How elite esports athletes whip themselves into shape to compete

Now Fisk, 21, competes full time as a professional Heroes of the Storm player for esports team Tempo Storm.

Play video games. And that’s what he did for the next two years.

Now Fisk, 21, competes full time as a professional Heroes of the Storm player for esports team Tempo Storm. He’s been in the space for the past three years and is now considered the eighth best player in the world. To maintain this elite rank, he has to practice for hours on end in front of a computer screen, which is admittedly not the healthiest of lifestyle choices. But Fisk finds time to fit in an intense workout routine in his busy tournament schedule, including running, doing 100 push-ups (50 tricep, 50 regular), 100 sit-ups, and 10 pistol squats. He tries to do this once a day.

“As far as numbers go, when I live a healthier lifestyle, I've been able to be more consistently close to the top,” he tells


Traditionally, the world has thought of competitive video game players as pasty, out-of-shape basement-dwellers. Former ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd said as much in 2015, when he threatened to quit if he were ever forced to talk about esports. “Somebody lock the basement door at mom’s house, and don’t let them out,” he said.

Since then, Cowherd’s fears have come to fruition: esports is now a $1.5 billion industry, with ESPN regularly airing esports tournaments and inking a major deal with professional esports team Overwatch earlier this month. And with elite players like Fisk increasingly gaining visibility, they’re looking to physical fitness to give them an edge in the digital world.

Because of the lightning-fast reflexes and concentration required in esports, many game-winning decisions come down to millisecond reactions. A sharp mind and body can make all the difference.

Being physically fit is "another way to have an edge. If you're eating well, you're going to have more mental clarity,” says Tim Spencer, a longtime gamer and personal trainer.


With his wife Nicole Du Cane, Spencer launched Heroes of Fitness, a Twitch livestream that combines gaming and workouts and encourages gamers to adopt a more healthy and active lifestyle.

In the esports world, “longevity is a big issue, so even when a player gets to their mid-20s, they’re already getting towards the end of their career,” Cane explained to “So they're looking at ways to prolong their career to stay mentally sharp, but also with their reflexes.”

Every stream, the duo goes through a routine of hip flexor stretches to combat the constant sitting, hand wrist stretches to combat wrist pronation while playing with a mouse and keyboard, and shoulder, neck, and hamstring stretches. Cane and Spencer are also certified kettlebell instructors, so often they incorporate kettlebell routines along with bodyweight exercises. In the five-minute exercise break between 30-minute playing sessions, they do push-ups, squats, kettlebell swings, deadlifts, and ab workouts. Saturdays are reserved for yoga.

The couple also does personal training over Skype, working with big-time clients from the esports world. Fnatic’s Filip “SmX” Liljeström is one player who has taken a cue from Heroes of Fitness. As a kid growing up in Sweden, he remembers turning down going to the lake with his friends because he didn’t want to take off his shirt. His father always tried to encourage him to be active, but Liljeström preferred to sit inside and play video games.

Now, as a full-time gamer, Liljeström spends 6-7 days a week at the gym. He typically starts on the treadmill for 30 minutes, then does a healthy mix of dumbbell curls, chest presses, smith machine shoulder presses, and leg presses. He’s tried to encourage his teammates to pick up on his fitness habits, with mixed results. But he’s proud of his transformation from a chubby, 198-lb. 14-year-old who was the “shyest guy in the world” to a fit, 172 lb. man who is comfortable being interviewed on camera.


“I wish I could have gone back and said to myself many years ago that it would be fine,” he says.

These days, more money and bragging rights are on the line than ever before in esports. The desire for teams to be number one will mean that each team will be bringing in every resource to give their players an edge. And as a new generation of fans grows up, more athletes will put in the effort to get fit, and the stereotype of the flabby, inactive, potato-chip-eating player in his mom’s basement will only exist in the minds of the Colin Cowherds of the world.


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