Training for the Yo-Yo Test

This page is about training to improve your yo-yo test score. As the yo-yo test is a measure of your aerobic and anaerobic fitness and the ability to do repeated sprints, the way to improve your score is to focus on improving those aspects of your fitness.

There are no shortcuts, to make significant changes to your fitness requires a commitment, and some unavoidable hard work. That doesn't mean you cannot enjoy it. Nothing beats the satisfaction of improving your body, achieving goals and performing better in your sport.

As well as training to improve you test score, you should make sure you are well-prepared to perform maximally. See our guide to Preparing for the Yo-Yo Intermittent Fitness Test.

Which Fitness Components Are Being Tested?

The fitness components and phyical abilities involved in performing the yo-yo test is complex. It is a test that gradually builds up from a slow jog to fast sprints with a short recovery break between them. The exercise relies on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems (lactate tolerance), as well the factors of running speed, acceleration and agility playing a part in the final test result.

Training Guidelines

Below are some suggestions for different training sessions you can include. The specific session you do will depend on your current fitness level and ability, and other factors such as time constraints and availability of equipment.

As a general guideline, you should have 4-6 training sessions per week directed toward increasing fitness. Make sure you have a least 1-2 days of full rest each week to avoid burn out and aid recovery.

Aerobic Fitness

The yo-yo test is partly dependent on your aerobic fitness. To significantly improve your yo-yo test score you need to do specific and general aerobic-type training. The key is to do a variety of distances and intensities to best stimulate the aerobic system, making sure that you are working at a high enough intensity so that adaptation takes place.

Example training session ideas:

Anaerobic Fitness

A big aspect of the yo-yo test is the ability to perform high-intensity repeated sprints and tolerate the build-up of lactate. For anaerobic conditioning you need to work at the appropriate work to rest ratio, meaning how much rest you get after each activity. In beginning your anaerobic training, use a 1:5 work:rest ratio (e.g. 10 seconds effort, 50 seconds rest), and gradually decrease it to 1:3 or 1:2 work:rest ratio.

Example training session ideas:

Running speed is particularly important when nearing the end of the yo-yo test. At level 20 on the yo-yo test, the participants need to run at an 8.2 seconds per 40m pace. This is not particularly fast for a sprinter, but if it is close to your maximum running pace then you can benefit from training to increase your sprinting speed and to sprint more efficiently.

Improving running speed starts by improving flexibility, and following a range of sprint drills (high knees, leg flicks etc.) and focusing on technique. Plyometric training (bounding) and other strength and power training can improve your acceleration. For improving maximum speed, nothing beats running at maximum speed, such as a series of maximum effort sprints over distances such as 20, 40 and 60 meters, with a good rest/recovery period between sprints. It is also a time to work on accelerating quickly using good sprint technique.

Turning ability and acceleration are important in the yo-yo test, as you need to quickly pick up the pace at the start of the sprint, turn efficiently, and accelerate out of the turn. It is important to include short acceleration runs, and incorporating change of direction drills in your training.

Test Specific Training

Although it is best to use the guidelines described above to train the fitness components that make up the yo-yo test, it would be wise to replicate the actual elements of the actual yo-yo test in training to so the body adapts to those specific demands of the test, and you are able to practice running at the required pace and to work on your running and turning technique under test conditions.

You should do a practice yo-yo test about a week before the assessment, particularly if you are doing the test for the first time or if there has been a long break since the last time the test was performed.

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