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Five of the Best 1v1 Exercises

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

Although the modern game has advanced tactically in terms of session design, it seems that there is still very much a place for 1v1 work in training session. Players always enjoy this type of work because it allows them to compete with one another and in teams. The energy that these kind of activities can help elevate the tempo of a session and increase team spirit at the same time. Building these exercises into your training involves a level of planning, with times, sizes, and training loads, all taken into consideration. Below are some examples of our favorite 1v1 exercises that can have a variety of outcomes and objectives, but generally can be used at every level of the game.

Number 1: Spartak Moscow 1v1 Competition

This looks to be a activation exercise where the Spartak Moscow S&C coach creates a competition inside a small area. As the coach calls a color, players must sprint around the cones and then into the middle of the grid where the ball awaits. In terms of physical demands, it seems to be that it's more about speed than 1v1 skill. Because the area is quite small, the first player who arrives will have a simple five-yard pass into the mini-goal. You can watch the video below.

Number 2: Arsenal 1v1 Transition Competition

Again, this exercise seems designed as a warm-up activity where there are two teams and two mini-goals. Players are simply required to accelerate and pass the ball into the mini-goal ahead, but after doing so they must recover and defend their direct opponent. This is an excellent exercise for basic awareness and transition speed, with a lapse of concentration almost certainly resulting in a goal. These games can be short, competitive, and a perfect to lead into a session where individual or team transitions are going to be emphasized. You can watch the video below.

Number Three: 6v6 with 1v1 Circuit

This is a slightly different design where the 1v1 is built into a small-sided game and then controlled by the coach. Before the game starts, all players on each team are given a number by the coach. Then, throughout the game, the coach calls a number and those players must come out and play 1v1. Not only is it a good 1v1 individual exercise, but it also challenges the teams to manage underload and overload situations throughout the game. You can watch the video below.

Number Four: Pep Guardiola Bayern Munich 1v1

A simple but effective 1v1 exercise by Pep Guardiola when he was at Bayern Munich. Players start in a line 15-20 yards from goal with a goalkeeper. The rotation is simple a player becomes the attacker, then the defender, then leaves the grid. You can adapt this and organize them into teams and alternate the colors in the lines. It's an excellent exercise for reaction speed and the full goal means that defensive pressure needs to be high in order to prevent shots. You can watch the video below.

Number Five: West Ham High-Intensity 1v1

Similar to the organization and structure of the Spartak Moscow exercise, this activity looks to be built pre-season with bigger spaces and higher physical demands. There is also room for flexibility of this exercise where a coach can serve an aerial ball for two players once they arrive into the 1v1 zone, or even give a second ball and create a transition moment. You can watch the video below.

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