Balance may make you think of ballerinas -- but the often-neglected skill is just as important to linebackers, point guards, and regular Janes and Joes. "Balance is the foundation of avoiding injury and performing well," says David Jack, director of Teamworks Fitness in Acton, Massachusetts, and creator of the High-Intensity Body-Weight Workout. Balance helps to prevent falls -- the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults -- but it's also a skill any active man or woman should work on. "Coordination, endurance, work capacity, speed, strength -- they’re all built on the foundation of balance."



How? When your balance is poor, your body does what it can to keep you from falling -- and that's usually something it shouldn't be doing. For example, your knee might jut forward when you land a jump. The good news: You don't topple over. The bad: It puts extra pressure on your knee. Over time, the joint will break down, resulting in a painful condition called patellar tendonitis. "Many injuries -- hamstring pulls, Achilles tendonitis, ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears -- can be traced back to a movement pattern that has gone wrong," Jack says.

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One of the neatest parts of the U.S. Open is the unfiltered access to players' training sessions. During these behind-the-scenes moments, fans get a peak at how their favorite tennis stars go about their preparation. Novak Djokovic, for example, likes to have some fun.

Recently one fan filmed Marion Bartoli as she prepared for the tournament, and her unconventional workout has gone viral.

In the video, Bartoli starts out with resistance bands around her ankles that are connected to her father, and she eventually takes those off and hits with the bands that are attached to her body. You can see and hear how physically taxing this workout is, even for a world class athlete like Bartoli.

Bartoli lost to Maria Sharapova in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, but her training has clearly paid off over the course of her career. Her intense playing style and impressive longevity are certainly due in part to her grueling workouts.

(H/T to USA Today)

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In the winter of 1989-90, Gil Reyes was head strength and conditioning coach for the UNLV basketball team. Led by Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon, the Runnin' Rebels capped off a national title with a 30-point win over Duke. Las Vegas had Rebel fever.

But after the season, Reyes walked. He passed on being part of a repeat opportunity at UNLV for another challenge: Training a local tennis phenom named Andre Agassi

"He was so ready to train hard," Reyes recalled in a phone interview. "The kid was so willing to work."

Agassi was 19 when Reyes became as his trainer. Agassi showed promise as a top tier tennis player fundamentally, but physically had restrictions. At 5-11, Agassi's height was inferior to many of his opponents. He also was born with the back condition spondylolisthesis, the displacement of a vertebra, which further limited his abilities.

For Reyes, that meant a few things. First, if Agassi was going to reach the top of the tennis world, he needed to work harder than any of his competitors. Second, he needed equipment designed specifically for his body. Third, Agassi needed all of the equipment to be safe.

The two spent the next two decades constructing safe fitness equipment styled for Agassi's desired workouts. Agassi also put in all the energy his body could give to reap the benefits. The result: Eight grand slam titles, an Olympic gold medal, 101 weeks as the ATP No. 1 ranked player and a Hall of Fame plaque.

And now a fitness equipment line featuring machines modeled after the ones Agassi used in his playing days.

On Sept. 10 in New York, one day after the U.S. Open, BILT by Agassi & Reyes will be put on public display for the first time with 12 pieces of equipment.

"BILT has, no pun intended, literally been built over decades," Agassi said in a phone interview.

In the early 90s, Reyes was a skilled and creative trainer. He was full of strength and conditioning knowledge, but he was also willing to try new things. Agassi was an energetic kid with a focus. He wanted to train in the best way possible to become the best tennis player possible. And he would stop at nothing until he had that.

"I needed Andre to teach me what he needed as an athlete, as a tennis player," Reyes said. "The design certainly had to apply to his needs out there, so you might say it was a perfect collaboration of me wanting to learn what he needed and him being such a good teacher at telling me what he needed."

Agassi remembers the origins a bit differently. When he heard of Gil giving him much of the credit, he chuckled.

"Gil is a very humble man, so he is probably erring on the side that I had more to do with it than he does, which I don't believe to be the case," Agassi said. "I watched him over 20 years care for me so personally that he literally hand built every piece of equipment I trained on. Little did he know at the time, many of these pieces of equipment didn't exist. He knew how important they were. We had to get stronger without risking injury."

When Agassi began training with Reyes, the kind of equipment he wanted was not found in gyms. Machines did not go the right way and were not as kind to his muscles as he would have liked. Weight was not always distributed correctly and muscles were put in vulnerable positions.

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