Michael Phelps and More: How 8 Professional Athletes Got So Fit

Al Bello/Getty Images

How do these guys get so fit ? | Al Bello/Getty Images

When it’s your job to maintain a strategically chiseled, functional body in order to make a living, you do whatever you have to do to make sure you’re seeing results. This is the reality for professional athletes — people for whom fitness is more than about looking good and feeling great. It’s about making sure they can pay the bills, even when those bills include mortgage payments on luxury condos, or getting your $4.8 million Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita detailed.

Making that kind of money, and buying those kinds of toys, takes an extraordinary amount of time, effort, and skill — enough to earn you significant paydays on the field, in the ring, or on the pitch, not to mention serious bragging rights if you snag a medal at the Olympics. Because of that, professional athletes spend their entire lives building and maintaining their bodies with calculated diets and exercise plans.

And now, we can see the results manifest right before our eyes, thanks to a series of graphics put together by the folks at Exercisebike.net.

In addition to looking at the bodies of several athletes — including LeBron James, Shaun White, and Tiger Woods — over a number of years, Exercisebike.net dug into their routines a bit to give us an idea of what these individuals put themselves through. The point? To garner some excitement and motivate you for the next time you’re staring down a squat rack or six-mile run.

The thing most people are likely curious about is how they can mimic these kinds of results. Well, it’s not easy, and as you can see, it takes years of dedication and discipline (no wonder everyone cries when they make it to an Olympic podium). Again — it’s a full-time job to hit these levels of fitness. But we’ve covered that very topic before, if you’re serious about working out like a professional athlete. While you mull over a diet and fitness plan,  check out these graphics, which show you how some of these stellar athlets have evolved over time.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo


Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most famous athletes in the world, even though he may not be nearly as well known in the United States. And as a soccer player, he needs to be able to withstand a serious amount of running for a long period of time.

“Reports on his workout routine indicate that he hits the gym five days a week, spending at least two days focusing primarily on running speed and cardio recovery,” Exercisebike.net’s briefing reads. “He supports his strenuous workout regimen with a healthy diet comprising lean protein, whole-grain carbs, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Ronaldo also avoids alcohol and sugary foods, and he makes a point to get to bed early, ensuring enough restful recovery time.”

2. LeBron James


LeBron James is an animal, and one of the best basketball players in history. He’s been closely watched since he was in high school, and when he made the jump to the NBA, all eyes fell upon him and have been there ever since. How does he do it?

“A key component to his explosive growth is his diet and workout routines. James works out four days a week, following a plan that includes squats, arm presses, and dumbbell work. Like many other elite athletes, James eats six meals spaced throughout the day to provide a constant supply of energy.”

3. Michael Phelps


Nobody is more famous in the world of swimming than Michael Phelps. He continues to score medals at the Olympics, though he was (God forbid) caught on camera partaking in a little marijuana use. Still, Phelps is a specimen, and his routines are pretty intense. Just look at his diet, for example:

“To supplement the extreme need for energy during competitive events, Phelps has utilized a well-documented diet plan consisting of approximately 12,000 calories a day.”

4. Floyd Mayweather


Floyd Mayweather is a scary dude, and a very rich one, as well. But that has come at a cost. Mayweather’s routines include hours upon hours spent in the gym, though he tends to splurge and eat whatever he likes.

“His workouts include sparring, bag and mitt work, weight training, and, of course, plenty of sit-ups. He’s not shy about showing his work either, as evidenced by his seemingly endless stream of workout videos available on YouTube.”

5. Tiger Woods


One of the world’s most prolific golfers, Tiger Woods has become one of the more polarizing figures in sports over the years. He has immense talent — there’s no doubt about it. But his personal troubles have often found their way into the limelight, and taken a toll on his game. Even so, you can see how he’s taken care of himself throughout the years, even at the most difficult times.

“He’s become a gym rat, working out sometimes as often as six days a week for hours each time. His routines consist of stretching and high-rep weight training utilizing a wide range of equipment and encompassing the entire body. His runs can go up to seven miles when he is training for endurance.”

6. Serena Williams


It feels like Serena Williams has been conquering the courts for decades now. Yet, she’s only 34 years old, and still very much near the top of her game. She’s also overcome rather terrifying injuries over the years, and has managed to retain top physical form all the way through.

“Like any other elite athlete, her fitness routine has become part of her life. But exercise alone isn’t enough to sustain such a great physique into her 30s. Williams admits to a change in her diet, choosing natural, raw foods over the Southern staples she has always loved.”

7. Shaun White


If you’re not a winter sports fan, Shaun White may be a bit of a mystery to you. But he’s a world famous snowboarder, having made a name for himself in the X Games and Olympics. And he’s only 29 years old. Watch him transform from punk kid to hunk in the graphic above.

“While little is known about his workout habits, Shaun White has added on a fair bit of muscle since he burst onto the scene in the early 2000s. What we do know is that he works very, very hard at everything he does.”

8. Tim Tebow


Ah, Tim Tebow.

You either love the guy, or hate him. There’s seemingly no middle ground. But no matter how you feel about him, it’s hard to deny that he’s a tremendous athlete, even if he didn’t make all that great of an NFL quarterback. Just look at his time as a college player at Florida. He thoroughly dominated the field, winning the Heisman trophy in 2007.

“Videos online showing Tebow’s intense workout routine show a mix of body-weight exercises, footwork drills, and some serious heavy lifting. As for his diet, he sticks to a very healthful mix of foods including spinach shakes, protein shakes, and a hearty breakfast of egg whites, fresh fruit, and oatmeal.”

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