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Fitness 4 Referees > Introduction

Referees require similar fuel mix conditioning to players
The demands on Referees and Referees Assistants are growing due to shorter rest periods and increased ball in play during games. Particularly at a professional level, optimal positioning for decision making is vital and this requires a sound level of football specific fitness.

A high level of fuel mix conditioning must be supplemented with strength, stability and agility training
The assumption that a Referee's training should be focused purely on aerobic conditioning is incorrect. Although referees do not require explosive power, they do require strength, agility and speed endurance to successfully meet the demands of their role.

Strength training enhances endurance ability and is a prerequisite for safe and effective acceleration and agility
A referee specific fitness approach must also consider principles related to age. The average age of a referee is over 35 years, which emphasises the need for joint and core stability as these elements are increasingly important as you pass the age of 35. Core stability and Foundation Strength training are essential elements of the fitness programme.

The demands on the energy systems during a game illustrate the need for fuel mix conditioning sessions. A fantastic tool for developing fuel mix conditioning are heart rate monitors. During a game your heart rate fluctuates relative to the intensity and duration of play, and your level of fuel mix fitness. Once you are aware of the your heart rate responses during a game, you can mimic them in training. These heart rate sessions can be supra maximal i.e. at heart rates over and above those experienced during a game or sub-maximal.

The most specific form of conditioning for referees is fartlek training, involving various intervals of movement spent:

  • Walking (forwards, sideways and backwards)
  • Running
  • ¾'s pace
  • full speed
  • changing direction

Acceleration and deceleration are features of a fartlek session because you continually change the intensity of your running speed. Backward movements are very common and place a far greater demand on your energy system compared to forward activities

On average, referees cover 9.3 miles during a game. This study also highlighted the fact that this amount of activity caused significant dehydration which was not redressed by the spontaneous intake of water during the interval. Br J Sports Med 2003;37:502-506
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Core stability training should be an integral part of preparation for referees to facilitate high intensity running and provide joint stability.