It should not be a test of gut wrenching will, players puking, pulling muscles that day (unless they have not properly prepared), the reason for pulled muscles several days later, and take days to recover from. Our players will tell you our conditioning test performed in the exact manner we administer it, is a good workout. It will become obvious during the last four forty-yard sprints if a player has not prepared adequately.

Listed below is the protocol we use. This year the offense ran the test first followed by the defense.

Date: Friday, July 30

Time: 2 p.m.

Location: Texans practice facility (Field #1)

Purpose: Evaluate team conditioning.


  1. Team jogs a lap.
  1. Team stretch (10 minutes).
  1. Active warm-up (7 minutes).
  1. Individual preparation (2 minutes).
  1. Running test (8 minutes).

Test Protocol: The team will be divided into three groups with assigned running times for each group.* *

Group 1 – WR/DB - 5.0 seconds

Group 2 – QB/TE/RB/LB/P/K - 5.5 seconds

Group 3 – OL/DL - 6.1 seconds


Each group will complete a series of 14 x 40 yard sprints with thirty-five seconds rest between sprints. Three separate Lafayette electronic Sportimers will be used to time each sprint. Strength Coach Ray Wright controls the timers during or test. Players within a group will be arranged alphabetically and assigned a running lane by position. This will facilitate the grading process for each position coach.

Each coach will be provided with a grading sheet with his players listed alphabetically (as they are lined up across the field). There will be fourteen boxes below the players name representing each 40-yard sprint.

Coaches will stand at the finish line. The same 40-yard line will be used as the finish line for all fourteen sprints. The odd numbered sprints (1-3-5-7-9-11-13) will originate at the goal line and finish at the 40-yard line. The even numbered sprints (2-4-6-8-10-12-14) will start from the opposite 20-yard line and finish at the same 40-yard line.

Players in each group are required to start in unison. A cadence of "First Group Down (brief pause) Set!" will be used to start each group. The electronic timers are manually started at the beginning of each sprint. The timers are equipped with a horn that automatically sounds at the preset designated times.

The position coach will record an "S" in the appropriate box if a player starts prematurely. The position coach will record an "F" in the appropriate box if a player fails to have one foot beyond the finish line when the horn sounds.


The test will begin when the players here the words, "First group down." Group I will immediately assume a three-point stance with one hand just behind the goal line. At the first sound cadence of "Set," the group will have 5.0 seconds to sprint through the 40-yard line. The horn will go off at five seconds. The group will continue running/jogging to the opposite 20-yard line and wait for Group II and Group III to join them. The 35-second rest interval for Group I will begin as soon as the horn goes off.

The command "Second group down" is given. Group II will then assume a three-point stance at the goal line. At the first sound cadence of "Set," the group will have 5.5 seconds to sprint through the 40-yard line. Group II will continue running/jogging and join Group I at the 20-yard line.


The command "Third group down," is given. Group III will then assume a three-point stance at the goal line. At the first sound cadence of "Set," the group will have 6.1 seconds to sprint through the 40-yard line. Group III will continue running/jogging and meet Group I and Group II at the 20-yard line.

At the end of the 35-second rest interval the command "First group down," is given. Group I will immediately assume a three-point stance. With the first sound cadence of "Set," the group will run through the 40-yard line and continue running/jogging to the goal line and wait for Group II and Group III to join them. The same protocol will continue until each of the fourteen sprints has been completed.

2004 Conditioning Test Instructions (Coaches)

  1. Team jogs lap.
  1. Team stretches (approximately 7 minutes).
  1. Team performs active warm-up (approximately 5 minutes).
  1. Players are given several minutes to change shoes and perform optional individual warm-up.
  1. Defensive players and specialists will run the test first. Upon completion of the test the offensive players will run.
  1. Defensive players are given test instructions and assigned a running lane alphabetically and by position.
  1. The defensive players will be composed of three running groups and will run the test in this sequence:

Group I = Defensive Backs will line up on goal line near side of field closest to stadium.

Group II = Linebackers/Punters/Kickers will line up in the same running lanes as group one.

Group III = Defensive Linemen will line up on the goal line on the far side of the field (to prevent collisions with DB's).

  1. The 40 yd. Line will be the finish line for each sprint.
  1. Coaches will grade each 40 yd. sprint – Verbally let a player know if he...

a. "S" = False Start.

b. "F" = did not have his foot on the line or over it when the horn went off.

c. Comments.

  1. The same protocol will be used for the offense.

2004 Players' Test Instructions

  1. Warm-up protocol:

a. Jog a lap.

b. Meet on the goal line for active warm-up (3 groups – OL/DL first).

c. Stretch using practice stretch formation.

d. Individual preparation.

  1. Defense will run first aligned by position alphabetically.
  1. Offense will run as soon as the defense finishes (meet at goal line ready to run).
  1. Defense will run in 3 Groups (aligned alphabetically – left to right)

a. Group I – DL

b. Group II – Inside LB's, Outside LB's, Specialists

c. Group III – Corners, safeties

  1. Offense will run in three groups.

a. Group I – OL

b. Group II – RB, QB, TE

c. Group III – WR

  1. DL/OL will be positioned on the far side of the field to prevent collisions.
  1. Group II on defense and offense will run in the same running lanes as Group I.
  1. The 40-yard line is the finish line regardless of the direction you run.
  1. Goal line to 40 yd. line and coast to the far 20 – return from the 20 to the original 40 yd. line. Goal line and 20-yard line are the start lines.
  1. Cadence:

a. First group down ….. SET! (horn blows).

b. 35 seconds rest.

  1. Position Coach will grade each 40.

a. Start (S) Finish (F) – Overall Performance.

We met as a staff to evaluate the overall performance of the team and each individual. This group of players performed as well as any group I have been involved with.

Remember; be realistic in your physical requirements. Some coaches want to have a test that is so demanding it is almost impossible to pass. They use other people's bodies to try and prove how tough they are. Football players need to be in good enough shape when they go to camp so they can use football to get them into football shape.

In my past I have observed athletes that failed the conditioning test yet were able to begin football practice and perform at a high level. This is an indication that the test does not accurately measure the fitness levels needed to play football.

Go Texans!

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