The Barcelona talisman has been celebrated for his star skills and incredible ability, but how does he maintain his form and fitness?
GOAT or not, Lionel Messi is still one of the greatest players to have graced the football pitch in the history of the game.
The Barcelona superstar seems to get better season by season, defying the expectations that naturally come with growing older and leaving your ‘peak’ years.
Despite freshly landing in his thirties, Messi still looks better and brighter than ever and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. So what is the secret to his football abilities, and how much of it is down to his dietary and workout regime as opposed to raw, innate, natural talent?
Goal takes a look at the secrets behind the Argentine’s skills, stamina and speed.
Messi isn’t as fitness-heavy as his former La Liga rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who is known for his rigorous exercising regime. Still, however, he does have to follow some regular workout plan under the supervision of his coaches.
According to Pinata, the Argentine’s workouts revolve mainly around making sure his body is up to speed – literally. He focuses on maximising his agility before each matchday and working on his linear speed.
In order to build his speed, his workout is divided into different sections which contain several exercises. In terms of basic movement, he practises the pillar bridge-front, lunges, hamstring stretches, and pillar skips. He also uses the hurdle hop as well as split squats in order to strengthen his core and leg muscles. To end his portion of the workout, he does different acceleration drills to boost his pace.
The next step of the linear speed workout is to maximise his multidirectional speed. Messi uses the exercises of pillar skips, skipping ropes, and squats to further build his leg muscles. For agility, he skips past diagonal hurdles, cones and other obstacles to improve his lateral movements. At the end of each workout, drinks plenty of water to keep himself hydrated and then jogs for five to 10 minutes to cool down.
You are what you eat, so it’s no wonder that Messi is on a strict diet to help maintain his footballing ability.
Italian nutritionist Giuliano Poser has revolutionised the Argentina international’s diet since working with him in 2014. He has identified five key foods – water, olive oil, whole grains, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables – as the foundation for Messi’s dietary regime.
“Also very good are nuts and seeds,” Poser explained and has also advised his client to cut down on the sugar.
“[Sugar] is the worst thing for the muscles. The farther he stays away from sugars, the better,” he continued. “Refined flours are also a big problem as these days, it’s difficult to find uncontaminated wheat.”
Like many nutritionists working with athletes, he has advised against excessive meat consumption – something all too common in South America and Spain. “The amount of meat normally eaten by Argentinians and Uruguayans is too much, as it is difficult to digest,” he said.
“My methods are not in doubt, everyone can see Leo week in, week out.”
Messi is a self-confessed fan of the Argentine speciality Milanesa (a thin fillet of beef shallow-fried in breadcrumbs), and has previously admitted his struggles with cutting out regular meat from his diet: “What you can put into your body at 18 or 19 years of age is not the same as what you can put in at 27.”
According to AS, the striker has also been told to give up pizza, another one of his favourite foods.
Of course, Messi’s natural gift, ability and skill is what makes him such a talented footballer. His incredible technical prowess is one in a million, and they are innate. There are so many fitness exercises and regimes you can try out in the hopes of trying to become a player like Messi, but there’s a reason why he’s touted as a GOAT – he is just a unique, born and bred talent.
Performance innovation team director at Athletes’ Performance Craig Friedman, however, has explained the natural phenomena behind Messi’s speed and agility.
“First you have to be explosive and powerful,” Friedman told ESPN. “Then, you have to be stable enough through your ankles, hips and torso to be able to deliver that power efficiently into the ground. And finally, you have to deliver the power into the ground in the right direction, and that’s where technique comes in.”
Needless to say, Messi – relatively small in stature compared to his colleagues – excels in all three areas.
“He’s a small guy,” Friedman continues, “but his rate of force development is very high and his power-to-weight ratio is just ridiculous.”
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