Becoming the best Premier League footballer is an aspiration many of us have growing up. But do you know how athletically fit you need to be to become a pro?
Football is a high intensity sport and it doesn't matter whereabouts you are in your career, fitness is imperative if you're going to last running around for 90 minutes and this gets more important, the older you get.
You often hear football sceptics say the professionals are being paid millions to 'run about and kick a ball for 90 minutes.'
People who know and enjoy the game will appreciate it's not as simple as that. Here, we'll look at fitness in the Premier League and also compare it to other sports.
Average distance comparison
Premier League footballers
Since the Premier League began back in 1992, the fitness and physicality of the game has significantly progressed and today, the players are fitter than ever.
The Premier League running stats for the 2018/19 season showed Jack Cork of Burnley had covered the most ground with 360km. However, the Premier League footballer tracking data also revealed Bournemouth had run 7km further than anyone else.
Hard at work 🏃♂️ pic.twitter.com/rbseWcGHpA— Premier League (@premierleague) June 1, 2020
American footballers are considered to be some of the fittest athletes on the planet, with their build and speed they're able to run at.
During a game, NFL players will only run around 1.25 miles, which is largely down to the vast amount of stoppages. However, there's no denying you have to be mega-fit to be an American Footballer. Much of it is built around explosive bursts of pace, together with brutal collisions.
As with other sports, the levels of fitness required by players will vary in rugby union depending on what position you play. A prop's fitness training won't match a winger though both will need an overall aerobic fitness benchmark.
Here's an insight into training with the England rugby team and how they approach fitness and training.
On average, professional union players will run up to 7km a game for the 80 minutes they're on the pitch.
Though rugby codes differ, there is little to separate Rugby League and Rugby Union players, with half backs covering a little more per game than the big units up front.
People sometimes forget just how physically demanding a tennis match is. Of course, the distance covered depends heavily on the length of matches, style of plays and who your opponent is.
If we look back to the 2010 Wimbledon Championships where John Isner and Nicolas Mahut took part in a mammoth 11-hour match, they covered an estimated 10 km each.
In a normal game, players will cover around half of that, which again, depends on the different variables we previously mentioned.
We see that football players are covering more distance than some of the world's biggest sports, but just how fit do footballers need to be and from what age do clubs start to test their players' physicality?
The football fanatics amongst us will be well aware that different positions will require different levels of fitness. Everyone needs to have exceptional aerobic capacities but, for example, midfielders and strikers will use their energy in different ways.
A Premier League footballer's VO2 Max, which is the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, is between 60-70ml. Take the recordings of the average male between the ages of 20-29 and you'll find they measure in at 38-43ml.
However, it isn't just their aerobic capacity that needs to be well developed. Due to every player, at some point during the game, needing to sprint for the ball or to make a darting run, their anaerobic capacity needs to be heightened to cope with these demands.
Research has shown that players can make up 40 explosive sprints per game, with the quickest players, like Caglar Soyuncu, reaching speeds in excess of 37kph.
This goes to show the strain a professional footballer's leg muscles have to cope with and how important preparation and recovery is during the week, to minimise the risk of injuries.
A Premier League footballer's body fat percentage is also massively low compared to the average UK's male, as you would expect.
The top footballers will have a percentage of just 6-10%, carrying any excess weight around the football pitch will have detrimental affect on a player's ability to perform at their best.
Starting them young
Footballers are not only required to be strong and powerful, but they need to have excellent agility and the ability to repeat these movements over a sustained period of time.
Making sure the players in Premier League academies are aware of this and are starting to work on every aspect of fitness is high on the agenda.
When players hit their teenage years and start to have their biggest growth spurts, clubs will start to place a big emphasis on the importance of their athletic movements and developing the correct movement patterns.
I am happy to announce you that I have signed my first professional contract with Arsenal. I am so proud to be part of this wonderful family, it’s the place where I have always wanted to be !🙏 pic.twitter.com/zkrJlbrBMU— Cirjan Catalin (@CirjanCatalin1) December 13, 2019
It goes without saying that clubs want their academy players as well as their senior players to be strong. However, making players lift heavy weights when they are too young can be damaging.
As they get older, clubs will then focus on the bigger compound training to improve their strength and power.
People may have the perception that academies will only focus on the skill attributes of their players, which isn't true.
This goes to show how vital fitness is and to make it to the top and although clubs won't judge you solely on your physicality and fitness performance, it plays a huge part when deciding if they want to offer someone a contract.
Top 5 fastest players in the Premier League (19/20 season)
6) Allan Saint-Maximin - Newcastle - 22.8mph (36.69kph)
=4) Bjorn Engels - Aston Villa - 22.9mph (36.85kph)
=4) Kyle Walker - Man City - 22.9mph (36.85kph)
3) Phil Foden - Man City - 23.1mph (37.17kph)
2) Shane Long - Southampton - 23.2 mph (37.33kph)
1) Caglar Soyuncu - Leicester City - 23.3mph (37.49kph)
How do you compare?
It's never too late to boost your fitness levels and as we know, the better they are, they better you're going to perform throughout the game.
Pre season is when the hard graft is really put in. If you're serious about your football and are still aiming to be the best, make sure your fitness levels are as good as they can be.