Sports Illustrated Article on SF 49ers Safety, Tony Parrish

Bikram Press

Jumping routines. Resistance bands. Yoga. In an ongoing workout series that begins with this week’s look at 49ers safety Tony Parrish, SI will show how NFL players toughen their cores. It’s not just six-pack abs they want: A solid core can be the difference between becoming a star and losing your job.

by Jeffri Chadiha

By definition, the core is both a foundation and the center of activity. Trainer Mark Verstegen calls it an “erect pillar that funnels energy” through the body. “Core strength is the key for athletes,” says Verstegen, who runs Athletes Performance, a fitness center in Tempe, Ariz., that trains scores of NFL players. “Your body uses the core for every movement.”

The core muscle group is made up of the abdominals, the lower back, the obliques and the glutes (that is, the buttocks, hips and thighs). A powerful core enables the upper and lower body to work together fluidly, increasing agility and head-to-toe power. The athlete who strengthens his core runs faster, reacts quicker and delivers more punishing body contact. Says the Falcons’ DeAngelo Hall, one of the league’s most athletic players, “The core runs everything.”

Focusing on the core can quickly make even a superior athlete better. Texans defensive end Mario Williams (SI, Aug. 7) weighed 283 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in the mid-4.7s when he began intense core training last January. Six weeks later he was up to 290 pounds and his time was down to 4.66. He became the No. 1 draft pick. “[Training] is a lot different now,” says Buccaneers strength and conditioning coach Mike Morris, noting that core work often includes drills with physioballs and exercises rooted in Pilates, karate and boxing. The 49ers’ Tony Parrish, 30, is one of a growing number of NFLers who practice yoga — the Steelers and the Seahawks offer yoga classes to their players. “[Ten or 15 years ago] we thought about lifting [weights],” Morris says, “not about working the inside first and working your way out.”

That’s what core strength is about. It takes a strong will to stick to a program, and some need the support of a group. In spring and early summer, dozens of former University of Miami players return to campus and follow an abs circuit devised by Hurricanes strength coach Andreu Swasey that requires them, among other tortures, to do 250 reps of various abs exercises in seven minutes. Arizona Cardinals running back Edgerrin James swears by the circuit, and the value of core work. “There’s no reason for me to walk around with my arms and chest swollen from lifting [weights],” says James. “I don’t need all that muscle up top. I’d rather transfer it down to the rest of my body. That’s where football is played.”

Sports Illustrated Article on SF 49ers Safety, Tony Parrish