The Strength Axle is a cutting-edge fitness device that focuses on functional core strength. But it also hits muscles throughout the body while also boosting your heart rate. Inventor Craig Thompson developed this idea, then built the original model by hacking up plumbing pipes that he bought at The Home Depot. Now CrossFit gyms and other workout facilities are adding the Strength Axle to their selections. Check out how it was designed and why it works:
When it comes to playing quarterback in the NFL, apparently, size doesn't matter. At least as much as it used to.
In Monday night's matchup of the two best teams in the NFC, 5-foot-11 Russell Wilson led his Seahawks to a 34-7 victory over 6-foot Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Michael Salfino of the Wall Street Journal notes that Wilson and Brees were the smallest pair of starting quarterbacks to face each other since 2001. Their combined height (143 inches) was the shortest for two opposing signal callers since 1970.
The average height of NFL quarterbacks is 6-foot-3, but that hasn't stopped Brees or Wilson from succeeding in the league. Brees, a Super Bowl MVP, has shattered passing record after passing record the past few years. Meanwhile, Wilson nearly led his team to the NFC championship game as a rookie and has been a top-five quarterback this year.
Wilson, 25, says he idolized Brees and followed him since his collegiate days at Purdue.
"When I went to Wisconsin [senior year], I had tons and tons of film on [Brees]," Wilson told ESPN. "I just watched every throw, pretty much that he had thrown in the NFL. I studied his footwork, studied what he does, and obviously, everybody compares our height."
Brees and Wilson have excelled with similar playing styles. They both have rocket arms, excellent vision and, when a play breaks down, are adept scramblers. They remind many of another shorter NFL quarterback who proved he belonged.
At 5-foot-10 Doug Flutie is shorter than both Brees and Wilson, but in many ways he paved the way for them to stick around in the league. Flutie was repeatedly overlooked because of his size, but time and again he proved that he could hang in the NFL. He's said there's still a size bias among NFL talent evaluators, and that likely hampered Wilson and Brees' draft stocks. Despite stellar senior years, size likely played a part in bumping both Brees and Wilson out of the first round of the NFL draft.
For Brees, the NFL's shift towards passing-heavy offenses has allowed guys like Wilson and Brees to succeed.
"I think that when you can spread 'em out, it makes life a lot easier at the quarterback position," Flutie told NFL.com. "You've got five quick receivers, you've got guys out into the route, you're spreading the field, making them defend the whole field and then, hopefully, you're getting a rush that's a little more spread out and there's bigger lanes, so you can see the field better."
And lest anyone think Brees and Wilson are anomalies, doubters need to look no further than 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. The record-setting Texas A&M sophomore is optimistically listed at 6-foot-1.
While he hasn't declared his 2014 intentions, Manziel may choose to enter April's NFL draft. And if he does, talent evaluators should think twice before dismissing Manziel because of his size.Full Story >>
Bruce Lee is immortalized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but to characterize him as a movie star is a woefully inadequate description. He was a game changer, a innovator, a pioneer. He was largely responsible for introducing Chinese martial arts to the Western world. Then he fundamentally changed martial arts through his approach -- "using no way as way" -- and training methods that seemed radical in the 60s and 70s, but became the standard that is still respected to this day.
Here's more about how Lee carved his own path and why it continues to inspire followers more than 40 years after his passing:
Jamie Moyer was just about finished as an MLB pitcher in his mid-20s. Then he encountered a gravel-voiced, highly confrontational sports psychologist named Harvey Dorfman. Listening to the "in-your-face" insights of Dorfman, Moyer re-invented himself and his approach to his game. Moyer went on to become an All-Star and also a World Series champion. In 2012, he was 49 and became the oldest pitcher to win an MLB game. This came after missing the entire 2011 season because of Tommy John surgery. Here is an excerpt from Just Tell Me I Can't: How Jamie Moyer Defied the Radar Gun and Defeated Time that looks at his approach.
Moyer essentially throws four pitches. He thought he'd have no problem rediscovering the four-seamer, but he’s extra pleased that the sink of his two-seamer impressed Rollie. It’s the grip that causes that action on the ball. The seams are on a baseball for a reason; when you hold a ball along them, with your fingers actually resting on them, you create backspin, which makes the ball suddenly drop.
Next will come the changeup, which Moyer first learned from a teammate in college. The first time he tried throwing it, a series of pitches went sailing over the backstop. The challenge is to maintain the same arm speed as the fastball, otherwise the hitter will pick up on the decreased speed before the pitcher even releases the ball. So how is it that Moyer’s changeup is typically ten miles per hour slower than his fastball? Grip, again: he holds the ball with the three non-dominant fingers of his left hand. But his index finger and thumb aren’t pushing behind the pitch, thereby reducing its force and increasing its deception.
Once the change is complementing the fastball, Moyer will seek to find his looping curveball, which he's had since high school. He's one of the last to throw a spiked curve, with the fingernail of his index finger wedged into the seam of the ball.
The wild card, and final pitch to rediscover, will be the cutter -- a version of Moyer’s idol Steve Carlton's legendary slider. Because of its sharper snap than the curve and a barely noticeable lower release point than his other pitches, the cutter is tougher on the arm than Moyer's other pitches. A part of him wonders if it's more than coincidence that, the very year he started throwing the cutter as a de facto out pitch – in his 2010 five-hit win over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, he befuddled Derek Jeter and his teammates by throwing over sixty cutters -- is the year he blew out his arm.
Moyer will test his command by, as he puts it, "pitching to the X’s." Four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux, who, like Moyer, was drafted by the Cubs in 1984, was the first pitcher Moyer had heard talk about "the X's" and it's how he's thought of pitching ever since.
He imagines two large X's on the low part of the strike zone and on either outer side, or lane, of the plate. When he has his command, the respective flights of his cutter and two-seam fastball should form an ‘X’ to a righthanded hitter. The cutter breaks into the righty, and the two-seam fastball appears to be coming straight at the righty but it breaks down and away from (or “back-doors”) the batter at the last instant. When those two pitches are combining to make that 'X' on the corner, he can add another look with his straight four-seam fastball. That's three different looks for the batter to worry about on effectively two pitches – the fastball (both four and two-seam) and cutter.
"Now go to the opposite side, the lefthanded side of the plate,” Moyer explains. “I can sink the ball in on the lefty, or throw a two-seamer below the hitting zone, or back-door the hitter with a cutter so the ball is breaking from off the plate onto the plate. So now he’s either going to give up on it or he’s going to be messed up by the movement of it."
And that doesn’t even get to his curveball, which Moyer calls a "depth pitch." It ought to not quite reach his imaginary X’s. “You don’t want the curve breaking over the middle of the plate, you want it breaking short of the plate. Some guys who have good control with a firmer breaking ball throw it to the hitter's back foot, if it’s a lefty versus a righty. But I throw it as a depth pitch, meaning I want guys swinging over the top of it."
Of the 17-inch plate, Moyer considers the middle twelve inches the hitter's property. Mistakes are made when you encroach on their turf. The remaining part of the plate -- where the X’s are -- are Moyer's, as he sees it, which makes the umpire arguably more important for Moyer's success or failure than when the pitcher is someone with a blazing fastball who can get away with more mistakes. The cat and mouse game between pitcher and hitter is all about establishing these lines of demarcation.
It's commonly agreed that the hardest act in sports is hitting a baseball. That's because the hitter has roughly 0.4 seconds to hit a round ball with a cylindrical piece of wood that has a mere three-inch sweet spot. As a result, even the best hitters have to guess where the ball is going and at what speed. This is known as "cutting off half the plate”; they look for a pitch either inside or outside. On top of that, they have to anticipate either a fast pitch or an off-speed one. It’s virtually impossible to be looking for something slow and outside and react quickly enough to squarely hit something fast and inside.
Moyer excels at messing with hitters guessing pitching patterns, both in terms of location and speed. When asked what advice he’d give to someone trying to hit off Moyer, Lou Piniella, his manager in Seattle, once said, "Think backwards."
He means that, on the counts that are typically considered hitter's counts, Moyer won't give in and throw fastballs over the hitter's part of the plate, even though, according to Baseball Prospectus, 93.8 percent of pitchers throw either a two-seam or four-seam fastball when behind in the count 3-0. Precisely because the hitter is looking for a fastball closer to his zone, Moyer won’t oblige. Ever since he and Dorfman first started talking in the early '90s about using hitters' egos against them, Moyer has actually gotten more aggressive -- throwing softer and with more precision toward the corners, especially inside, when the conventional wisdom is to the contrary. The result has been that Moyer keeps hitters off-balance, or, as hitters like to say, "off the barrel of the bat." It's also why Moyer induces a particularly high number of infield pop-outs.
Moyer hasn't thrived for 25 years in the big leagues because he's like other pitchers, in other words. He's thrived because he’s so different. Much is made of his velocity, or lack thereof, but it's quite intentional: he flusters batters by going from slow to slower to slowest. (In 2010. Moyer's fastball averaged 81 miles per hour. Early in his career he was clocked in the mid-80s, as reported in the scouting report that Chicago Cubs' scout Billy Blitzer prepared prior to the Cubs' selection of Moyer in the sixth round of the 1984 draft. Moyer still carries the report with him, in his shaving kit. Blitzer praised Moyer’s poise and baseball smarts, while noting that he topped out at 84 miles per hour.)
As he struggled in the majors, Moyer would try and throw harder, pushing off his back leg with more and more force. Occasionally, he'd add a mile or two or three, but the results never improved. "Me throwing at 86 or 87 miles per hour was still below average compared to the league, but to reach that velocity, my ball would be higher in the strike zone,” he realizes now. It wasn't until Dorfman finally gave him permission to accept who he is -- a smart, soft-tossing lefty who could still be aggressive without being fast -- that the results started to come.
He learned, in other words, that on the mound, speed often kills. To one degree or another, depending on the quality of their stuff and their mindset, this "pitch to contact" lesson is something all successful pitchers go through -- even the hardest throwers. "I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it," none other than Sandy Koufax (another late-blooming lefty) once observed.
Because of his lack of speed and his cerebral nature, Moyer is commonly, and erroneously, thought of as a "nibbler," a pitcher who fears the hitter and, as a result, "nibbles cautiously" around the strike zone. Early in his career, Moyer nibbled; he’d rarely throw his changeup for strikes, even though it had been his best pitch in college and the minors, and he’d rarely come inside. When Dorfman started pointing out that the pitcher is the only player on the defensive field who is actually an offensive player -- “You act," his guru would say. "The batter reacts. You’re in control” -- it liberated Moyer to assert his will, to make the batter hit his pitch. It meant taking control of the pitcher/hitter relationship, which begins to happen before even taking the mound.
Inspired by Dorfman's aphorism "Failure is wanting without work," Moyer began keeping copious notes on every batter he'd face, so he’d always have at the ready his own scouting report to review prior to every game. He first got the idea after seeing his Cubs teammate Vance Law, an infielder, scribbling in a notebook in the dugout during games. Law was logging the pitchers and pitches he faced, what fooled him, what he had solidly struck. Eventually, Moyer started doing the same as a pitcher, first in a series of notebooks and then on the clubhouse lineup card itself. Before every game, he goes over the notes with his catcher and pitching coach. So, if they’re facing the Yankees, there is his scribbled strategy scrawled next to Derek Jeter's name: "First ball fastball swinger. Climb the ladder. Start low. Translation: Moyer would start him with a fastball below the strike zone, hoping he chases. Then, because Jeter doesn’t adjust well to having to change his eye level, he'd "climb the ladder," throwing something at mid-thigh, though not over the white. He'd follow that with something above the letters.
On another page, there are notes for facing pinch-hitter extraordinaire Matt Stairs, a lefty. If an opposing team has sent a lefty to pinch-hit against him, Moyer knows it’s because they think he can hit his breaking ball. Stairs will be looking for something soft, away. So he’s written: “Pound in, pound in, cutter away, backdoor change.”
A couple of pages later, there’s the secret to success against White Sox leadoff hitter Ray Durham: "Pitch backwards, start him with soft, wants ball up and out over plate. After establishing away, will chase breaking balls down with two strikes."
Then there's slugger David Justice: "If you go in, he will look away next pitch. May take a lot of first pitches. Cutters away, breaking balls down and away. Hard on hands. Likes ball down and in. Change away, sinker away. Occasional front door cutter, off his body. Throw it to his hip."
On the mound, Moyer juggles the information from his own notes with, as he puts it, what the batter is (unwittingly) telling him. If, for example, Moyer knows that the batter likes to slap first-pitch fastballs on the outer part of the plate to the opposite field for base hits, that doesn't necessarily mean he’ll shy away from a first pitch fastball away – as a true nibbler, guided by fear and caution, might.
Instead, Moyer will throw a fastball outside – but rather than being on the outside third of the plate, maybe it will be an inch or two off the plate, or an inch below the hitter’s preferred zone. This is why Moyer says pitching takes place from the neck up: “You’re trying to keep him from getting what he wants, at the same time that you're trying to lull him into thinking that he is getting what he wants,” Moyer says.
More On Moyer.
Moyer's aggression, then, lies in his ability -- in a Zen-like fashion -- to turn hitters' aggression against them. It's not just about hitting his spots; it's about hitting his spots and thereby seizing on hitters' frustration. "If a guy takes a swing at an outside fastball and hits off his front foot and fouls it off, I know I have the advantage," Moyer says. "If he couldn't get around on that, it means he was looking for the change. If he couldn't get around on something away, he won't get around on something in, so I'll jam him with a cutter, get him to hit the ball above the label, foul it off. Now he’s pissed off, thinking, 'I should’ve hit that ball.' Now, in hitting my spots, the game within the game has begun. I can bust him inside again or get him to swing over something soft or come back and back-door him on the outside corner. Now I've got him second-guessing himself. I've gotten inside his head.Full Story >>
Sunday's clash between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots will be much more than a matchup of two teams battling for playoff positioning.
At this point in the careers of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, it's hard to understate the significance of the two future Hall of Famers facing off. But this week several amazing statistics reveal just how monumental this game is.
Sunday's game will be the first time that two quarterbacks are each 90 or more games above .500 in their careers.
— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) November 19, 2013
Brady is 143-42 (.773) in his career, and the first quarterback in NFL history to have 100 more wins than losses. Meanwhile, Manning is 163-71 (.697). They're first and fourth, respectively, all time when it comes to regular season winning percentage.
After Brady and Manning, Ben Roethlisberger (91-45, .669) has the highest winning percentage among active quarterbacks. But Roethlisberger is only 46 games above .500, not even halfway to where Brady and Manning are. After Roethlisberger are Drew Brees (35 games above .500), Philip Rivers (26 games above .500) and Eli Manning (19 games above .500).
It's not impossible for us to see another matchup of two quarterbacks as successful as Brady and Manning, but it's hard to see it happening in the next 10 years.
And even though Brady has had the better career, Manning and the Broncos have owned this season. Denver comes into New England after topping the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. With the Broncos' offense running on all cylinders, oddsmakers have made Denver 2.5-point favorites. It will be the first time since Week 9 of 2005 that the Patriots are underdogs at home.
Who was New England playing back then? Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.Full Story >>
LeSean McCoy has blossomed into one of the best running backs in the NFL. In 2011 McCoy broke several longstanding franchise records, and through 11 games this year he is leading the NFL in rushing yards. In a league in which very few running backs can produce consistently, McCoy has proven himself elite.
But his success wasn't always a given.
During his senior year of high school in 2005, McCoy suffered a compound fracture in his right ankle. McCoy, one of the top recruits in the country at the time, was devastated by his injury. His grades slipped and several colleges stopped showing interest. On the advice of his brother, former NFL wide receiver LeRon McCoy, LeSean transferred schools. He enrolled at Milford Academy for a year, focusing on school work and rehab.
After graduating from Milford McCoy went on to Pitt, where he starred as a freshman. The rest is history.
The Giants' remarkable turnaround has put the team in an improbable position. After starting the season 0-6, New York has won four games in a row and is just 1.5 games out of first place in the awful NFC East. If the Giants were to make the playoffs, they would become the first team that started 0-6 to do so.
But as remarkable as New York's story is, it has nothing on the implausibility of one of the team's rising stars, cornerback Terrell Thomas.
Thomas, New York's second-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft, has torn his ACL three times in his career -- once in college at USC and twice with the Giants. He tore his ACL in the 2011 preseason and in training camp in 2012, forcing him to sit out each of the past two years. After leading the Giants in tackles in both 2009 and 2010, Thomas' return to the gridiron seemed questionable.
But Thomas refused to quit. He rehabbed diligently over the offseason and came back this season ready to play. In a recent interview, Thomas opened up to Fox Sports about his emotional roller coaster of a career.
After entering training camp without a guaranteed spot on the roster, Thomas proved himself to coaches and has worked his way into the secondary rotation. He's been particularly important to a suddenly-ferocious New York defense that has limited its last four opponents to a combined two offensive touchdowns.
Thomas' 11 tackles, sack and forced fumble against Philadelphia on Oct. 27 earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
In the Giants' next game, Thomas recorded a game-changing interception of Terrelle Pryor. On Sunday against the Packers, Thomas led all Giants defenders with seven tackles.
“As the weeks go by, so on and so on, I start feeling better,” Thomas said this week. “I just feel I’m getting back to my old self. Physically, I feel like a healthy offseason will be needed for me to regain my old form. But mentally, I feel like the game is finally slowing down for me.”
While the Giants' four-game winning streak has inspired hope in the team and its fans, New York hasn't faced an elite quarterback in any of those contests. That changes this weekend when Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys roll into MetLife Stadium. Romo is having a typically solid season, and the Cowboys' six interceptions are the second fewest in the NFL.
The schedule doesn't get much easier for the Giants, who have the hardest remaining schedule in their division. But with the way Thomas and the Giants' defense have been playing, it would be foolish to count them out of the playoff hunt. After all, Thomas has overcome larger hurdles before.Full Story >>
Whenever a runner can chip nearly a full second off a world record in a sprint race, you know he or she put in an impressive performance.
That was the case this week in Tokyo, where Kenichi Ito shattered his old mark and set a new world record for fastest 100-meter dash run on all fours. Ito completed the race in 16.87 seconds, breaking last year's time of 17.47 seconds.
Here's his performance:
As one might imagine, training for this kind of event is not easy. Ito says he's walked around his neighborhood in Tokyo on all fours for nearly a decade. He's enamored with primates, and says his running style is based off the African Patas monkey.
"You know my face and body kind of looks like a monkey, so from a young age everyone used to tease me, saying 'monkey, monkey,'" Ito told the International Business Times. "But I wasn't really bothered because I really liked them, and somewhere inside of me I had this ambition to adopt one of their traits."
Although he dusted the rest of the field, perhaps racing against others might have helped Ito post a faster time this year. Check out the video from his performance in 2012 where he was the only one on the track:
A sleeping giant.
That's what the rest of the rugby world has long considered the United States. Once athletes like those playing big-time college football and in the NFL wake up to the wonder of rugby, the Yanks will become a force to be reckoned with, or so people have long thought. But now that the popularity of rugby is at an all-time high -- the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association has called it the fastest growing team sport in America -- it seems the funnel is working backwards.
Crossover athletes like Carlin Isles and Miles Craigwell (right) still make their way from mainstream sports to help propel American rugby. Isles qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials as a sprinter and played college football at D-II Ashland, and Craigwell was an All-Ivy League safety at Brown. But more and more rugby players are finding themselves wooed by American football, or making a tough decision between playing football or rugby.
For example, both BYU running back Paul Lasike (below, right) and Utah defensive end Thretton Palamo (below, left) were longtime rugby players plucked from college rugby fields to play football. Lasike came from New Zealand to play rugby at BYU and was persuaded to walk onto the football team. After earning a scholarship before his first season, Lasike is getting plenty of carries for the Cougars this season and was featured heavily in the Holy War game against Utah.
Palamo grew up in a rugby family in Northern California and drew the attention of Utah gridiron coaches with a stellar performance at the 2011 Collegiate Rugby Championship, nationally televised by NBC. Palamo, a senior, is wrestling with what to do after graduation -- make a run at the NFL or the Olympics. 7-on-7 rugby makes its Olympic debut at Rio 2016.
Like Palamo, the first tackle sport for native Texan Alex Elkins, who started at linebacker for Oklahoma State last season before being signed and released by the Detroit Lions this summer, was rugby. Chicago Bears nose tackle Stephen Paea, made famous by breaking the bench press record at the 2011 NFL Combine, grew up playing rugby in New Zealand.
Former Cardinals, Packers and Eagles running back Vai Sikahema, who knocked out Jose Canseco in a celebrity boxing match, is an example of a football man providing the world of rugby with a player. His son Trey was a standout for national champion BYU in 2012 before leaving for a Mormon mission. Roy Helu, Jr. of the Washington Redskins is the opposite. His father, Roy Helu, Sr., coaches the Danville High School rugby team in the Bay Area and played for the United States in the 1987 Rugby World Cup. Junior dabbled with rugby in high school.
The NFL has its share of rugby players, too. The Baltimore Ravens' Haloti Ngata and Denver Broncos' Stewart Bradley played rugby for the famed Highland Rugby program in high school. The story of Highland was turned into a feature film, Forever Strong, starring Sean Astin and Gary Cole.
"It's just so fun, you know?" Ngata told Pro Football Weekly of rugby. "Especially for a big guy like myself. You just get to run the ball, you know? You test your abilities that way, because you can't block in rugby. It's always usually a lot of one-on-one contests. I can see if I can do a little juke move -- as a big guy, it's kind of not really a juke move, it's a wiggle more -- but that was just fun, being able to run the ball and do some of the stuff that a lot of the skill guys do."
Some American rugby fans secretly keeping their fingers crossed during the 2012 NFL draft hoping that either Johnson Bademosi of Stanford or Nate Ebner of Ohio State would go unpicked and return to rugby were disappointed. Bademosi wound up with the Cleveland Browns and Ebner with the New England Patriots. Bademosi played rugby at Gonzaga College HS in Washington, D.C., and Ebner played for the USA U-20s.
Ebner says his time on the rugby field was beneficial when he switched over to the gridiron.
"If there’s one similarity between the two [sports] … you’ve got to tackle with some technique," Ebner told IRB’s Total Rugby program. "All the years of playing without pads and you having to protect yourself in the tackle set me up to be a good tackler, especially in space one-on-one."
The NFL has started to pluck rugby players not just from America, but professional rugby abroad. Australian-born Hayden Smith (right) came to the United States to play college basketball at Metro State. He eventually quit the team and picked up rugby, which led to a World Cup appearance with the United States and a professional contract with London’s Saracens. He left Saracens to make a run at the NFL and spent the 2012 season with the New York Jets, jumping from the practice squad to active duty. He was released by New York prior to the current season and is hoping to catch on with someone else soon.
The Indianapolis Colts currently have a Kenyan named Daniel Adongo on their practice squad. He played professional rugby in South Africa before coming to America looking for riches. His size, speed and athleticism have the Colts hoping to mold him into a pass rusher.
Football players make good rugby players, and, as it turns out, rugby players make pretty good football players.Full Story >>
Fans who come out for the annual Muck Bowl in south central Florida know to expect a great competition between the two high schools, Glades Central and Pahokee.
But the supporters in attendance at this year's game got much more than they paid for thanks to an unforgettable halftime performance.
Glades Central's marching band was led by 5-year-old drum major Taranza Mckelvin. The youngster began practicing with the band over the summer and impressed the director so much that he earned a spot during the group's big performance.
"He catches on a lot faster than most of my students," Charles Moorer, the band's director, told WPTV, "He's a very unique kid."
This was Taranza's first performance with the band, and he blew the crowd away. He says he loves performing in front of people.
"I was nervous when I first got out into the field," Taranza told WPTV, "but then I just performed."Full Story >>