Macclesfield Town’s dynamic defensive warm-up

I thought I’d kick off 2011 by blogging about a defensive drill I watched a Macclesfield Town coach performing with his back-four during their pre-match routine at the recent League 2 game between Oxford United and Macclesfield Town. I’m an Oxford fan but my seat usually dictates that I’m closer to the away side’s warm-up routine than I am that of my own side and, on occasions, I’ll try to get in to the ground early so that I can watch how each club does their warm-up.

Generally I’ll see most sides doing the same sort of stuff during their warm-up but I noticed Macclesfield do something a little different with their back four which is why I wanted to blog about it. It’s not ground-breaking and indeed, it might be well-known to many experienced coaches but I found it interesting because the drill looked short, controlled & effective.

Dynamic back-four warm-up

Objective: Get the back-four working together as a unit and performing some match-specific actions which prepare them for the game ahead.


  • Coach with 1 football
  • 3/4/5 defenders  (you could do this with any number of defenders)
  • Coach approx 5m from players
  • Players position themselves in narrow back-four positions (i.e. able to touch the next player with out-stretched arms)

The coach varied the task but would typically perform three different kinds of exercises during the routine.


  • All players would be on their toes as a starting position
  • The coach would pass the ball in to one of the players
  • The coach would weight the pass so the player had to come out and meet the ball before returning the pass to the coach
  • The player would then drop back in to his defensive position
  • The coach would then repeat with another player



  • As with passing but this time the coach would throw the ball in the air and the player would come and meet it, returning the ball to the coach with a header
  • The onus is once again on the defender to step out of the back-four (as it was on this occasion), win the header, and get back in to position


Heading whilst retreating

  • During the Passing and Heading routine the coach would be facing the defenders
  • If the coach turned his back on the players they would jog towards the coach until he turned around
  • At the point the coach turned around the players would retreat but still face the coach
  • The coach would then drop a ball over the defenders so one of them would have to head it whilst running backwards
  • Again, the requirement was for a defender to win the header and the defenders would then ensure they were in position, on their toes and the appropriate distance from their coach


Other points:

  • This drill lasted for around 5-10 minutes which gave the coach ample opportunity to mix the tasks up, keep the defenders engaged and keep them moving.
  • One of the defenders was responsible for talking to the other three at all times. For example, ensuring they got back in to position (i.e. “get up”).
  • The coach would occasionally move toward or away from the defenders and they would need to follow suit. For example, if he moves 1m towards them they would need to drop back 1m which again, kept them moving at all times.

I thought this made for a very useful (yet brief) exercise for any defenders to run-through prior to a match. You could see it getting them in to the right habits before the game, functioning as a unit and communicating with each other so it’s something I’d certainly look to use in the future.

Hope you found this useful and apologies for the quality of my diagrams!


About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

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