July 23, 2022; Green Bay, WI, USA; Manchester City forward Erling Haaland (9) runs the ball during the exhibition match against FC Bayern Munich on Saturday, July 23, 2022 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Mandatory Credit: Samantha Madar-USA TODAY Sports | Green Bay Press Gazette-USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt that Norwegian and Manchester City football superstar Erling Haaland is in amazing shape. “Huge amount of definition.” “You usually only see that on bodybuilders.” “A monster.” “His body composition is elite.”

These are among the comments made by strength and conditioning experts about the physique of Haaland, 23, a prolific goal scorer and one of the best players in the world. They come in a lengthy article in The Athletic by Sarah Shephard that connects Haaland’s specific physical training with his success on the pitch.

I found the story to be very interesting, especially in how the development of certain muscle groups would benefit an athlete like Haaland. The hook was an Instagram post on the striker’s page that shows insane upper leg development.

“When you lift the leg up in that manner, every single muscle in that leg is firing,” Phil Learney, a sports scientist and the founder of the Advanced Coaching Academy told the Athletic. “You see this with bodybuilders on stage — they lift their feet off the floor and all the muscles separate, then they slam their leg on the floor to keep that separation in place.”

Anthony Turner, a professor of strength and conditioning at Middlesex University, said muscle development is also beneficial when it comes to injury prevention. “So your cartilage is getting stronger, thicker and more dense, your ligaments and tendons as well, as well as your bone mass. You become more robust. You’re less likely to get injured.”

What caught my attention was the fact that I seldom see such details about the bodies of American male pro athletes. There are some exceptions, such as reports on the training regimes of players in health and fitness magazines.

Few beat writers bother with such explorations. One reason I think is the discomfort that men have with discussing other men’s bodies, as if too much fawning detail might be seen as homoerotic and a touch “gay.” The media are way more comfortable with safer, fun stories like comparing “dad bods” of NFL players Jason Kelce and Patrick Mahomes.

The Athletic’s Shephard has shown that a deep discussion into an athlete’s physique can be illuminating on why how they train can pay off in performance, down to specific muscle groups. And she achieved it without getting access to Haaland, instead speaking with training specialists who have expertise in physiology. I hope we can see more stories like it.