February makes baseball fans giddy. On the back end of winter, images of Spring Training symbolize both better weather and the return of America's pastime.

For the players, they are giddy to be back on the field, but they also have some work ahead of them.

For two players, Hunter Pence of the Giants and Dee Gordon of the Marlins, their early Spring Training work will also benefit others. As part of Fitbit Celebrity Challenges, Pence and Gordon are having their steps tracked Feb. 23-27. The athlete who has the most steps tracked at the end of the week will have a $10,000 donation to the American Heart Association written in his name.

But there's a catch. Fans can support a player of their choice. For every $1 donated, the player earns 10 steps. The winner of the competition will be announced Feb. 28.

Along with the Pence vs. Gordon matchup, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models Hilary Rhoda and Erin Heatherton went toe-to-toe last week in the same challenge. Rhoda's 104,613 steps edged Heatherton's 75,645. Fan can follow Fitbit Celebrity Challenges won Fitbit.com and with the hashtag #FitbitforAHA.

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Maybe CC Sabathia knows what he's doing after all.

The New York Yankees' hefty lefty drew some concern recently when he showed up to Spring Training at a bulky 305 pounds. That's about 30 pounds more than he was last season.

But, as evidenced by former teammate Robinson Cano's weight issues, Sabathia's decision to pack on the pounds appears prescient.

Cano told reporters that when he played in New York (he was on the Yankees from 2005-2013) and along the East Coast he would regularly lose about 20 pounds thanks to the oppressive heat.

But that wasn't the case during his first season in Seattle, where the weather is somewhat gloomier. The 6-foot tall Cano told the Seattle Times that, during his years in New York, he would start the season at around 220 or 225 pounds. After enduring dozens of scorching afternoons in the Bronx, Boston and Baltimore, he would be down to 205 or 210.

Even though he now plays in the AL West, regularly visiting California and Texas, Cano didn't shed pounds in 2014 like he normally does. Cano ended the 2014 season at 225 pounds.

Whether because he was heavier or because he was playing in a new environment, Cano's numbers dipped slightly in 2014. He hit .314 with 82 RBIs and only 14 home runs. His 37 doubles and 187 hits were his fewest since 2008.

This week Cano showed up slimmer, having lost 14 pounds since the end of the 2014 season. He's also healthy after taking six weeks off to heal a broken pinky toe he suffered while touring with an MLB All-Star team in Japan.

The 32-year-old, who won a World Series with the Yankees in 2009, is not lacking in confidence.

“On paper, we look like a world champion,” Cano told the Times. “But it’s not how we look on paper. We have to go out there and prove it every single day. Hopefully we’ll be able to stay healthy the whole year.”

There have been some outstanding showings at this year's NFL Combine in Indianapolis, but perhaps none as novel and curious as the statement one prospect made with his tree-trunk sized legs.

Robert Myers, a 6-foot-5, 310 pound offensive lineman from Tennessee State, could not seem to find a pair of shorts that covered his massive quads. His athletic shorts rode up his thighs and and appear to be evidence that Myers has never missed a leg day in his life.

Myers' NFL.com profile notes that he has good "thickness and strength through [his] lower body," and after seeing him in Indianapolis that is had to deny.

The 23-year-old's legs led to a hilarious nickname:




Myers' quads overshadowed his hair, which may have been the best at the combine:


A three-year starter at Tennessee State, Myers is projected to be selected in the fourth or fifth round of the NFL draft.

Anyone who is wondering whether James Harrison, who turns 37 in May, will be in shape when the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2015 season starts can put their doubts to rest.

The five-time Pro Bowler has been posting videos of himself in the weight room, and it sure looks like he is in playing shape.

Harrison's most recent video may be the most impressive. In it he is lifting 135 pounds with one hand:


Looks real bad at 135!!!

A video posted by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on

Harrison has had a rather tumultuous go of it since he was released by the Steelers after the 2013 season. He had one unproductive year with the Bengals before re-signing with the Steelers in September 2014 so he could retire as a member of the franchise.

But Harrison wasn't done, coming out of retirement several weeks after calling it quits. In 11 games he played well, recording 5.5 sacks and 29 solo tackles.

Much of the reason for Harrison's success at his age is due to his incredible work ethic. A scrappy, undersized player who went undrafted out of Kent State and spent a season playing in NFL Europe, Harrison has proven that he is willing to log countless hours at the gym.

No workout clothes, no problem for Harrison. He'll lift weights in a suit and tie.


Working everyday

A video posted by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on

Lifts that seem impossible for most of us are made to look easy by Harrison:


Back work

A video posted by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on

Harrison is working so hard to stay in shape so he can keep competing at the highest level. But he's surely not hiding another byproduct of his time in the gym, which is these impressive abs:


Core day!!!

A photo posted by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on

Dez Bryant isn't joking around with his offseason workout regimen.

The Cowboys' star receiver, who led the NFL with 16 touchdown receptions in 2014, recently posted some videos of his training routine.

It's safe to say his six pack isn't going anywhere.


Work do not stop... #airjordan #throwupthex

A video posted by Dez Bryant (@dezbryant) on

The second video contains an expletive towards the end:


Just working nothing major ..... #throwupthex

A video posted by Dez Bryant (@dezbryant) on



Sports Illustrated recently ranked Bryant as the fifth fittest athlete in all of sports, and it's hard to argue after seeing these videos. Bryant, who is 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, pulls his body up with relative ease.

The video inspired a wide range of reaction on Twitter:





Bryant had a career year in 2014. He caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and earned his second Pro Bowl nod. He's a free agent this offseason and should be in line for a hefty contract.

Perhaps Bryant is more motivated these days after his team's season ended in dramatically heartbreaking fashion. The Cowboys lost to the Packers in the NFC divisional round, and that game will be largely remembered for the crucial fourth down pass that Bryant couldn't hold on to.

As some snarky fans pointed out, this workout won't help with similar situations in 2015:


Noted gym rat Sam Stosur made some noise during the second day of the Australian Open by showing off her incredibly sculpted biceps.

Photos of the 30-year-old Australian were everywhere after her first-round victory over Monica Niculescu of Romania. And it's not hard to see why:

So, what's Stosur's secret? For one, she doesn't do bicep curls.

"I don't spend that much time lifting weights," Stosur told ESPN The Magazine in 2014. "I never do biceps curls, and I very rarely do bench presses."

That's right, Stosur gets those arms without doing curls. We should all be so lucky. The 2011 U.S. Open winner elaborated on her workout routine in her interview with ESPN.

"Push press, dumbbell fly, seated row, exercises like rotations and raises for the rotator cuff and for the little muscles inside your shoulders," she said. "I also do boxing sessions and swimming. I'm not a great swimmer, but I'm getting better. I can swim laps and it's a good workout for me. I only take one day off a week. I do at least one session a day, sometimes two if I'm not practicing on the court."

Stosur's sculpted biceps predictably made waves on Twitter, where they even have their own account.






The 20th-seeded Stosur takes on American Coco Vandeweghe on Thursday.

Every guy who's ever picked up a barbell understands how hard it is to gain even 10 pounds of muscle. Now imagine the challenge of packing on 40 solid pounds, the weight of an average five-year-old.

That’s what Bradley Cooper set out to do when he took the lead role in American Sniper. The movie is based on the autobiography of Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL credited with a record 160 confirmed kills in Iraq. Kyle was a 230-pound Texan who was not just fearless in combat, but the kind of real-life badass who would practice MMA-style choke outs with his fellow SEALs for fun.

(Need a refresher on just how badass the SEALs really are? Read this gripping account of the Origins of the Navy SEALS.)

"I had to get to the point where I believed I was him," Cooper says. "At 185 pounds, it would've been a joke. His size was such a part of who he was."

So the two-time Academy Award nominee had to do something they don't teach you at the Actors Studio, where he earned his master’s degree: get bigger. A lot bigger, with a process that culminated in a very specific type of bigness. "Chris wasn't ripped," Cooper says. "He wasn’t sinewy. He was just a bear."

But that wasn’t the only challenge Cooper brought to his trainer, Jason Walsh: He needed to pull off this epic transformation in just 10 weeks, "with the least amount of damage to my body," he adds.

The monster builder

From the outside, the life of the celebrity trainer looks pretty sweet. Walsh, owner of Rise Nation in West Hollywood, has a roster of red-carpet clients that includes Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. On a normal day he might spend quality time with Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley or actress Emily Blunt.

It was Blunt’s husband, actor John Krasinski, who connected Cooper to Walsh. The two actors were in Hawaii, shooting an as-yet-untitled comedy in which Krasinski, best known for playing Jim Halpert in The Office -- and, if we can take a moment to brag, for being a Men's Health cover guy back in 2007 -- plays a muscled-up military man who happens to be married to the ex-wife of Cooper’s character. “He had to be as big as possible," Cooper says. "He showed up and he was a monster."

Cooper was impressed enough with the transformation that he wanted to work with the trainer responsible for it.

By contrast, his own character in that movie "was a guy who'd been basically in traction," he says. "He was a guy you could tell had been beaten down a bit." Thus, his training for the role consisted mainly of not training. He avoided lifting anything heavier than a kayak paddle during his time in Hawaii, and then went straight from playing that guy to training with Walsh for his role in American Sniper.

In addition to the not-lifting-for-months handicap, the 39-year-old actor started with significant issues. "He came to me with back and shoulder problems," Walsh says. "He had some major, major imbalances."

Most trainers, faced with the challenge of accomplishing so much in so little time, would find a way to work around the problems. Not Walsh. "When clients come in and they have issues, we don’t work around the issues," he says. "We fix the issues."

It’s a lesson he learned in an entirely different context: training football players for the NFL Combine.

Working off the gridiron

Walsh began his coaching career at the University of North Carolina, where he worked with athletes in the Olympic sports, which include swimming and track and field. From there he went west to Athletes’ Performance in Tempe, Arizona, where he worked with owner Mark Verstegen to prepare his clients for the 2006 Combine.

"I was more or less a volunteer," Walsh says. "I feel like Mark is a visionary, and I went out there to raise my level of knowledge."

The biggest takeaway: that strength training involves a lot more than making people stronger. "It’s about longevity,” he says. “It’s about keeping the athlete on the field.” He calls what he learned "true training,” and finds it works just as well with elite actors as elite athletes... with one important difference: “Athletes are used to the pain. But for actors, it’s a whole new world.”

Walsh started Cooper off with corrective movements, as he would with an athlete. They trained twice a day. In the first workout, beginning at 5 a.m., they focused on structural exercises like deadlifts and squats to build a foundation solid enough to hold the extra mass. The second workout, late in the afternoon, was more focused on traditional muscle-building exercises. Cooper needed both types of training to convincingly portray Chris Kyle.

"Chris was a big guy," Walsh says, using the past tense because Kyle was murdered by a fellow veteran in 2013 at a shooting range in Texas. (Want to know more about Kyle's death -- and how it might have been prevented? Purchase the ebook get the ebook, The Enemy Within.) "Most Navy SEALs aren’t, but he was one of the bigger ones."

The challenge went beyond bulking Cooper up from 185 to 225 pounds. He had to move like he belonged in that body. For that, Walsh relied heavily on unilateral exercises, like Bulgarian split squats, starting with body weight only and building up from there. They also did a lot of single-leg deadlifts, including the Romanian deadlift with a land mine -- a piece of training equipment that looks like home plate with a rotating metal tube in the middle, which holds a barbell.

Breakfast (and lunch, dinner, and snacks) of champions

All that training would've accomplished little without lots and lots of food, more than 5,000 calories a day. “Bradley was coming off a movie where he had to be smaller,” Walsh says. “We had to force-feed him. That was the hardest part.”

Cooper agrees. "It was a real shock to my body. If it’s pizza and cake, that’s one thing. Putting 6,000 calories a day in your body gets old quick."

His personal chef prepared five daily meals, but even that wasn’t enough. They supplemented with Plazma, a pre- and post-workout drink, and energy bars, both of which provide a combination of carbs and protein.

"Without that kind of caloric intake and the ability to recover, he probably wouldn’t have made it," Walsh says. "His body just absorbed everything I threw at it."

By the end of their program, Cooper had worked up to heavy rack pulls, a deadlift variation using a hex bar that starts a few inches above the floor. “That was our big lift," Walsh says. Director Clint Eastwood even uses it in the movie, in a workout scene. (Walsh can be seen in the background, punching a heavy bag.)

At his peak, Cooper could crank out five sets of 8 reps with more than 400 pounds -- close to double his body weight. "You could see him becoming Chris Kyle. His beard grew, and he just got burly. He looked forward to coming in every day and seeing what he could do."

Cooper found life as a heavyweight to be a revelation. "It changes absolutely everything," he says. “It changes the way you walk, the way people relate to you. If someone bumps into you on the sidewalk, they kind of ricochet off. You go to a party and everyone's dancing, you’re not being moved by anybody."

There were also downsides, like outgrowing his entire wardrobe, and wearing a pair of pants with an elastic waist almost every day. “Even my hands got bigger,” he says. “I wear my father’s wedding ring, and I couldn’t wear that anymore. It wouldn’t fit."

What goes up …

The transformation, though, was temporary. Soon after American Sniper wrapped, Cooper had to take the weight off for his next role, in which he plays a chef. “I shed about 15 pounds in three weeks,” he says. "The next 15 to 20 pounds were really hard to lose." Because he lost the weight while shooting the still-untitled movie, he figures the editors have their work cut out for them when they try to make him look the same size in every scene.

He went from there to Broadway, where he's back down to his customary 185 pounds to play the title role in The Elephant Man, which may be as far as an actor can get from a warrior like Chris Kyle.

The benefits of being himself again -- eating normally, wearing his own clothes -- don't erase the satisfaction of having been a much larger self, at least for a while. "I knew this was going to be the way in to playing Chris, and it felt amazing," he says. "It's also nice to know it’s possible to do it naturally, in that amount of time."

But when asked if he wanted to return to the kind of training that made his transformation possible, his answer is simple and emphatic: "Absolutely not!"




The hammock felt like a cozy cocoon around my body as I swayed gently, legs dangling, eyes closed. This was my first time trying Christopher Harrison's AntiGravity Yoga -- a yoga practice utilizing a specialized hammock to perform poses and hang upside down in every variation imaginable -- and the class at New York City's Holding Space started simply enough. Our instructor, master trainer Shelly Bomb, started the evening with breathing exercises while supported by the hammock and some basic moves, like leaning back into the hammock and raising our feet off the ground.

Gradually we moved into some more challenging poses (and of course what I was here for) -- getting upside down! I wrapped my legs around the silk and felt surprisingly safe and secure.

(Would You Do Naked Yoga?)

And now we were going to do what? Oh yes, flip backward. I trusted Shelly, who teaches AntiGravity Yoga all across the world. What I didn’t trust was my klutzy, accident-prone, spacial-awarness-challenged body. (My nickname at Prevention is "prat falls," which I earned one day when I stood up from a chair, tripped over my own shoe, and fell into my boss’s file cabinet. True story.)


I looked around the studio to see, one by one, my classmates slowly rotating their legs toward the back ceiling and landing -- sometimes gracefully, sometimes hesitantly, but always securely on the floor.

"Trust yourself,” Shelly told us. “You can do it." I took a deep breath, tightened my body, and slowly folded my legs toward the earth. My abs controlled the initial movement, and the position of the hammock, as Shelly promised, supported my body throughout the rotation. I did it!

The class was harder than I expected. You really have to use your entire body to control the poses, since the hammock swings freely. The hammock also allows you to move into poses that allow for a deeper stretch, and in certain poses actually massages your muscles as your body hangs from it. I was so stretched out afterward that I felt a full inch taller.

(Also check out our simpler version of yoga: Flat Belly Yoga!)

So, what does AntiGravity Yoga look like? Check out the video below to see the Prevention staff and a few AntiGravity devotees (the graceful ones in the video) give it a shot.

It's embarrassing enough to lose a push-up contest to a buddy at the gym, but getting defeated by a fictional character in front of dozens of people at Disney World? Now that is utterly humiliating.

In a new YouTube video that has gone viral, a man challenges the theme park's Gaston to a push-up competition. Gaston, the Beauty and the Beast villain who was never known for modesty, immediately accepts. It's clear from the beginning that the challenger has no chance, and before long Gaston is doing one-handed push-ups faster than his opponent can do normal push-ups.

The video has received nearly 4 million views since it was uploaded Jan. 2. Here's what the uploader, Blake Platt, wrote after it became a viral sensation:

"So...this got infinitely more attention than I thought it would. We were just having fun and I thought a person or two might get a chuckle out of it. When my brother and I go to the Disney parks (which we love), one of our goals every time we enter is to make someone's day, even if it's just one person. Hopefully we've been able to do that on a little larger scale; and, hopefully again, in a way of which Walt would be proud."

It's fine if you want to challenge Gaston. But maybe tackle these workouts first to avoid embarrassment:

It's not easy being Gaston, who is hated by just about everyone who has seen the popular 1991 film. A few months ago someone uploaded a video of the same man getting put in his place by a very persistent little girl:

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