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Behind-the-scenes at U.S. National Team fitness testing

CARSON, Calif. – The fitness portion of the game is glossed over by many, but for teams like the U.S. National Team and the LA Galaxy, it is serious business.

To get a better understanding of just what the likes of A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez went through, I went through the rigorous U.S. National Team fitness test administered by the U.S. Soccer training staff.  The test consists of four different aspects that are designed to test the players’ general fitness in a number of different elements and create a baseline for coaches and trainers to build upon throughout the camp.

The tests, which were administered by Masa Sakihana, the head fitness coach for the U.S., began on the field with the agility and lateral movement portion of the proceedings where players are tested with their agility through six drills. The exercise started with the 5-10-5 or shuttle drill. Designed to test players’ lateral quickness and motion over a short distance, the drill begins with the athlete running five yards to  the right, touching a marker, then going back another ten yards in the opposite direction before pivoting and running the final five yards.

The final on-field challenges came with the 30-meter dash and vertical jumps, which are designed to test a players’ speed and mobility on a variety of levels.

Moving from the field to the Athlete’s Performance gym, the same gym used by the national team and the Galaxy, the most profound test was still to come, an exercise entitled the VO2 Test. (pictured at right)

At first glance, the VO2 Test does not appear imposing as the drill consists of running on a treadmill with an oxygen mask strapped on. However, once the machine roars from a brisk walk to a full sprint, you are pushed to your limit as the speed increases every 30 seconds. Once the treadmill reaches a speed of 10, trainers will increase the incline, further testing the athlete until they ask to stop.

According to Sakihana, the VO2 Test is designed simply to measure “how fit you are” and after a grueling spell on the treadmill with an oxygen mask strapped to your face, one gets a more than fair indication of that. Per U.S. Soccer, AS Roma stalwart Michael Bradley has earned the best scores as of late.

VO2 completed, participants caught their breath before undergoing a functional movement screening, which is given to all athletes upon their arrival at camp to test their susceptibility to injury. Players are judged on a 21 point scale and if one scores lower than 14, then the trainers must work with the individual until he receives a higher score.

READ: Omar Gonzalez & the Functional Movement Screen

The two-hour backstage pass to the U.S. National Team’s training processes ended with director of performance nutrition Danielle Lafatta breaking down the dietary plan of a soccer player.

It is important to remember that these types of drills and education courses aren’t exclusive to the U.S. as the LA Galaxy’s training staff has performed their own diagnostics as the club returns to the field for preseason.

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at and contact him at