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Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:57

Goalkeeper Fitness

I have to confess that this blog is not of my doing, I cannot claim any credit. It was brought to my attention by a fellow goalkeeping coach and having read it myself was suitably impressed and wanted to share it with other members of the "Goalkeepers Union"

This blog is written by Steven Rodden of the "Elite GK Academy" based in the North East whose website can be found at www.elitegkacademy.com

I hope you enjoy his article and gain some useful information from it.

It is a common misconception, especially within Grassroots, that a goalkeeper doesn’t need to be fit as ‘they just stand there and have to save a few shots’, I can confirm to you that that statement is 100% incorrect.

Imagine a 100m sprinter, does it make him any less of an athlete because he only runs a maximum of 10/11 seconds over a short distance?

No, in fact, sprinters are incredible athletes conditioned to perform at maximum capacity over short distance and time. This is where I will liken goalkeepers with 100m sprinter. Sprinters work within an Anaerobic state (without oxygen) where the demand for oxygen and fuel far exceeds the rate of supply and the muscles must rely on stored fuel. This draws very similar comparisons to how a goalkeeper may be required to work during a game – that split second save/double save, cutting out a through ball, dealing with a one on one or even coming to claim a cross.

Goalkeepers are required to work at maximum effort for a very short period of time and must be conditioned to do so.

As well as relying on our anaerobic endurance a goalkeeper must also look to develop fast twitch muscle fibres. A sprinters body comprises of approximately 80% fast twitch muscle fibres, allowing him/her to react and act explosively through the duration of their race. It is essential that a goalkeeper completes various explosive exercises to develop their fast twitch muscle fibres.

It’s a little painful seeing or hearing of goalkeepers who join in outfield ‘fitness’ sessions in which they are made to run around a field at a set pace over a long period of time, this in no way enhances a goalkeepers specific fitness, instead, it can hinder their performance and development! Working over a long period of time at a set pace encourages development of slow twitch muscle fibres, decreasing the goalkeepers ability to be able to act/react explosively.

Personally I believe the main components of fitness required by a goalkeeper are as follows:

-          Speed

-          Strength

-          Power

-          Anaerobic Endurance

-          Flexibility

-          Agility

-          Balance

-          Coordination

-          Reaction Time

These components of fitness can be trained and maintained in various different ways:

-          Goalkeeper specific fitness training

-          Personal development/maintenance work

-          Within a gym (goalkeepers aged 16+)

I wouldn’t recommend any child under the age of 10 years partake in any form of goalkeeping fitness, however, I would encourage coaches and parents to help children under this age develop; agility, balance and coordination (ABC’s). It’s something that I have worked on with goalkeepers of all ages and is something that all children, not just goalkeepers, should work on through their primary and secondary physical education. Once we have developed the basics it is then acceptable to move on and develop the other components of fitness as identified above. These components of fitness can be developed through goalkeeper specific exercises lasting no more than 45 seconds, allowing a minimum of 45 seconds rest for development and up to 5 minutes for maintenance.

How can you incorporate all of the above components of fitness into a training session?

Please see link below with a fitness session I conducted with 2 senior goalkeepers:


There are many ways in which you can incorporate numerous key components of goalkeeper fitness into one training session. Use your imagination, as long as the exercises are relevant and you are also encouraging the goalkeeper to use correct technique. Encouragement or ignorance of bad technique will lead to bad habits being displayed during team training and during games.

How can I develop key components of goalkeeper fitness in my own time?

There are many ways in which you can further development in your own time. Break down each challenge you may need to face during a game and invent exercises/routines that will not only be challenging but also rewarding.

A few personal favourites of mine are:

-          Half pitch sprints -Although a goalkeeper will never have to sprint half a pitch during a game this helps with anaerobic development

-          Penalty box shuttles – returning to the goal line back pedalling

-          Burpees – explosive power in upper body and legs, also core development

-          Squat Jumps – explosive power for legs

-          Leg raises – to improve core strength

-          Throwing a tennis ball off a wall – use both hands to throw/catch at various strengths to develop reaction time

-          Static stretching – to improve flexibility stretch when you wake up and before you go to sleep, aim to hold each stretch for approximately 10-12 seconds.

How can I improve goalkeeping performance in the gym?

For me, this is one of the most important places to improve your goalkeeping performance post 16 years. A goalkeeper must possess explosive power (a combination of speed and strength). Using compound exercises only (where more than 1 joint/muscle is working at one time), complete 12-15 reps of the following exercises using a rule of 3 seconds down 1 second up.

-          Bench Press

-          Standing Military Press

-          Squats

-          Deadlifts

A favourite of mine is to combine all of these exercises in to one circuit that will last no more than 30 minutes yet leave you feeling like you’ve just completed a marathon!

To warm up complete 5x 100m sprints preferably on a track or if on a treadmill sprint at full capacity for 20 seconds, walking back to the start if on a track or resting for 20 seconds on a treadmill. Now the hard part, begin your circuit by completing 12-15 repetitions of one exercise within 45 seconds, rest for 45 seconds and move on to the next exercise. Once you have completed the circuit once rest for 5 minutes and repeat another 2 times. Ensure you stretch at the end of your session and complete a 5 minute cool down (walk at 1% incline) on the treadmill.

I hope this post has been of some help to those looking to improve either their own goalkeeping performance, their team goalkeeper or their child.

All the best in goalkeeping

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