But sometimes even pro athletes can let things go—or decide to take their physiques to the next level. That’s where the transformations come in.
Whether it’s basketball players like Julius Randle and Victor Oladipo completely overhauling their training and nutrition to go from doughy to absolutely ripped, New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard adding nearly 20lbs of muscle to his frame with protein-packed "Bowls of Doom," or San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval shedding massive amounts of weight, some athletes set strong examples by taking control of their fitness and hammering their bodies into fighting shape.
And while some of these stars didn’t have the seasons they desired—Syndergaard got injured and only pitched in seven games in 2017, while Sandoval hit for a .220 average in 79 games—others, like Oladipo and Randle, have shown major improvement since their fitness transformations.
Here’s a look at 10 of the most impressive athlete body transformations of 2017.
NBA player Julius Randle took his fitness to the next level during the 2017 off-season, whittling his doughy midsection into a ripped six-pack and a defined upper body. Randle took the challenge from Lakers management to come back even better, telling Men's Fitness he wanted to be in the “best shape of his life". So he teamed up with trainer Amoila Cesar, who helped Randle completely overhaul his training routine and nutrition plan. The program helped Randle get down to just 6% body fat, and by the end of the 12-week program, he had dropped nearly 20lbs. Try the muscle-building, fat-burning, total-body workout that helped Randle get it done.
See the full post of Randle’s transformation at Kendra Randle’s Instagram page.
Victor Oladipo’s transformation didn’t just change his body. After dropping weight and being traded to the Indiana Pacers, he’s looking like an All-Star. Oladipo started his fitness change while still with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he was traded for Paul George during the off-season, and Oladipo hasn’t looked back. Oladipo worked with trainer David Alexander, carving out a sculpted six-pack and a defined upper body in just three weeks of work. Oladipo has averaged career-high numbers across the board during his first 33 games of 2017, scoring 24.9 points per game with 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
See the full post of Oladipo’s transformation at Oladipo’s Instagram page.
While Noah Syndergaard didn’t have the season he wanted in 2017—an injury kept “Thor” out for most of the season and he only pitched in seven games—he still went through quite the body transformation. Already a muscular physical specimen, Syndergaard added nearly 20lbs to his frame before the 2017 season. Syndergaard helped pack on the muscle by eating all-Paleo, protein-packed “Bowls of Doom” from his favorite hometown Texas restaurant. (The injury didn't keep Syndergaard from appearing in Game of Thrones Season 7 either.)
Following his injury, Syndergaard overhauled his training routine for the 2018 season: “I am still lifting heavy, but in a more smart way,” Syndergaard told the NY Daily News. “Last year was not the most smart way in terms of exercises and choices. For instance, last year I did a lot of pullups—that’s a lat exercise. This year I haven't done one pullup yet. It’s different, but still a taxing workout.” See the full post at Syndergaard's Instagram page.
After a successful professional soccer career, former Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand decided on a change: He wanted to become a boxer. Ferdinand made the transition at 38 years old, but that hasn’t slowed him down one bit. Ferdinand got absolutely ripped during his training, which was spearheaded by former WBC super-middleweight champion and Olympic Team Great Britain boxing trainer Richie Woodhall.
"I'm doing this because it's a challenge," Ferdinand, who appeared in more than 500 matches during his Premier League career, told the BBC. "I've won titles, and now I'm aiming for a belt."
Here’s the full Instagram post from Ferdinand’s page.
"Big Show" went through a major fitness transformation in 2017, carving out a rock-hard six-pack and dropping more than 70lbs in about seven months. What gave the wrestling superstar his inspiration? Another fellow WWE icon: John Cena.
“We were talking about getting in shape,” "Big Show" said in an interview with WWE.com. “I said, 'Ah, what the hell is a giant gonna do with abs?' and John looked at me with a straight face and said, 'Yeah. A giant with abs. That wouldn’t be marketable at all.' And he walked off. It was kind of a shot, but [later] John reached out and congratulated me on the work I’ve done. That meant a lot."
He’s “Fat Adams” no more. Former Cardinals star and current Braves first baseman Matt Adams went through a dramatic fitness transformation ahead of the 2017 MLB season. Adams shed his old nickname and also nearly 30lbs from his 6’4”, 260-lb frame. Adams' go-to training method? Pilates. While he also used a workout routine of strength training, cardio work, along with speed and agility drills, as well as a strict nutrition program, his work with Kim Wallis, C.S.C.S., really pushed him to lose weight.
“I put together a three-phase off-season program for Matt, which included strength workouts, cardio conditioning, outdoor workouts, offensive and defensive baseball drills, and Pilates,” Wallis told Men’s Fitness. “We had a sports dietitian analyze his diet and help design a plan to improve his metabolism and reduce fat mass along with the Cardinals head strength coach, who worked with us four days a week in the weight room.”
Known for his burly figure and towering home runs during the Chicago Cubs’ World Series run in 2016, outfielder Kyle Schwarber is looking to start 2018 on a new foot. Some photos and videos from the Cubs’ Snapchat channel started going around social media, showing a much more svelte Schwarber, and an interview with ESPN revealed that Schwarber’s dropped nearly 20lbs since finishing the season. Schwarber said he’s been focused on getting more athletic and agile, while also working on his flexibility. Schwarber said that his goals in 2018 are to “be an MVP. I want to be a Gold Glover”. So far, the results look great. See the full Twitter post here.
Even though this happened during the tail end of 2016, former Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval kept at his fitness transformation into the 2017 season. Now with the San Francisco Giants, the infielder formerly known as “Kung Fu Panda” showcased his stark weight loss ahead of the season—and now it looks like he'll be able to ditch that name for good. (Leopards do kung fu, right?) Here's a look at the original posts on Twitter.
While he’s retired from professional soccer, former Arsenal player and Sunderland captain Stefan Schwarz had such an impressive fitness transformation that he muscled his way onto the list. At 48 years old, Schwarz dropped more than 40lbs while putting himself through a program called “16 Weeks of Hell”. In just three months, Schwarz transformed into a ripped, muscular beast, carving out a deep abdominal V and pumping up his upper body.
Here’s a look at the original Instagram post from Schwarz.
“Big Show” wasn't the only WWE star to show off some rock-hard abs this year. WWE Raw cruiserweight Akira Tozawa also got formidably cut after previously being doughy in the early days of his career. Tozawa showed off multiple before-and-after pics of his fitness transformation on Instagram, and they’re pretty impressive.