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Fitness & Health

11th Aug 2015

How the hell does Xherdan Shaqiri get legs like that?

Dem legz....

Ben Kenyon

Champions League winner Xherdan Shaqiri has completed his move to Stoke. That’s right, Stoke!

But joining the Barcelona of the West Midlands isn’t even the most surprising thing…just look at the guy’s legs.

What the hell is he doing to get a pair of pins that look like they’ve been hacked off a thoroughbred racehorse’s hindquarters and stuck on a man?

We’ve taken a look…

Switzerland's midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri takes part in a training session on June 29, 2014 at the Municipal Stadium in Porto Seguro, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT

Leg Day

Shaqiri doesn’t know the meaning of ‘leg day’ – it’s not in his Swiss vocabulary. He just calls it Monday, Tuesday Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Legend has it he’s never missed a session at the squat rack since he was eight years old. Some say he was born under a leg press machine.

Bossing a midfield requires endurance, which normally favours the lighter builds of Andres Iniesta or Andrea Pirlo.

But who wants dainty legs when you can look like Tom Platz in shorts and kick like a Blackpool donkey?

You just try dragging that man out of the gym.



The ‘Magic Dwarf’, as he’s nicknamed (we didn’t come up with it), is built for doing squats, with his short stocky frame. He’s the ideal explosive power athlete.

When mere mortals squat they lower the bar down; when Shaq squats he stands there with the weight on his shoulders and pushes the world down. Fact.

The movement is perfect for building up your quad muscles which control knee extension and therefore running, jumping and kicking.

If you want to know where his bullet-like pace and power come from – squats is the answer.

calves 2


If you want to build a strong set of legs you have to lunge. Lunge your heart out. That’s what a young Shaqiri must have been told as a child.

Since that day he has never stopped. Some say he can’t even walk properly any more, he just lunges from A to B. And everywhere he lunges, he takes this massive pole with him – you know, to make it challenging.

That’s why he’s built like a ploughman’s ox. Not only does the movement work your quads, but it will help develop your glutes (arse muscles) and your hamstrings. Working the hamstrings equally with the quads on exercises like lunges, curls or stiff-leg deadlifts is key to prevent muscle imbalances which can lead to injury.

If you want to be stacked like the Shaq, we suggest lunging to work tomorrow. Then lunge home and repeat.

Calves 6


While the local boys would do a paper round or deliver the milk, apparently a young Shaqiri got a job with an Alpine farmer pulling his cart to market.

Whenever the Bayern team bus would breakdown, the dependable Swiss powerhouse would get off and drag it the rest of the way before putting in a 90-minute shift in midfield.

But this movement has benefited his legs and his game no end. They’re brilliant for both strength and conditioning and will develop upper back, hamstrings, quads, hips and glutes.

There’s a lower risk of injury and there’s no eccentric phase in the movement so it’s good for injury rehab.


Plyometric jumps

Those legs might look all big and pretty, but there’s plenty of explosive power in there too. That’s why the ‘Alpine Messi’ is famous for his driving runs and quick bursts.

Training muscles like the hamstrings will give you explosiveness, but plyometric movements can also help.

It all started back when Shaqiri was a wee child, apparently. His parents refused to buy him a space hopper as a nipper. So Shaqiri would bounce around his neighbourhood on his imaginary hopper, which were the beginnings of his awesome leg power.

These days they won’t let him bring his imaginary space hopper into training for safety reasons, but it looks like he’s still down with the plyometric jumps.

There’s all sorts of variations like the front box jump, the broad jump, barbell squat jumps, jumping lunges – all which generate power, strength and explosiveness in the legs.

It all makes Shaqiri quicker out the blocks than Rafa Benitez at the Christmas buffet.