I inevitably get asked the question of who are the most fit athletes on the planet on a regular basis and my answer is always the same definitive; well that depends? Here in Boulder, Colorado, there is no shortage of elite athletes mingling around town on a daily basis. Perhaps it’s the close proximity to the mountains or the abundance of outdoor activities right out our door steps, but Boulder seems to be regularly ranked as one of the most fit cities in America. Take a drive around town and you will probably see why we have so many fit people in this amazing city. Within a 5 mile radius from where I live I have access to 3 world-class climbing gyms, about a dozen health clubs, yoga studios, Pilates places and more organic grocery stores then there are fast food restaurants. Now that is a great town! But of all the fit and healthy people living in this town, who is the fittest of them all?
As a cutting edge personal trainer in one of the healthiest and fittest towns in America, I would say that it is very difficult to answer that question. I think the true way to test athleticism and physical fitness would be to take an athlete out of their element and put them through a series of tests that emphasize overall fitness. For instance, take elite athletes from a dozen different sports and take them through the exact same physical fitness test. The test would have to be non-sport specific and focus on numerous elements including strength, power, agility, balance, endurance, flexibility and speed. Whoever scores highest overall on the test would be crowned king!
So who do you think deserves the fittest athlete title? Lance Armstrong? Manny Pacquiao? LeBron James? Lionel Messi? Michael Phelps? According to Dr. Jonathan L. Chang, who is a clinical associate professor of orthopedic’s at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, “The determination of who’s the fittest athlete is based on your definition of fitness. And if you stick to one criterion, it makes answering easier.”
So who are the contenders? Find out what the experts think!
1. NFL Football Players: They can train at extremely high intensity, for a prolonged period of 60 to 90 minutes. They apply speed, power, endurance, coordination, quickness, rhythm and strength to many skills and tasks. And they have very low body fat. Surely they are supreme?
2. NHL Hockey Players: Most NHL players are power packed in a package that melds strength, agility, power, speed and flexibility.Surely they are high in the rankings?
3. Olympic Sprinters: These are some of the best athletes in the world no doubt! They have tons of explosive power, very low body fat and typically have large amounts of fast twitch muscle fibers and lean muscle mass.
4. Olympic Swimmers: These athletes spend in excess of 6 hours a day in a swimming pool burning more calories in one day then the average person spends in a week. They literally will blow the most of the competition out of the world! Michael Phelps?
5. Professional Rock Climbers: Pound for pound these are some of the strongest athletes in the world! Most climbers can do more push ups and pull ups than any other athlete in the elite category. In fact, most climbers are so strong for their own body weight that they have to add a significant amount of weight to their bodies and decrease the size of the hold just to make a pull up a challenge! Keep in mind here that the average American can’t do a single pull up!
6. Triathletes: Biking, Running and Swimming are all sports hard enough done by themselves, now put them back to back and make an event out of it! These athletes are no doubt bad ass and definitely some of the fittest on the planet!
7. Olympic Gymnasts: Ever seen an Olympic level Ring Competition? These animalistic creatures are freakishly strong and can do things with their bodies that are unimaginable. They are incredibly strong and are some of the most flexible human beings on earth!
8. Decathletes: It’s hard enough finding someone who is “elite” at one event, even better try to find someone who is good at 10 physically demanding events? These athletes are freaks of nature, athleticism at it’s finest for sure!
9. Mixed Martial Arts: This new age sport is becoming fastly popular and is starting to become one of the fast growing sports in America. Put two people in a cage to beat the hell out of each other and whoever is the last standing is the winner. Sounds hard. If you ever watched one of these fights on t.v., you surely would rank these as some of the most talented and fit athletes on television.
10. Professional Soccer Players: Ever watch a World Cup Soccer Event. It’s not a coincidence that there are many elite soccer players double as male models. Think David Beckham or Christian Renauldo? These athletes get incredibly ripped in a sport where you more or less run as fast as you can up and down a field non-stop for 90 minutes! Sound tiring? That’s because it is and probably one of the most physically demanding sports in the world!
So who are the fittest athletes in the world?
If I was to devise a “super test” and put all the elite athletes from the various sports listed above through them, I am guessing that a few would come out on top. Curious as to what ones they are? Keep reading?
Here is a list of Physical tests I would put each candidate through.
Test #1: Push ups- How many push ups can you do until failure? This is a great way to gauge how strong someone is relative to their own body weight and a true test to how strong you are… FYI: The record for the most push-ups non-stop was 10,507, set by Minoru Yoshida of Japan in October 1980.(Wikipedia)
Test #2: Pull Ups- How many consecutive bodyweight pull ups can you do on a pull up bar before failure? This again is a great exercise to tell how strong someone is relative to their own body weight. I would say that if you can perform more than 10 perfect pull ups in a consecutive manner, you are among the fittest and strongest for your own bodyweight. If you can rip out over 20, I would say your probably pretty fit, over 30 and your starting to get into the elite category!
Test #3: 50 yard dash- This is a great test to examine someone’s explosive power and a big determinant of overall fitness. Most football players and soccer players would rank pretty high in this category because they spend so much time in their own sport doing exactly this!
Test #4: 1.5 mile run- Remember, were testing all physical fitness elements, so this is no doubt the best way to test someone’s aerobic capabilities and muscular endurance. In a past life, I went through Cape May County Police Academy. We had a recruit named Braheme Days who was an amazing athlete. Just to put things into perspective, he could run the 50 yard dash and the 1.5 mile run faster than anyone in the academy. That’s impressive given that usually someone excels at one or the other, not both. Recruit Days was a freak of nature and exactly what researchers would look for in an overall fitness evaluation.
Test#5: Sit Ups- How many full sit ups can you perform in 60 seconds. This is a great way of gauging core strength which is a huge part of overall fitness. 80 or more full situps in less than 60 seconds will put you into the elite category!
Test #6: Body composition This is a great way to tell how fit someone is. The less body fat and more muscle you have is a great determinant of overall health and fitness. Most Americans have body fat composition somewhere between 20 and 45 percent. Most elite athletes have less than 10 percent bodyfat, some endurance athletes have as low as 3 % bodyfat!
This is just a sample of some of the fitness tests I would take someone through to see where they fall with other athletes. I would probably do another 15 or so tests in combination with the ones mentioned above to see who the most fit were.
So who do I think are the most fit athletes in the world? As I said earlier, this is a difficult question to answer but if I had to pick the top three it would look something like this…
Most Fit Athletes in the World List
1. Olympic Sprinters
2. Olympic Rings Gymnast
3. Mixed Martial Arts Fighter
In my opinion these would be some of the highest ranking athletes in the world. Feel free to throw your two cents in the comment section of this article and tell us what type of athlete deserves the “Most Fit” crown…