Top 10 Most Physically Challenging Sports



Top 10 Most Physically Challenging Sports

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: George Trumic
Script written by George Trumic

These are the sports that get your heart pumping, your muscles aching, and your sweat dripping. From rowing to waterpolo, and soccer, these sports may be rewarding, but dang! They're hard! WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Most Physically Challenging Sports.

Special thanks to our user Adonis_ZYZZ for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Most+Physically+Challenging+Sports.
Script written by George Trumic

Top 10 Most Physically Challenging Sports

These are the sports that get your heart pumping, your muscles aching, and your sweat dripping. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Physically Challenging Sports.

For this list, we’re focusing more on competitive sports and less on recreational ones.

#10: Rowing

Also known as crew, this strenuous water sport takes its athletes to the very limits of their cardiovascular endurance and requires sheer power and an incredible attention to rhythm. Racing against other athletes is hard enough, but racing in boats powered by nothing but the propulsion generated by the legs, core, and upper back? Whether you’re racing alone in what’s known as a single scull or with seven other people in what’s known as a coxed eight, this backbreaking sport, which originated back in ancient Egypt, requires its athletes to be at peak physical and mental condition.

#9: Water Polo

Swimming is challenging, but this exhausting water sport is a juiced-up form of swimming, and therefore even more challenging. The premise is simple: Two teams attempt to get the most goals into the opponent’s net, with players competing in both offensive and defensive positions. The catch? Water polo is played in what is usually around 7 feet of water for almost an hour, requiring players to exercise an enormous amount of endurance and stamina to stay afloat while playing. To makes matters more difficult, it is a contact sport, in which players are constantly attacked and manhandled, all with little to no protective gear.

#8: Soccer

Easily recognized as one of the the most popular and beloved sports in the world, soccer also makes our list for being a sport requiring its players be in top physical condition. While speed and quickness may not matter as much in other sports, it is usually what defines success in this game, that entails its players dribble the ball across a field and put it in the opponent’s net. A game of constant motion, the perpetual moving, sprinting, and fighting to keep or take possession of the ball over a field of up to 76,900 square feet is a test of resilience for most players involved.

#7: Triathlon

Generally-speaking, swimmers swim, runners run, and cyclists cycle; however, in the most popular form of this grueling athletic contest, contestants must do all three while racing with other contestants for hours on end. Using only the strength of the human body, participants face muscle fatigue, strength challenges, and complete exhaustion when performing the different activities, which normally require months of training. As if the physical aspects of these brutal feats aren’t enough, athletes must also compete against the clock, all striving for the fastest overall completion time.

#6: Hockey

Try balancing on steel blades millimeters wide, flying down slippery ice at breakneck speeds, stopping, starting, and changing directions on a dime, constantly fighting for the puck, and getting slammed into by other players. This is the ruthless sport that is hockey, most popular in North America and the colder parts of Europe. Requiring stamina, endurance, and breathtaking speed and agility, this icy sport also contains a high risk of injury; in fact, studies show that the sport is to blame for almost half of all brain injuries among Canadian child athletes.

#5: American Football

In a game that requires you to be as swift, sturdy, and strong as possible, and that requires you to compete against players that are just as tough, this is not a sport for wimps. Although the plays are short, high-intensity efforts, dexterity and durability are vital to endure the hard hits, tackles, and runs needed to reach the opponent’s end zone with the ball. Being a full-contact sport, it doesn’t help that the chance of injury - especially of concussions - is high, even despite all the protective measures that have been implemented since the late 1800s.

#4: Rugby

Although to the untrained eye this physical sport seems to most resemble American football, there are a few major differences which make this form – created in Warwickshire, England during the late 1800s – that much worse. For one, while American football has four 15-minute quarters, a 12-minute halftime break, and several other short breaks, rugby is played 40 minutes at a time, totaling 80 minutes of complete mental and physical exertion. Add the fact that the players wear no protective padding, and this brutal sport is basically football on steroids.

#3: Boxing

Although many sports can leave you exhausted or even injured, this sport is so physically demanding that many athletes have ended up disabled or even dead. An ancient sport, boxing became particularly popular in Ancient Greece and Rome, where combatants needed to be quick, powerful, and ruthless if they expect to last until the next round, much less win. Today, professional boxing lasts some 10-12 rounds, and requires athletes to inflict maximum damage to the bodies of their opponents in a battle that many times doesn’t end until one is overpowered to the point of unconsciousness.

#2: Wrestling

While boxers may take frequent breaks and spend at least some of a match without being in actual contact with their opponents, athletes in this sport must spend the entire match locked in a grappling bout requiring them to exert all their physical strength and prowess into subduing their opponent. Recognized as one of the earliest forms of combat, wrestling as an athletic discipline today requires its athletes be in peak physical condition and have a tremendous amount of endurance and coordination, with plays that involve holds, throws, pins, and take downs.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:



Cross Country

#1: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

While every sport on our list requires everything from strength to endurance to agility to raw power, this full-contact combat sport first popularized in the late 1990s requires all of the above and goes one step further by requiring an unparalleled level of mental involvement and alertness. From the moment a match begins, there is not a second where fatigue or sluggishness can take over; these athletes must utilize a variety of fighting styles, techniques, and positions to destroy their opponent, who also happen to be trained fighters in peak physical condition.