HEIGHT: 5'10"WEIGHT: 197
THE WINNER OF theNFL's fastest-man competition pays $12,000 a year to build his core at AthletesPerformance in Tempe, Ariz. He says the investment has made him the player heis today--and thus made him rich. "I came here out of college, and then Isigned for a $13 million bonus," says Hall, 22. "My next contract I'llget maybe a $25 million bonus. I'll take that turnaround." Here's a sampleof Hall's "movement" regimen.
Resistance BandWalk DRILL With feet shoulder-width apart, and bands taut across the thighs andankles, Hall walks 10 yards forward, 10 yards back. Twice. PURPOSE The bandsforce Hall to use his hips and glutes to move. Employing the glutes instead ofrelying mostly on the quadriceps--the muscle most people naturally favor--addspower and reduces injury risk.
TEAM San DiegoChargers
HEIGHT 6'4"WEIGHT 272
AT THE URGING ofhis uncle Henry (Sugar Poo) Buchanan, a super middleweight boxer (14--0, 11KOs), Merriman, last season's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, began aboxing-oriented regimen. He calls the workouts "the best conditioning youcan do," and his trainer, Thai boxing champ Melchor Menor, says,"Shawne never slacks." Beyond punch-throwing, Merriman, 22, does someunusual core-building exercises.
Crunches DRILLStandard crunch, but with the 160-pound Menor standing on Merriman's lowerabdominals. Merriman does 50. He also does 30 as Menor pounds his belly withhis fists. PURPOSE As opposed to a typical crunch, this isolates the lowerabs--the pressure forces Merriman to focus on that region and also to breathedeeply and steadily.
HEIGHT: 6 feetWEIGHT: 254
DRILL Assumepush-up stance atop two physioballs, hands on the outside of the top half ofthe ball. A spotter can help stabilize the rear ball, but should not hold theball unless it rolls. Two sets of 50. PURPOSE Exercises the entire core, whichmust work to keep balls from rolling. Helps train upper and lower body to stayaligned when hit.
THE FOUR-HOURtraining sessions that Duckett endures six days a week each July in San Diego(home of his trainer, Doug Hix) typically lead to one thing. "I almostalways throw up," Duckett, 25, says. "Throwing up means you're pushingyour body to the limit." Duckett's regimen--which includes an hour ofrunning, leaping and cutting on a beach to take advantage of its unstablesurface--forces him, he says, to engage his core to maintain balance.
HEIGHT: 6'2"WEIGHT: 220
HIS TRAINER,martial arts expert Ed Downs, invented the Downs Disc, an inflatable cushion.Downs believes that "balance is key to core training" and has Porter dodrills on the disc to make him engage core muscles for stability. "I havemore strength in my abs after working with him," says Porter. "I tellpeople they can hit me as hard as they can in my stomach. It's solid."
DRILL Sitting onthe disc (or a standard balance board or exercise ball) with knees bent andfeet shoulder-width apart, grip a 25-pound weight and lean back 45 degrees(until abs are taut). Begin with weight next to right hip. Bring it to rightshoulder, then across body to left hip, then to left shoulder (a figure-eightmotion). Repeat cycle 25 times. Two sets. PURPOSE Works entire core, butespecially the obliques and lower abs. The twisting motion simulates movesPorter makes to elude defenders.
For more on other NFL players' core regimens, go toSI.com/players. Follow Hall, Merriman, Duckett and Porter all season atSI.com/nfl.
Photographs by Robert Beck
HELMETS BY DAVID N. BERKWITZ