If you want to be a good 5-a-side player then you need to have impressive fitness levels. But just what sort of heights do you need to reach to be a top player? We find out exactly what the fitness requirements are for top futsal players and how you can test yourself against them.
Graeme Dell, the English Football Association’s National Futsal Coach until 2008 said this:
Unless a player can attain level 12 on a bleep test I’m unlikely to touch them. Statistically, we now feel that’s what you need to play the game effectively at a basic level
Quite simply, that is your benchmark for any form of 5-a-side. It might seem like a lofty fitness mountain to climb, but if you want to be a very good player then you need a level 12+ on the bleep test. If you’re not sure what the bleep test is, we’ve covered it in a separate post (see The Beep Test – a Comprehensive Guide).
There are no shortcuts, no exemptions, if you want to be the best you can be on the court, you’ve got to aim for this level. Those who don’t appreciate that there’s a strong relationship between a player’s fitness level and the standard of a player’s overall performance, simply haven’t played at a good level of 5-a-side yet.
How fit are top futsal players in practice?
In 2012 Daniel Berdejo-del-Fresno completed a study looking at the fitness level of 12 elite male futsal players from Manchester Futsal Club first team in the UK.
Over the course of a season the study looked at this group of 12 players, all between 18 and 29 years old – 10 were outfield players and 2 were goalkeepers.
Now, the players who play for Manchester Futsal Club aren’t full-time professionals, but they are certainly no mugs when it comes to playing the game. Among the 12 players tested were two players in the international England squad, one ex-England player, and one who had played futsal professionally in Spain and represented the Spanish National Beach Football Team. Manchester Futsal club are a top two team in the English league and won the FA futsal Cup the season before the study took place.
The guys train twice a week for 2 hours (part of that is specific fitness training) and play games once a week whilst the futsal season is in progress. They were subject to fitness testing three times over the course of a season; at weeks 1, 16 and 36, which coincided with different stages of their season as follows:
Test 1 was performed when they got back from their off-season break. No doubt some had let fitness standards slip a little during the break and we imagine one or two might have been sweating nervously even before the testing began.
Test 2 followed after the whole of the pre-season, a lot of which was spent building fitness levels; a ‘competition’ phase, in which two games were played; and a transition phase which built up for the final competition phase to follow.
Test 3 was completed near the end of the season after the final competition phase in which the team played 10 matches.
The results were interesting to see. What is telling is that the average score for the squad as a whole did not record a bleep test score of 12 until the final measurement:
The minimum level achieved by any of the players was 9 at the start of the season, which is a fairly achievable result for a person to achieve as long as that person is relatively active and not carrying too much excess weight.
However, by the second test, after training had commenced and two games had been played, the minimum level had risen to 10, which we think is the level required at amateur level to hold your own well on the court.
By the mid-season test, the minimum score by the squad was level 11, a very respectable score and one which will allow you to play 5-a-side to a good standard.
However, by the final test, the squad as a whole was hitting 12+ which is the minimum level required to play forms of 5-a-side at the elite level.
The millions of people playing 5-a-side worldwide are a vast mix of people, playing different variations of 5 on 5 soccer to differing standards. However, physical fitness underpins success for them all.
Although to begin with you can (and should) step on court to start playing fives with whatever fitness level you can muster, if you want to be a good player you’ll have to drag your fitness up to certain minimum levels.
The lesson we learn from the testing performed on elite futsal players is that attaining a level 12 on the bleep test is the benchmark required to play at a top level.
Getting to this stage will guarantee that you’ve got the capacity to keep up with the pace of an intense game and match other top players stride-for-stride over the course of the match.
Whilst the level 12 target has been aired and tested in futsal, the most organised form of 5-a-side in the world, this should be a target for the elite player in any competitive form of the game. It’s not unachievable – despite the Manchester futsal players playing at a very high level, they still only trained twice a week and played a game at the weekend in peak season.
Playing on a casual level, we think a bleep test score of level 10 will see most players able to keep up with and outperform a majority of people fitness-wise. But if you can nudge your fitness up even one or two levels then you’re well on your way to being able to run the show!
To continue the current theme on fitness, next post we’re going to look at the bleep test in more detail and yours truly will be taking the test! Subscribe and follow for updates of the weekly article we publish – and if you don’t hear from us, then we didn’t make it through the bleep test!