WHILE LEADING the Steelers to seven straight wins, rookie Ben Roethlisberger has been drawing raves about his arm strength. ("It's what I would call rare," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer told SI.com.) But the 6'5", 241-pound quarterback knows that consistent, hard throws have as much to do with his core as with his arm. "It's important to get your core strong because you do so much twisting and rotating when you're throwing," says Roethlisberger, who has worked to strengthen his midsection since his high school days in Findlay, Ohio. Steelers assistant strength and conditioning coach Marcel Pastoor now trains Roethlisberger up to three times a week, concentrating on the QB's abdominals, obliques, hip flexors and lower back.
Roethlisberger--whose QB rating of 101.3 is fourth in the AFC--says a powerful core is especially helpful when he's being chased. "Your technique kind of goes out the window when you're on the run," he says. "Anytime you throw on the run, you're using your hips, abs and back. You can use the torque and twist of your body to help give you a couple extra yards. Having a strong core definitely helps me get more velocity on my ball." Even if you don't play football, a strong core helps bridge lower- and upper-body strength, improving posture and easing even basic home chores. Here's a look at Roethlisberger's routine.
MEDICINE BALL TOSS
Once a week Roethlisberger and Pastoor play catch with a 12- to 16-pound medicine ball, doing two sets of 10 tosses. Pastoor says it mimics the finish of a pass because the arms are going forward, the hips back.
MEDICINE BALL SIT-UPS
Pastoor stands above a supinme Roethlisberger and drops the medicine ball. Roethlisberger catches it in mid-sit-up, brings it to both sides (left), then throws it back. ¬†The exercise strengthens his hip flexors, obliques and abs, and Roethlisberger does two sets of 10, concentrating on the rotation of his body. ¬†"It's tought, but it's good to do because it strengthens all around your stomach," says Roethlisberger. But he cautions, "You don't want to do it too close to games if your ribs are hurting."
ROTARY TORSO TWISTS
Steeler's trainers introduced Roethlisberger to this exercise, done on the aptly named rotary torso machine, and it quickly became a favorite. ¬†"This isn't too painful, and you¬†get good results," says Roethlisberger, who does one set of 10 to 12 rotations in each direction to work several of his core muscles. ¬†"Most guys do crunches and only get their stomachs. ¬†It's important to have all of it, but for me it's more important to have strong obliques [the sides of the abdomen] than to have a strong stomach."
SWISS BALL HYPEREXTENSIONS
In this lower-back-strengthening exercise Roethlisberger's size works against him. ¬†"His legs are long, so he's at a mechanical disadvantage," says Pastoor. ¬†"It's easier for someone short." ¬†Roethlisberger regularly does two sets of 12 to 15 reps, lying on an exercise ball and raising his legs from the floor to the position shown, where he holds for two seconds before lowering. ¬†"My lower back always got sore easily. ¬†This has helped," he says. ¬†"It gives me a stronger twist when avoiding tackles. ¬†It really helps me get away from those guys."
Can you guess who owns these abs? (answers below)
• I posed shirtless for The Orlando Sentinel.
• I consider my abdominal muscles a work of art.
• My full first name in an African language means "a warrior who's gone through many wars and never been defeated."
• I work my abs each day in the off-season.
• I do hundreds of crunches daily and work with weights and medicine balls.
• I train to be fit for football, but I bare my six-pack on the beach in San Diego, where I went to school.
• I eat junk food and can go months without an ab workout.
• I do a lot of yoga to improve my flexibility.
• I have been starting at cornerback since my rookie year, in the NFC.
Answers: 1. Jaguars LB Akin Ayodele 2. Ravens S Will Demps 3. Seahawks CB Ken Lucas
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (4)
FERNANDO MEDINA/WIREIMAGE.COM (ROETHLISBERGER ACTION)
STEPHEN M. DOWELL/THE ORLANDO SENTINEL