Experts Explain How to Get a Soccer Player’s Body

Soccer players have some of the most admired and sought after bodies in the world.

David Beckham… Cristiano Ronaldo… need I say more?

Their stamina is admirable, and their muscle tone equally so.

It’s no surprise that obtaining that lean, defined physique is on many soccer fans’ minds.

If you’re a total beginner — or maybe you’ve been working out for a while and need a new training goal — how can you get a body like a soccer player?

To get a body like a soccer player, you’ll need to get super lean — we’re talking sharp six-pack abs lean. Lots of running and a cleaner diet will help you get there. While you’re leaning down, incorporate just the right amount of full-body strength training to keep your muscles full and toned without adding extra bulk.

Let’s take a closer look, with some help from personal trainers, coaches, and more.

What Are the Hallmarks of the Soccer Physique?

Soccer players are incredibly fit, and this has benefits both aesthetically and functionally.

The physical and the functional parts tend to go hand in hand, but training both separately is also a smart move.

The Physical

Soccer players are muscular and toned, but exceptionally lean.

As personal trainer Josh Schlottman puts it, “they’re not as bulky as bodybuilders, but are still muscular while being lean.”

They’re strongest in the legs, but they also have muscular arms and abdomens—soccer is a full-body workout, after all.

Most high level soccer players will have chiseled six packs (or eight packs!) due to very low levels of body fat.

There’s lots of sprinting involved, and players twist and turn their torsos as they chase the ball, avoid and block other players, and kick with immense power.

Soccer, and training for soccer, involves a really nice balance of strength and conditioning that leads to what many would consider the ideal physique.

The Functional

Soccer players have a lot of endurance and strong cardiovascular health.

They’re probably some of the fittest athletes around, with players running somewhere around 7-10 miles in a typical game.

They need to be able to:

  • Sprint at top speed
  • Run for long periods of time
  • Evade defenders
  • Kick with power

So those toned muscles aren’t all for show!

Speed, stamina, and agility are the name of the game for soccer players.

Your average soccer star may not have the world’s biggest bench press, but they have impressive functional strength and endless muscular and cardio endurance.

Those toned muscles come from working their entire body to exhaustion regularly while scorching an insane number of calories — which strips extra fat off their bodies quickly.

9 Training Tips for a Soccer Player’s Body

If you want to get a body like a soccer player, you’ll have to train like one.

That means getting exceptionally lean (low body fat levels and visible abs) while keeping performance, strength, and muscular endurance high.

These tips should help not only get you started, but help you maintain what you build, too

#1. Eat for Fat Loss & Athletic Performance

The simplest part of the soccer body acquisition is changing your diet to include healthier foods so you can trim down.

There just aren’t many bulky soccer players — they run all day every day, so it’s hard for them to overeat and put on fat.

Not to mention, extra fat on their bodies would only slow them down and hurt their endurance.

Eating right is simple, though not always easy.

You don’t have to go crazy and cut calories or count every little macro and micronutrient.

If you have excess weight, then cutting out a few food groups, paired with all the exercise (which we’ll get to!), will get you shedding those pounds in no time.

In general, avoid empty calories.

These are the foods that have tons of calories, but almost no nutritional value.

You should also avoid foods that aren’t filling. When your food doesn’t fill you it only leads to you eating more, often too much.

Some examples of filling foods are potatoes, eggs, fish, and vegetables.

You can eat less of those foods to get full—unlike a processed microwave meal where you’re often left feeling unsatisfied, so you eat another portion. 

Liquid calories are the same — this includes fruit juices, carbonated drinks, and alcohol.

You don’t have to cut processed food, low-nutrient calorie-dense food, or liquid calories from your diet completely. Just try to limit them, have them as a treat once a week or less frequently if you can. 

Specifically, limit:

  • Fried, fatty foods
  • Takeout
  • Alcohol
  • Sugary fruit juice
  • Sugar-filled baked goods
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Ready-meals and other processed foods
  • Excess sugar and creamer in coffee

If you can cut these “extra” or less-than-useful calories from your diet, while training hard like a soccer player, fat loss should come easy.

When you’re satisfied with how lean you are (again, soccer players usually have crisp and visible abs), you might want to put on a little lean muscle to complete the look.

This is the fun part (sometimes called bulking) — you get to eat a little more quantity, but you should still avoid foods without a lot of nutritional value.

Look to get plenty of protein in this phase.

Protein helps build muscle. It’s the nutrient that helps repair wounds, and when you’re building muscle you’re actually creating microtears in the fibers. Protein rushes to fill in those tears, so your muscles get bigger.

Consuming more protein will help you get stronger and it also helps you feel full for longer.

As Registered Dietician Michelle Tierney says, “eat sufficient amounts of lean protein, healthy fats and quality carbs to promote a lean physique.” 

You’ll find protein in foods like fatty fish, poultry, eggs, and protein shakes.

Fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods are full of quality carbs, and dairy has healthy fats.

#2. Actually Play Some Soccer!

You don’t have to go anywhere near a soccer field if you don’t want to — the look is obtainable without actually playing the sport.

Still, it’d be a good idea to join a local league if you’re interested in the sport.

Actually playing soccer is a really fun and motivating way to:

  • Run a ton & boost your cardio
  • Develop the agility of a soccer player
  • Build strength in your core and trunk

#3. Practice Distance Running & Sprinting

If you’d rather not play soccer, then engage the same muscles as you would while playing.

Taking up running is an excellent way to do some cardio and strengthen your legs.

Michelle Tierney says, “you don’t need to actually practice soccer to attain that physique though.

“Instead, focus on training such as long endurance running (5-7 miles) a couple times a week, quick sprinting (100-400 meter repeats) or HIIT a couple times a week.”

The endurance running helps build your stamina and your cardiovascular conditioning.

Sprinting develops power and explosion in the legs.

You’ll need to plenty of both to get the body and athleticism of a soccer star.

#4. Do HIIT Workouts

As Michelle Tierney mentions above, you can do HIIT instead of sprinting.

HIIT workouts are usually an excellent, and efficient, combo of conditioning and strength work.

If you don’t live near a running track and have no other space to run (0r are short on time), then HIIT is an excellent substitute.

You can do HIIT at home easily — there are tons of free workouts on YouTube, or you can use a workout app like Beachbody on Demand.

Michelle Tierney says that people wanting a soccer physique should exercise 4–6 days a week.

As HIIT doesn’t often take long — think 10–30 minutes — then this is an excellent workout to do if you’re struggling to find time.

#5. Full Body Strength Training

Soccer players are lean and shredded with powerful legs.

But they don’t totally ignore their upper bodies.

Your best bet for the soccer physique is to lift weights a few times per week in addition to your running, sprinting, and sport-specific work.

As Josh Schlottman says, “Your weightlifting routine won’t be like bodybuilders where you isolate specific muscle groups.

“Instead… lift weights with compound exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups and joints.”

Here are some good compound weight lifting movements that target your upper body:

  • Bench press
  • Incline bench press
  • Overhead press
  • Deadlifts
  • Weighted pull-ups
  • Rows

Gaining strength on these movements won’t be your number one priority, but it will help with muscle tone and your overall power and athleticism.

#6. Blast Your Core

A strong and toned core is another essential part of the soccer physique, so it’d be a good idea to give yours some extra attention.

Your abs and obliques will get hit hard during your weight lifting, but for a really strong core (crucial to the look AND function of a soccer player), try incorporating:

  • Planks and plank variations
  • V-ups
  • Hollow hold
  • L Sits
  • and other challenging ab exercises

Don’t just rely on basic crunches — push yourself!

#7. Develop Powerful Legs

Strong legs will come from running and HIIT, but it’s an excellent idea to train them intentionally in the gym, as well.

When you’re not benching or working those arms, work on the muscle mass and power in your legs.

Trainer Tadeo Arnold says that when creating a “Beckham-esque physique” he had his clients work in the 15-25 rep range (for about 4 sets) for both machine and free weight leg exercises.

(That’s a good range for muscular endurance and not maximum hypertrophy or muscle size.)

You can’t ever go wrong with squats and lunges, to start!

Arnold also says to incorporate explosive leg training into your routine, like jumping lunges or jump squats.

#8. Work On Agility

Soccer players are agile.

They have to twist and turn as they chase the ball, and they do a lot of fancy-looking legwork.

If you want your body to move easily like a soccer player’s, then you can do some agility exercises to achieve this.

Just keep in mind, agility isn’t necessarily a part of your physique that you’ll see.

Michelle Tierney’s recommendation for agility is:

“Agility training like ladder and cone work, suicides”—a type of grueling running drill—”and Heismans three to four times a week.”

Your workout time is really starting to add up!

If you’re regularly playing real-life soccer, you can dial back your number of agility workouts per week or combine them with other sessions.

#9. Maintain Your Look

Finally, this is one of the most important tips when you’re seeking a physique like a soccer player.

You need to know when to dial back the strength training so you don’t end up too muscular.

I know — good problem to have!

But if you want to actually look like Beckham or Ronaldo, it’s a crucial one.

Bodybuilders who are happy with maintaining their size recommend:

  • Reduce the number of gym visits for weight training—for example, four down to two
  • Do full-body routines instead of area-specific exercises
  • Reduce the intensity of each exercise
  • Do half as many sets

Don’t worry — as long as you work your muscles regularly, you won’t lose your toned, defined look.

Once you’ve put in the hard work, maintaining your physique will be a breeze.

Wrapping Up

You may not have a team of trainers and nutritionists at your disposal, but the soccer physique isn’t out of reach.

It really comes down to being exceptionally lean from a clean diet and tons of running — with just the right amount of strength training for toned muscles.

Don’t ignore the upper body, and make sure to get lots of muscular endurance work in the 15-25 rep range.

Remember, if you start looking like a bodybuilder then you’ve gone too far!

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Hope this helps!