After 12 yearsrounding tracks at 200 mph, Jeff Burton felt that g-forces were knocking his5'7" frame out of whack. "There were times taking the turns that Icouldn't lift my neck off the stabilizer pad," says Burton. "Your lineof sight is altered. It may sound like a small thing, but a really good car isa 10th of a second better than a good car. Small things matter." LastNovember, Burton began working out four days a week with Carolina Panthersmartial arts instructor Ken Nazemetz, who believes the body should be perfectlyaligned, both sides developed symmetrically. Burton has gained five pounds ofmuscle (he's at 156) and dropped from 14% body fat to 9%. "If you're inshape, it will help at the end of a race when it's 140 degrees in the car,"says Burton, 39, who's fourth in the Nextel Cup standings. "For me, it'snot about being the fastest guy but being the guy that will neverquit."
Burton and Nazemetz face each other in a martial arts pose (right) with rightleg forward, left leg back, right fist up, left hand back and protected by apad. Without warning Nazemetz throws a jab at Burton's pad; Burton reacts bythrowing his own. The idea is for the jabs to hit the pads simultaneously. Theypunch repeatedly for three minutes, then reverse stances, to lead with theirlefts.
"This is for hand-eye coordination and reaction time," Nazemetz says."When you're driving, you have to react immediately."
INTERNAL ANDEXTERNAL SHOULDER RESISTANCE
Burton begins with his right elbow at shoulder height, bent at 90 degrees, hispalm facing forward. As Nazemetz provides resistance by gripping Burton's wristand elbow, Burton swings his forearm down so the palm is facing back. He does10 reps, then 10 reps starting with hand down, palm facing back, then swingingup. He repeats with his left arm. (Burton then does an exercise which beginswith his elbow at waist height at 90 degrees, forearm parallel to ground andout to the side, palm facing front. Against Nazemetz's resistance, he swingsthe arm to his stomach. Ten reps, each arm. Then 10 reps starting with hand atstomach and pushing out.)
"These strengthen the small-muscle groups that stabilize the shoulder,"Nazemetz says. "They hold everything in place, and strengthening them helpsprevent injury."
Burton holds a 25-pound weight in front of him with elbows slightly bent andhands at nine and three o'clock. He rotates it 90 degrees so his right hand isat the top. Then he rotates it in the opposite direction and back to thestarting point. He then lifts the weight overhead and finally returns to thestarting point. Ten reps.
"This is for shoulder strength and rotation," Nazemetz says. "Thewheel inside a race car is much closer to the body than in a standard [car], soJeff drives more with his shoulders than his arms."
He does 10 push-ups with his hands on the ball, then 10 with his right hand onthe ball, left hand on a mat; then switches hands. That's 30 push-ups to a set.He does three sets.
"These are more intense than a regular push-up," says Nazemetz."You engage your core muscles to balance on the unsteady surface."
Burton jumps side to side over a 12-inch-high, six-inch-wide pad for 30seconds, then rests for 30 seconds. He does a second set for 45 seconds.
"This is for foot-eye coordination and explosiveness," Nazemetz says."I tell him to think of the floor as hot lava. He needs to get off thefloor as fast as possible. As soon as he touches down, he has to explode up offit again."
GAVIN LAWRENCE/GETTY IMAGES (BURTON'S CAR)
MARK GOLDMAN/ICON SMI (BURTON WAVING)
Photographs by Bob Donnan