Why Soccer Players Are The Fittest Athletes on the Planet

Why Soccer Players Are The Fittest Athletes on the Planet

Have you ever wondered why soccer players are so fit? In order to be match ready, soccer players follow strict fitness and nutrition regimens. Let’s take a look and what makes soccer players the fittest athletes on the planet.

Differences from Other Athletes

The body of a soccer player is usually far different from that of an NFL lineman or a hulky major-league home run hitter. Whereas the action in those sports is innately in short bursts, soccer players must be able to run, or at least be consistently mobile, for entire 45-minute periods. This is why many soccer players, if lined up side-by-side, have a very consistent look. This is different than in football where the physique of a linebacker differs greatly from that of a punter, or in baseball where a catcher or first baseman may have more bulk than a shortstop or starting pitcher.

So how active must soccer players be? Studies have tracked player movement throughout different sports and found the differences to be astounding. Here’s the average of how far players from different sports run per game:

  • NFL wide receivers and cornerbacks: 1.25 miles within four 15-minute quarters
  • NBA players: Under 3 miles throughout four 12-minute periods
  • Tennis players: Between 3-5 miles during a five-set match (which could go as long as 5 hours)
  • Soccer players: As much as 7 miles per 90-minute game

Think about that for a moment: That would be like running a 10k every single time you take the field! Therefore, while soccer is a popular competitive team sport, the physicality of their athletes is more comparable to that of solo competitors like cyclists, marathon runners, Ironman triathletes, or cross-country skiers.

A Day in the Life of a Soccer Player

Running that long per game means burning a lot of calories. In fact, the most active players will burn somewhere between 800 – 1,000 calories per match. Lean meats, protein, and plenty of water are key to staying fueled on the field and off.

Staying active for as long as soccer players do during matches, they also need to have great balance, speed, endurance and dexterity.

So how do you eat and train like a professional soccer player? This blog broke down the regimen of former Premier League star Phil Neville.

His routine includes:

  • Yoga: 3-minute session to start the day
  • Breakfast: Porridge (or oatmeal) with fruit, tea and orange juice
  • On the way to training: Begin hydrating (drink 4-5 bottles of water throughout the day)
  • More yoga: 30 minutes
  • Stationary bike: Approximately 70-80 RPM for 10-15 minutes
  • Knee activation: Small speed hurdles for 20 minutes

  • Re-hydration: Protein drink
  • Team exercises: Jogging, stretches and mobility exercises (5 minutes each)
  • Team keep-ball exercises: By limiting space, this is how you can best hone ball control. Check out this link for specific keep-ball drills. (30 minutes)
  • Team possession drills: One team defends a line on the field, while the other team attempts to move the ball past the line. (30 minutes)
  • Small or full-sided games: These types of drills are based on how many players are involved – 3 on 3 constitutes a small-sided game, while 5 on 5 is considered full-sided. (15 minutes)
  • 30 Minute Workout: Phil says he’ll do total body weight circuits early in the week, and upper body only circuits later in the week.
    • Total body (Repeated 3 times)
    • Re-hydration: Protein drink to repair muscles after weightlifting
    • Ice bath: 6 minutes
    • Lunch: 2 bottles of water for the afternoon, along with chicken, vegetables and salad. Includes bread and potatoes as well for carbs.
    • Nap: 90 minutes
    • Snack: Protein bar or light snack along with normal activities
    • Dinner: Chicken or fish, vegetables and potatoes for carbs and protein.
    • Protein shake: 30 minutes before bedtime.

More to Reach Your Goal

Do you have any additional tips to prepare for taking the soccer field? Leave them in the comments below so our Elite community can share and keep fit together!


  • Factos says:

    soccer players on the best teams play 60 games per season lol. 38 is just league play. There are domestic cups and champions league… Y’all are brain dead soccer has the fittest athletes.

  • Sharlene says:

    The people that are using basketball players in their comparison are saying that basketball players play longer, but they aren’t saying that they also get pulled out to rest. Soccer players don’t get any rest periods at all, just their halftime. They also play in the pouring rain, in the light snow (as long as they can see the lines), and the heat. They don’t have heaters on the sidelines like the NFL, or padding. They have to be strong and athletic to constantly run up and down the field and utilise their skills.

  • Julian says:

    7 miles per game? Pffft. Australian rules players do 10.
    AFL players require strength, absorb a high level of contact, jumping ability, hand eye co-ordination,etc,etc
    Soccer players are certainly fit and have elite foot skills, but they are no where near the fittest on the planet.

  • Kasper says:

    To argue that one type of athlete is more fit than others is a tricky task. Every sport have their different Physical demands. However, stating that Soccer players are the fittest athletes inthe world dont make much sense to me.

    1. This article only adresses running. If running was the only measure for how fit athletes are, there are many sports where you would find far better runners than in Soccer. The other sports used for comparison have a lot higher demands for skills like power, strength, etc, which is not adressed. In my opinion, If you want to compare athletes you should look at overall fitness (power, speed, stamina, agility etc).

    2. The numbers used, give the wrong impression. Take Soccer vs Basketball for example. A Premier League Soccer Team plays 38 games in an 8 month long season (240 days). An NBA team plays 82 games in a 6 months regular season. So given that the numbers you refer to is correct.

    Lets do some comparisons:

    Playing minutes pr season: Soccer: 3420 minutes Basket: 3936 minutes (Basket players play more minutes than Soccer players)
    Miles run pr season: Soccer: 266 miles Basket: 233 miles (Not too big of a difference)
    Avg miles pr/day during the season: Soccer: 1,09. Basket 1,27 (Mre in game miles covered pr day during sesason)

    Add to that the following questions:
    At what avarage speed, intensity do they run?
    What other physical challenges do they face during a game (duels, jumps, accelerations, etc)

    I think its fair to say that the best Soccer, Basket or Football players are all amazing athletes. But its wrong to argue that one type of athletes are better than others, solely based on one specific skill, and leaving all the others out.

    Finding the fittest athletes on the planet, I think one should look within sports like Decathlon, Crossfit, Alpine Skiing, etc. These athletes would maybe be outrun by a socerplayer, but would most likely crush them in any other physical challenge.