This is a tough question to answer as there are so many factors. Therefore, we need to establish what we class as physically demanding.

We need to consider the different components of fitness, such as muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardio-respiratory endurance, and speed. Of course, when it comes to the term “physically demanding,” we tend to think of components that apply huge metabolic stress, such as muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance, rather than coordination, balance, and reaction time – is maximal endurance more demanding than maximal strength?

We also need to consider things like physical damage. For example, is rugby more physically demanding than soccer because of rugby tackles and scrums?

Lots and lots to think about… Anyway, here are my top 3 – 1 being the hardest:

  1. MMA (Mixed Martial Arts): Full-contact fighting (not semi-contact martial arts) with minimal rules in terms of striking and grappling and 3-5 minute rounds. (Boxing and sports such as Muay Thai could be included here or placed 2nd. However, I will mix up the list).
  2. Rugby: Although there are differences in the roles of different positions, I feel the broad range of physical attributes needed, including strength, speed, and endurance, and the need to sustain and recover from damage, secures rugby’s place in the top 3.
  3. Motocross: I have worked with a few motocross athletes in the gym, but in all honesty, it is not a sport I have had huge exposure to. However, when you look at the stats, many elite riders work at 80-100% of max heart rate for around 30 minutes, which is pretty brutal!

What do you think are the top 3 most physically demanding sports? (In order – 1 being the hardest).


Jason Curtis

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