Martial artists showing dedication and discipline in taekwondo while having a training session

Addressing the debate about which athletes are in the best shape

By Strength Sensei CP


Fitness is specific. Being fit for ice hockey won’t make you a great running back in football, and vice versa. If you’re asking which sport has a high percentage of athletes committed to being in the best shape possible for their sport, ice hockey wins hands down. If you’re talking about who has the most natural freaks, American football is King. The sad thing is that the hands of most strength coaches in the NFL are tied so they can’t apply their knowledge to the athletes. That’s why the better strength coaches stay at the college level.

The other problem is that because players don’t have secure contracts waiting like pro players in the other leagues, NFL athletes are just considered meat by management. Injured? So what? Fifty guys are lined up for your job. I could write a book on the careers tossed away by the lack of care or management. You’d never see such abuse in the NHL, for example.

Baseball is the least athletic sport. If you were to go to the training camp of any Major League Baseball team, it would be hard to find five bodies on the team that looks somewhat athletic. Most baseball players have the physique of a small-town circus accountant.

European football, or soccer, as we call it in America, is about 40 years behind in terms of strength and conditioning. Hannah Montana could beat every one of them in a power index test. Soccer players look like children compared to hockey players and infants compared to the speed position players in the NFL.

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, but Coach Poliquin questions the fitness levels of its elite athletes.

Soccer teams waste fortunes every year on the latest gadgets but won’t invest in a decent strength coach or buy the right equipment. They may have 20 vibration plates but not one matched set of dumbbells; they may buy a $150,000 cooling suit—that fits only one player at a time, of course—but they won’t give their players a decent post-workout shake. If soccer managers were to look at what is done in America in terms of conditioning, they would have a serious reality check.

Someday someone will figure it out, and then it will become popular. Ice hockey used to be like that, but the Edmonton Oilers started to win consistently, so conditioning became popular. Within a matter of years, all teams had a strength coach.

Rugby is probably the sport that is catching up the fastest in terms of strength and conditioning. Rugby coaches finally accepted the concept that players who are stronger and fitter improve the quality of the game. They are also quite progressive at promoting recovery between matches.

I would love to see a fitness test show on TV where the best players of every sport would compete in basic motor ability tests such as vertical jumps and overhead throws, and so on. Soccer fans would be in for a real shock and realize that their idols are a disgrace to the world of athletics when it comes to conditioning. On a scale of 1 to 10, depending on the events, the results would come in like this:

American football: 10
Ice hockey: 9
Rugby: 7
Basketball: 3
Soccer: 1
Baseball: -2

Again, just because you’re an elite athlete playing in a popular sport, it doesn’t mean you rank among the fitness. You must train hard to be fit, but you also have to train smart!

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