…players run for more than seven miles per game, [and] burn more than 5,000 calories.  Coach Masa Sakihana

I love the World Cup. Every 4 years I let myself get caught up with all the passion, drama, and athletic artistry that happens when the world’s biggest game plays on its biggest stage. I began playing soccer when I was 6 years old. I think it was one of the first things that my parents made me do, and I can still remember not being super-excited about the decision. Games were played on Saturday mornings, which totally interrupted my cartoon watching marathon. After some time, I did learn to enjoy the game, and I played organized soccer into my middle teens.  As an adult I have from time-to-time taken up the sport in the occasional adult rec league. It’s a still a fun game, and a very demanding one. I really credit soccer for developing a physical skill-set and fitness base as a youth that I’ve been able to carry with me and enjoy as an adult.

So if you’re watching the World Cup (and Team USA today!), have an appreciation of some of the world’s finest and fittest athletes as you watch. Here’s some info about your typical world-class soccer player.

Soccer players rely heavily on both their aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. One study found that players on average will complete 19 high intensity sprints throughout a game occurring once every 4-5 minutes.  They must maintain this ability to sprint, leap, and quickly change direction over two 45-minute halves (with no time-outs)!

According to U.S. Men’s National Team Fitness Coach Masa Sakihana, players run for more than seven miles per game, burn more than 5,000 calories, and train for 90-120 minutes on the field in just under a dozen sessions per week. Coaches design lifting programs that focus on core strength, stability, flexibility and mobility.

  • American midfielder Graham Zusi popped out an impressive VO2 max of 71 ml/kg/min during a physical endurance test in training.  This rivals elite endurance athletes such as marathon runners and Tour de France cyclists.
  • American midfielder Jermaine Jones has been clocked running 20mph during the World Cup.
  • Portugal star Christian Renaldo is reported to have a 31 inch vertical leap.

All off this explosive power and aerobic power is impressive, but it is even more impressive that it is all displayed while chasing, manipulating, and reacting to a ball and 21 other players.  Enjoy the Cup!

If you didn’t see Robin Van Persie’s flying header in the Netherlands opening World Cup match, you must. You Tube that.




2 thoughts on “World Cup Fitness

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