The 2009 MF 25


Five years ago, Men’s Fitness premiered our first MF 25 list. To celebrate the milestone, we opted for a trip around the world. For the first time, the search for the 25 Fittest Guys became borderless, expanding beyond 50 states to all corners of the planet.

Our global superpowers fly through the air, run at superhuman speed, and dodge bullets on the big screen. They stand up to enemy fire in the ring, Octagon, and desert. They even transform themselves from real-life bad guys to heroes. No matter their job titles, these 25 guys (along with some additional picks from the editors of MF’s international editions) prove that a hardcore commitment to fitness knows no boundaries.


Age: 23
Country: Spain
Career: Tennis Player

Why Nadal? Because of those guns, for goodness’ sake. Or gun, really. The left one. It’s a boulder. A cannon. A WMD. Because of his stamina, his physique. Because of the way he plays, with violence. The way Mike Singletary or Ray Nitschke or Lawrence Taylor would play if they played tennis. Remember the Office Linebacker? He’s the Office Tennis Champion. Six Grand Slams. Thirty-three tournament wins. Twenty-three-million dollars in prize winnings. Because he rebuilt his game to become No. 1. No longer just a “clay” guy, he’s now a man for all surfaces. A lot of “clay” guys are content to be “clay” guys. Not him. Because of his relentless pursuit of the greatest artist the sport has ever seen. He’s the only man on the planet with the will and the way to end the Roger Federer
Era. Because he’s been No. 1 for 37 weeks since supplanting Federer in August 2008. Because he wants to stay there. We love that. Because he loves his national soccer team. Loves it with the passion you’d expect from a Spaniard. Loves it like a fan. And seems to love life like a fan. Because he actually pulls off the Capri pants. Or he makes us think he does. Whatever you do, do it confidently. And he does. Because he brought joy back to the sport. He’s Ille Nastase. He’s Bjorn Borg. He’s Jimmy Connors. Without any of their deficiencies. Because of the latest Greatest Match in the History of the Sport, his four-hour, 48-minute victory over Federer in the Wimbledon Finals last summer. It was a convergence of the sport’s greatest on its greatest stage. His victory signified a real-time passing of the torch. Because when he wins, we feel drained. And empowered. We feel as if we were there. Or wish we had been. For all those reasons, Rafael Nadal, the best tennis player in the world, is the 2009 Men’s Fitness Fittest Guy in the World.

See Also: MF’s Exclusive Interview



Age: 40
Country: Australia
Career: Actor

One of the most ripped (and badass) actors out there, Jackman performs nearly all of his stunts, including those in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the fourth installment of the series. To prepare, the 6’3″ Jackman went to town on the bench and leg press machines. Then, when Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain called for a character with more flexibility, he began daily tai chi and ultimately perfected various yoga poses.



Age: 41
Country: United Kingdom
Career: Actor

To play “Heavy Duty” in the new G.I. Joe film, the British actor had to undergo his own version of basic training. “In four weeks I lost 35 pounds,” says Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who worked out with L.A.-based Epoch Training, the same crew responsible for shaping the cast of 300. “I’m thinking, ‘Why am I subjecting myself to this punishment? I’m only acting, I’m not a real superhero!'” Through a strict diet and fitness program that emphasized muscle confusion and intense cardio, the former star of Oz and Lost began to feel like a real warrior. “Muscles started popping out where I didn’t even know I had them,” he says, noting that his character’s gun weighed 120 pounds alone. “You see your body changing form like the Hulk and don’t even recognize it.”



Age: 28
Country: U.S.A.
Career: MLB Player

A recovering drug addict, Hamilton is finally getting more attention for his actions on the field. The AL leader in RBIs last season with the Texas Rangers, the sweet-swinging outfielder added to his massive 6’4″ frame this winter, arriving at spring training weighing 240 pounds thanks to a dedicated off-season program in Arizona. “You see his power, his arm, everything,” said teammate David Murphy at the time. “Those are the things that make fans jump out of their seats and say, ‘Wow!'”



Age: 22
Country: Jamaica
Career: Sprinter

One year after his gold Pumas set fire to the track at Beijing National Stadium in the 2008 Summer Olympics, the slim (6’5″, 190 pounds) speedster is still smoking. Not like fellow gold medalist Michael Phelps. Bolt is only determined to light it up on the track this summer. “The main thing is the championships,” Bolt says. “The time doesn’t matter if I win.” Prep for the IAAF World Championships in Berlin this August included regular sprint workouts and three-day-a-week lifting sessions. “As a sprinter, you don’t want bulk, but you try to build your muscles,” he says. “When you hit a stage, you kind of tone it up.”



Age: 37
Country: U.S.A.
Career: Iraq War Vet/Actor/Trainer

“We were the tip of the tip of the spear,” says Reyes of his special-forces unit, the first to invade Baghdad in 2003. Their experiences helped shape HBO’s Generation Kill, the gritty Iraq war miniseries in which Reyes played himself and served as military adviser. He also trained the cast. “I forgot they were actors,” he says. “I stripped them to meat and bone.” Reyes pushed his co-stars several times a day, six days a week for seven months, in locations like Namibia, South Africa, and Mozambique. His philosophy eschews traditional bodybuilding techniques. “I’m more interested in real-world warrior strength,” he says. “I call it combat yoga.” Through body-weight circuits, kickboxing, and powerlifting (when they had access to weights), Reyes introduced the actors to the warrior mind-set. “It’s a sensibility where there are no limits,” he says. “It’s a lifelong endeavor.”



Age: 25
Country: U.S.A.
Career: Rower

In March, the former crew team member at Colgate University became the youngest American to row solo across the Atlantic, traveling from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa to Antigua in the Caribbean. Inspired by the 2001 death of his mother from skin cancer, Ridley did it to raise money for cancer research through Row for Hope, his nonprofit organization ( Ridley trained for nine months, rowing up to 10 hours a day and putting on an extra 15 pounds to make up for the 20 he’d lose during the three-month ordeal. Ridley now hopes to raise another $400,000 for the cause.



Age: 26
Country: U.S.A.
Career: Olympic Speed Skater

At 6’2″, 190 pounds, Davis is a much different athlete from the 155-pounders he usually skates against. “When I sink into the ice, it taxes my legs differently than a guy who’s 5’6″,” he says. That’s why Davis trains so often, hitting the rink six days a week for two to four hours. He focuses on traditional leg lifts like squats and leg presses. He also calls running “fun,” and says plyometrics give his muscles some “snappiness,” which helps him best utilize his size. “I can carry my weight a lot easier than a smaller guy.” A 2006
Olympic gold medalist, Davis has raced in short- and long-track events, though his height makes him more suited for longer distances. “People would say I’m a true all-around speed skater,” says Davis. “I can do almost anything on a blade.”



Age: 32
Country: Brazil
Career: Pro Skate-Boarder

“Most skateboarders only work out when they’re coming back from an injury,” says
Burnquist, who recently launched off his board into the Grand Canyon for a first of its kind BASE jump and continues to push the limits of Mega Ramp riding. “After a few injuries, I’ve taken a proactive role.” The No. 1-ranked skateboarder employs bodyweight training, a medicine ball, and off-balance techniques to increase his body’s awareness of space and to improve his durability.



Age: 59
Country: United Kingdom
Career: Founder, The Virgin Group

At his age, many billionaires would be content to kick back on their private island. Not the eccentric Branson, whose passion for fitness is exuded in both his personal endeavors and business interests. In addition to kiteboarding on his Necker Island, Branson swims, skis, surfs, dogsleds, and plays tennis. The maverick also commits to physical wellness through companies like Virgin Health Miles and Virgin Active, a chain of U.K. gyms, which will soon be expanding worldwide.



Age: 42
Country: U.S.A.
Career: Entertainment Lawyer/Producer

Some guys buy a sports car when they hit 40. Roll was 30 pounds overweight at the time, so he decided to invest in his body, instead. Two years later the Calabasas, Calif., lawyer earned the honor of being the second “Regular Joe” on the MF25. “When I turned 40, I found myself the most out of shape I’d ever been,” says Roll, a former elite swimmer at Stanford. “I didn’t want to live that way.” He adopted a plant-based diet and used multisport training to achieve a base level of fitness. But “base” wasn’t enough, so he set his sights on the 2008 Ultraman, a three-day, double Ironman distance triathlon in Hawaii. Roll began 15 to 20 hours of training per week, eliminating “anything extraneous” beyond family (he’s married and has four kids) and work. He finished 11th overall in the Ultraman but first among non-pros. “Working out makes me adhere to a tight schedule,” Roll says. “I’m much more productive.”



Age: 21
Country: U.S.A.
Career: College Football Player

How much more can he do? He’s won two national titles and a Heisman, and at 6’3″ and 235 pounds, he’s reshaped the idea of a quarterback’s physical capabilities. “[Fitness] has played a huge role,” says the Florida Gator. “A lot of my game is being a physical player, a runner as well as a thrower, someone who plays all four quarters. You see a difference between us and other teams because we’re in better shape.” Tebow’s off-season regimen comprises shoulder work, bench presses, squats, lunges, speed and agility drills, and position-specific exercises with resistance. He can max out with the linemen but knows he doesn’t need to be “the strongest guy on the team.” Instead, he says he lifts smarter without hurting his body. He prefers to continue to hurt defenders, instead.



Age: 24
Country: U.S.A.
Career: NBA Player

He looks more like a linebacker than a small forward, at 6’8″ and 250 pounds. And he’s really just begun working out seriously. Seriously. The co-best basketball player on the planet does yoga and Pilates to endure the rigors of his sport. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of physical talent and a strong body,” James recently told The Plain Dealer. “I’ve focused on working hard to maximize those gifts.” Could James grow to 275 pounds with ridiculously low body fat? Could he average an unthinkable 40 points, 12 boards, and 10 assists per game over a season? The trouble with numbers is that they have measurable limits. LeBron James, it seems, does not.



Age: 27
Country: U.S.A.
Career: Actor

He exhibits Supernatural strength — on-screen and off. To prep for his role as reluctant hero Sam Winchester, Padalecki underwent a regimen of kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. “What’s funny is [co-star] Jensen [Ackles] and I were meeting one of our producers at a bar in Vancouver, when we were jumped by eight drunken guys,” he remembers. “I broke my left hand, but they walked away with broken jaws and noses. Considering it was us against eight, we did all right.” The Texas native shoots 90 hours a week but spends downtime inside a well-stocked, on-set workout trailer. “It’s a simple setup, but I believe in the basics, anyway,” he declares. Padalecki also made sure he was at peak fitness for the recent Friday the 13th. “There’s nothing worse than watching some 120-pound dude killing the bad guy,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to see some skinny pretty boy facing off against Jason. You want to make it look believable.”



Age: 23
Country: U.S.A.
Career: Freestyle Skier

Last April, Dumont soared 35 feet to shatter the world record for height on a quarter pipe. He credits not just his ski skills, but also his work in the gym. “I do a lot of balancing stuff with weights in the air and do one-footed squats on the Bosu ball,” he says. “I’m just tightening up my core and all the little muscles, rather than trying to bulk up. I’m trying to create longevity. I want to make sure I’ll be this strong when I’m 30 or 40.”



Age: 30
Country: Philippines
Career: Light-Welterweight Fighter

He’s only 5’6″, but this Pac-Man packs a ton of power. “It comes from his speed and his legs,” says longtime trainer Freddie Roach. “His legs are so strong, and his explosive speed is a God-given talent. With those two working together, he’s almost unstoppable.” To prep for fights, Pacquiao, winner of four titles in four divisions, works out for two weeks before training with Roach in California. Then for two months, he’ll run in the mornings, do 1,000 situps, shadowbox, jump rope, punch the heavy bag, and spar in the afternoons for four rounds, building up to 12 as the fight nears. Roach says Manny’s unparalleled discipline gives him the edge. “He’s a machine,” he says. “I tell him to take
Sundays off, and he says, ‘No, I have to run.’ I ask why, and he says, ‘Because my opponent might be.'”



Age: 38
Country: U.S.A.
Career: Politician

“I’m training as much as humanly possible,” says the leader of the nation’s capital. Fenty exercises like a pro athlete—rigorously and regimented—despite having a crazy schedule. “The chance of getting a workout once a day has gone down dramatically,” he says. Three times every week, he gets in a long early-morning run and also swims and cycles when he can. Fenty has prioritized public health as well, renovating several city playing fields and starting a youth triathlon camp. He’s built it, now he’s hoping citizens will come. “I think people have been really responsive,” he says.



Age: 44
Country: U.S.A.
Career: Actor

Once on the verge of Hollywood oblivion, thanks to his famous addictions, Robert
Downey Jr. is now simply Iron Man. Before filming, he engaged in a rigorous fitness regimen under renowned trainer Brad Bose. Through intense cardio, weights, and martial arts training, the actor transformed his body, gaining 20 pounds of muscle over just five months. He maintained that physique for the lead role in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes and will be re-sculpting his suit of armor for Iron Man 2, due in theaters in May 2010.



Age: 32
Country: U.S.A.
Career: CEO

Five years ago, the former Attack of the Show host launched, one of the most popular social bookmarking Web sites. He also often launches himself to the top of local climbing walls near the company’s San Francisco offices. “Typically I’ll climb for about an hour and a half and then finish off by hitting the free weights,” Rose says. (His skill came in handy once when he had to free climb to the top of a three-story apartment building when a friend’s keys got locked inside.) “I also play racquetball twice a week and run twice a week.” Rose also maintains a healthy diet and practices Zazen, a meditation. “It’s nice to have that balance,” he says. “You work so much in front of the computer that it makes everything level out and keeps you from going crazy.”



Age: 42
Country: New Zealand
Career: TV Host

Taping The Amazing Race is a grueling four weeks of nonstop travel with little sleep. Keoghan, the host, typically loses 10 pounds before the winner crosses the finish line. So before he hits the road, Keoghan ratchets up his workouts. To get ready for the most recent season, the Santa Monica resident brushed up on his boxing. “It absolutely kills me,” he says. “I’m still a terrible boxer, but it gets me in shape.” Since turning 40, Keoghan has done 100 pushups daily. “Sometimes I’m struggling and have to stop and stretch,” he says. “But if you take care of things on the inside, it allows you to take care of things externally as well.”



Age: 30
Country: U.S.A.
Career: Singer

His infectious hooks on hits like “Smack That” and “Don’t Matter” have drawn in millions of fans worldwide. “Mostly women,” says the Senegalese-American singer, with a chuckle. “So it’s important to keep your fitness up. Sex sells!” He maintains his lean, muscular build with a preshow pump that consists of 500 pushups, pullups, and dips.
“The show continues the cardio; I’m always running back and forth for 90 minutes,” he says. Akon also jacked the beats per minute of his new cuts to 130, up from the usual 95 to 105 bpm. “I kept it up-tempo, so that people at the clubs could rock out to it, and people at the gym could put on their headphones and go crazy with it.” When not on the road, Akon plays hoops and soccer, and kickboxes, “which has really helped me get my form and flexibility together.”



Age: 27
Country: Canada
Career: UFC Fighter

By dismantling UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn earlier this year, St-Pierre took ownership of the “best pound-for-pound fighter” mantle. GSP routinely kills it in the gym with strength and conditioning coach Jonathan Chaimberg, a fellow Montreal native. Chaimberg has taken him from only eight body-weight pullups per set to now banging them out with a 120-pound dumbbell attached to his waist. Normally 188 pounds, St-Pierre cuts about 20 pounds for a fight and carries only about 5% body fat. “He’s probably the most gifted athlete you’ll ever meet,” says Chaimberg.



Age: 24
Country: United Kingdom
Career: Formula One Racer

The youngest Formula One World Champion ever, Hamilton is also one of its fittest. F1 cars can reach speeds of up to 250 mph, putting the British driver under 3.5 G’s of stress (which is the equivalent of three and a half times his own body weight). “It can feel a bit like someone is trying to rip your head off,” he says. To stay fit, Hamilton trains for nearly four hours at least six days a week during his off- season. “Leg strength is essential to be able to brake late into a corner,” he says, “and core stability is key.” Hamilton’s trainer, Adam Costanzo, travels with him all over the world. “It isn’t just in the gym the whole time,” Hamilton says. “We get outside, climb mountains, run cross-country, or go snowshoeing. We train anywhere.”



Age: 46
Country: United Kingdom
Career: Actor

Talk about a big star. Literally. At well over six feet, Owen towers above Hollywood’s typical pint-size heroes. From King Arthur to Sin City to Children of Men, he has fought his way through the past, the present, and into the future. To prepare for such demanding roles, the Coventry native trains with a London kickboxer. “You have to get physically fit for any film you do,” he told MF. “They’re quite grueling shoots.” While he regularly goes to the gym, “when I am getting ready to film, I train much more intensively,” he confesses. Of course, once the cameras start rolling there’s no time for working out. But there’s little need. His role as a machine-gun-toting do-gooder in Shoot ‘Em Up was particularly hard on his body. “It was all action, and there was lots of ropework,” he says. “That was very physical.” His main inspiration for training so hard? “My fitness regimen is completely dictated by, ‘Do I have to take my top off in this movie?'” Fit, and smart, too.



Age: 25
Country: U.S.A.
Career: NFL Star

Move over T.O. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is now the man among NFL wideouts. The 6’3″, 220-pounder was the biggest reason the Cards reached the Super Bowl last season for the first time in team history. Though Arizona lost to Pittsburgh, Fitzgerald made one of the game’s most memorable plays when he caught a pass over the middle and adroitly shed Steelers defenders on the way to a thrilling 64-yard fourth-quarter TD. His ridiculous physical ability can partly be attributed to intense off-season workouts that improve his already-profound jumping ability and speed. In addition to plyometric box jumps and track drills, Fitzgerald and Cardinals strength coach John Lott do barefoot drills to stabilize his leg muscles and utilize a trampoline-like device they call a “super-chute,” which, if you’ve seen him play, explains a lot.

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