Game Dayr is a reader-supported blog. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through our links. Learn more.

What are Gassers in Football, and Why is it Debatable?

Gassers and half-gassers are sprints across the width of the football field (about 53 yards). You begin a half-gasser on one sideline, sprint to the opposite sideline, and then sprint back to the original sideline (about 106 yards). To run a full-gasser, you run a half-gasser twice, sprinting across the width of the football field four times (about 212 yards).

I’m Tracy, and I’ve been running gassers for years. I ran them as a rush end back in the day, and I still run them today to stay in shape. I know how brutally difficult they are to run, especially in the hot and humid dog days of summer.

But you know the rules: No Pain, No Gain! 

In this article, I’ll discuss what gassers are and how they are excellent fitness activities. I’ll also explore why most high-profile strength and conditioning coaches believe gassers are useless for improving football skills. Lastly, I’ll provide better training activities to make you a better football player.

So let’s gas up and get smarter! 

Key Takeaways

  • Sprinting across the width of a football field, touching the opposite sideline with your foot, and sprinting back is called a half-gasser while making the same trip twice is a full-gasser. 
  • Football coaches at all levels of the sport view gassers as the gospel of football conditioning.
  • Many strength and conditioning coaches argue that gassers provide little value in improving the skills necessary to succeed at football.

What are Gassers?

Gassers are sprints across the width of the football field (about 53 yards).

There are two different variations: full-gassers and half-gassers.

The starting position for all gassers is the sideline.

Sprinting across a football field, touching the opposite sideline with your foot, and sprinting back is called a half-gasser.

Making the same trip twice is a full-gasser. 

In other words, a full-gasser crosses the width of the football field four times and is equivalent to running two half-gassers. [1]

The video below explains full-gassers and demonstrates a fitness coach running them:

The video below illustrates a high school football team running half-gassers:


Why Gassers?

Gassers are a terrific way to increase overall fitness, endurance, and leg strength.

However, their relationship to improving performance on the gridiron is a hot debate.

Many coaches at all levels of football consider gassers the holy grail of football conditioning, and their players run a series of them at the end of all practices.

Yet many strength and conditioning experts question their football relevance.

Point-Counterpoint on Gassers

I wanted to see how the experts feel about two controversial aspects of gassers.

Both sides of the argument are presented and should be viewed relative to the following relevant football facts:

  • Average play = 5.5 seconds.
  • Average rest between plays = 32 seconds.
  • Average rest between each series for an individual player = 7 minutes.

(This obviously wouldn’t apply to a high school player that goes both ways.)

  • The time between the last play of 1st Half and the first play of 2nd Half is 18 minutes. 
  • Time to run a half-gasser = 16-20 seconds. [2]

#1: Gassers Increase Mental Toughness

Passing the 16 half-gasser test is a requirement for most NFL and college football teams.

The test requires each player to run sixteen half-gassers while resting for 45 seconds between each half-gasser.

Each half-gasser must be completed in 16 to 20 seconds to pass the test, depending on the position group. [3]


Rob Oviatt, a Division I strength and conditioning coach for 29 years, argues, “If you quit during a workout, the odds are you’ll quit during a play in practice or a game. So, we create situations within our football training program where our players are forced to think about quitting.” [4]

Oviatt believes that forcing players to complete the grueling 16-half-gasser test develops and demonstrates mental toughness.


Decorated strength and conditioning coach Ben Charles M.S., CSCS, USAW, sees things differently:

“When anyone uses “Mental toughness” as their reasoning for doing a certain conditioning exercise, I feel myself die a little inside. Sometimes the intentions are good, but they are missing the ballpark when it comes to properly training their athletes.” [5]

Charles continues below:

“No athlete is excited to run “Gassers” for an arbitrary amount of reps with less than a 1-minute rest in between. Somehow coaches think making athletes tired like this is the way to build “mental toughness” but don’t realize how ineffective it is to actually improve sport performance.” [6]

#2: Gassers Improve Football Performance


Half-gassers and gassers are staples at nearly all football practices at every level.

Many coaches believe they increase explosiveness, agility, and overall football athleticism.


According to professional strength and conditioning coach Connor Lyons CSCS, PES, gassers don’t train the skills applied by football players:

“The sport is stuck in the 70s at times when it comes to conditioning. The two most popular conditioning drills in football seem to be gassers/half gassers and 110-yard sprints. Both half gassers and 110s are typically prescribed to be completed in roughly 16-20 seconds. The only problem is that the average play in football lasts less than 6 seconds.” [7]

Lyons continues with the following:

“These blanket conditioning drills don’t tackle the proper energy systems and lack the sport’s movement skills. Outside of some special teams, running backs, receivers, and maybe DBs, nobody’s running that distance or for that time at any point during a football game.” [8]

He also proposes a solution:

“Position-specific conditioning with distances, times, and movement skills that pertain to the sport of football. There’s no reason your guys inside the box should be running 110s.” [9]

Lyons is not alone in his disdain for gassers in football training.

Joe DeFranco is a world-renowned strength & conditioning coach and the owner of DeFranco’s Gym:

“Why the hell are coaches choosing exercises/tests that take up to 1 minute to complete when it’s a fact that the average football play lasts only about 5 seconds”? [10]

Defranco encourages football coaches to train their players with activities that are more relevant to football. These activities develop speed and explosiveness on the gridiron:

“Athletes should be focussing on exercises that require 4-10 seconds of intense activity, followed by 20-40 seconds of rest. Some good examples of practices that fit into this category are sprints, sprints with changes of direction, resisted sled/prowler sprints, overcoming a resistance (like flipping a tire), then sprinting, jumping into a sprint, reacting to a visual cue, etc.” [11]

Defranco practices what he preaches.

Defranco developed an offseason workout program for former Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing a few years ago.

The workout, as demonstrated in the video below, mimics the short-burst high-intensity activities that Cushing performs on Sundays during an NFL game. [12]


Final Thoughts

It is often said that you should practice how you play.

Gassers and half-gassers increase overall fitness and develop leg strength; however, they fail miserably in replicating your activities as a football player.

If you want to improve your football skill, perform gas-free training.


Read These Next