Football Features

Footballers who bulked up and suddenly got hench

By Ben Green

Strongest footballers: Players who bulked up and became hench

Published: 16:05, 5 February 2021

While most footballers spend their training sessions practicing free-kicks, rondos and improving fitness levels, others it would seem have been glued to the bench press.

We all want a body like “Arnie”, an Adonis frame to flex at the beach, but let’s face it, most of us aren’t willing to chug protein shakes on a daily basis and consume egg white omelettes for breakfast.

“If it jiggles, it’s fat”, the seven-time Mr Olympia once quipped, but he was training for the most intense bodybuilding contest on the planet, not Stoke City on a cold Tuesday night.

However, for some players, getting hench has proven more than just a New Year’s resolution. These lads below kept up the bicep curls beyond January and went from slender to swole overnight. 

Leon Goretzka

A bit like John Terry when he went full kit and joined the Chelsea celebrations after winning the Champions League, it almost seemed like a random bodybuilder quickly threw on a Bayern shirt, masqueraded as a footballer, and darted over to partake in the revelry when Hansi Flick’s side beat PSG last year.

As it turns out, that Bavarian beast was actually Leon Goretzka, the man who had just dominated the midfield in Lisbon.

The 26-year-old has really taken his game to another level over the past year, and it would seem his gym routine has been given an adrenaline shot as well, as he returned from the spring lockdown looking like a man who had just come straight from Muscle Beach in Venice.

That trophy lift would have been light work for Leon. Unfortunately, the champagne probably didn’t fit his macros. 

Adama Traore

Traore has the body of a man who looks like he spends every waking moment either lifting weights or thinking about lifting weights. As it turns out, the Wolves winger has (apparently) never actually lifted a weight in his life — someone tell “Arnie” he wasted his time.

In fact, Traore has sculpted his hulking frame through strength and power training, and probably a very good nutritionist. Fortunately for Traore, the muscle mass hasn’t slowed down his pace, and he is still one of the most lightning-quick players in world football.

Now that he has added some form of end product to his game, there is not a single ankle among full-backs safe.

Let’s face it, Traore has always been ‘built’ but wow has he taken his game to another level since moving to Molineux…

Robert Lewandowski

I don’t know what they’re feeding the lads over at the Allianz Arena, they must have just swapped pretzels for protein bars in the canteen, but boy are Hansi Flick’s charges looking shredded.

Lewandowski has long been an advocate of healthy living, he married a karate World Cup bronze medalist and well-known sports nutritionist after all, and was even nicknamed ‘The Body’ during his Borussia Dortmund days.

“Lewy has the most incredible body, it’s just pure muscles. It stuns the other players in the changing room,” Nuri Sahin once said.

But, Lewandowski has exceeded himself, taking his goalscoring prowess and bench press PR to another level.

Thilo Kehrer

The Bayern Munich players weren’t the only ones who looked like they bulked up during 2020, as Kehrer was quick to showcase his new muscular triceps in a sleeveless training top just before returning to Champions League action last summer.

Ligue 1 wingers better start improving their dribbling exploits, as no one is knocking Kehrer off the ball anytime soon.

Scott McTominay

Manchester United may have brought in Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek last summer, but Scott McTominay put in the hours (and the crunches) behind the scenes to keep himself on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s radar too, and it worked.

From lanky Lancaster lad to human cheese grater, ‘McSauce’ really knuckled down and filled out his 6ft 4in frame over the break, and adds considerable power to Solskjaer’s title-chasing side.

Michail Antonio

West Ham’s linchpin is like a heavyweight with a featherweight’s touch, powering through defenders with sheer aggression, but having the composure and awareness of mind to cause serious problems through his shooting.

Since joining the Hammers, Antonio has added a refined touch and a whole lot of muscle to his game, proving a unique player who can bully defenders, hold the ball up and execute long throws in Rory Delap fashion.

Gareth Bale

Whether it was the tan from the Madrid sun that accentuated his sinews or just an improved training regime, Bale has really put on some lean muscle mass since moving to Real and kept it up since his return to London.

How did that flag go again? “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.” You could probably squeeze “gym” in-between “Wales” and “Golf”.


Nani has the body fat percentage of a man who hasn’t touched a carb since the 90s, but hats off to the Portuguese, he is giving Cristiano Ronaldo a run for his money. A lithe and wily winger during his Man Utd days, the 34-year-old got himself beach-body ready for his move to Florida, and is now reaping the rewards across the Atlantic, proving clinical on the turf for Orlando City, and in the gym.

Lucas Torreira 

Breaking Bad by night, breaking PRs in the gym by day, Lucas Torreira picked up a serious ankle injury last March but that didn’t stop the Uruguayan hitting the gym. He traded training cones for bicep curls and came back ready to shoulder barge the life out of any midfielder brave enough to take him on.