"Sticking with the program is all about attitude. See challenges, not problems; lessons, not mistakes. Use those lessons to make yourself stronger, and they'll take you to the next level."
Adventure-racing coach and three-time Eco-Challenge champion
[#2] Core Strength
"People think core training is abdominal training," says San Diegobased trainer Paul Chek, who's worked with surfer Laird Hamilton, snowboarder Shaun White, and volleyball legend Gabrielle Reece. "In reality, the core is the functional link between the arms and legs. If you don't have the capacity to transfer force from your legs to your arms, your performance in almost every sport fails."
As a rule, any standing exercise, whether it involves squatting, bending, lunging, pulling, twisting, or stepping, works the core, meaning that anything you do on your feet will be vastly improved by a well-developed torso.
Twice a week, complete eight to 12 reps of the following exercises to develop core power.
Cable wood-chop: Stand with your right shoulder facing a weight-machine cable. Positioning the handle up high, grab with both hands and, with knees slightly bent, pull down from upper right to lower left in controlled movements. "Keep your arms straight and you'll keep the load on your core," says Chek. Switch sides and repeat.
Straight-arm lat pull-downs: With your back to a cable-machine lat station, arms straight, standing with knees slightly bent, hold the bar about head height in front of you, then push down in a vertical plane until the bar reaches your legs. "Keep your abdominals tight and don't tip forward," says Chek. When your arms reach the low point, slowly release the bar back upward, keeping your arms straight.
Russian twists with stability ball: Rest your upper back, shoulders, and head on a stability ball, with your hips held parallel to the floor. Grasp a medicine ball in both hands with your arms straight out above you, rotate your trunk from the center to the right, back to center, then to the left, so the ball rolls beneath you. Do it swiftly enough that you roll onto your shoulder on each side. Don't let your hips drop. Keep your chest, hips, and knees in a straight line throughout.
Resisted stability-ball crunches: Lie with your back draped over a stability ball. Let your head relax toward the floor, and anchor your feet under a fixed object. Hold a medicine ball under your chin and (keeping your tongue on the roof of your mouth to activate the neck flexors) curl forward just far enough to tighten your abs; slowly let yourself back down.
Toolbox: The medicine ball has remained an exercise staple for decades, and for strengthening your core, there's nothing better. Medicine-ball drills develop the rotation and explosive power that are essential to many sports. Check out durable models by NEMO. For the majority of athletes, six to ten pounds is all you need. ($57$95; 888-556-7464, www.performbetter.com)