An Interesting Spin on Shuttle Runs

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Shuttle runs are a conditioning staple.

Most athletes that go out for a fall sport will have to do some kind of conditioning test when they get to camp. More often than not, the conditioning test involves the 300 yard shuttle.

Typically, the 300 yard shuttle is conducted like this. Set up two cones, 25 yards apart. The athletes will run down and back 6 times, adding up to 300 yards. They will get a rest period and repeat.


What I have used in the past with my hockey guys is 2 shuttles run in under 60 seconds with 2.5 minutes of rest in between each one. Over 60s in either run is a fail.

Now there is nothing magical about 300 yards. When we are conditioning the athletes over the summer, we will use 100, 150, 200, etc. to help prepare for the test. I am guessing that coaches like the 300 because it should be run in under a minute.

This test does have its weaknesses and we could poke holes in it all day. It might not necessarily be a good indicator of how good someone is at their sport but it can be extremely effective at seeing who sat on their butt all summer.

Recently I was speaking with a friend of mine who is heavily involved in hockey from a skill development and coaching aspect. He was looking for something more from conditioning tests.

One thing that he did not like about the shuttle test was that it promotes mediocrity in a way. All someone has to do is pass. It does not drive them to try harder than they ever have before. Someone who can run them in 57 seconds can continue to stay at that pace and safely pass.

He was looking for something that will push the each athlete a little bit more.

Something that we have recently tried is flipping the idea behind the shuttle run. We use the same set up but we set the time instead of the distance. During the 300, they know they need to get to 6 times down and back.

If we instead give them a time to get as many trips as possible, people can separate from the pack.


45 seconds to get as many trips down and back as possible.

In 45 seconds, I would expect any decent athlete to be around 225 yards or 4.5 trips down and back. This test lets us see 2 things. The first shows us who cannot get there and the second is who can go well beyond the rest of the team.

The athletes that do not quite get to the 4.5 passes are probably not in great shape or not that great anaerobically, both of which are issues for hockey. The ones that get beyond 4.5 are moving very well.

This reminded me of the Wingate test that we did in college. It was 30 seconds as hard as possible on a bike with some resistance to test anaerobic power. Good performance in that test gives info on who is trained in that energy system, the predominant one in most sports.

If you want to then test ability to recover and repeat, give them a 2 minute break and repeat it.

I have seen some athletes in rough shape after shuttle runs but the timed runs seem to have brought a team wide hatred of life. Instead of one or two kids questioning their existence the number ballooned to around 90%.

To use this test. First determine your priority. To see how hard someone is willing to go for 30-60 seconds use one and tell them to go all out. To determine their ability to repeat it, give them a rest and do 2.

Instead of just passing at a certain time this test asks the athlete to break away from everyone else and get as far as possible.