Fitness buffs are always looking for ways to improve their workout. For some, the answer might be as simple as changing up your preferred type of weights. Free weights and machine weights each offer their own advantages, but there are drawbacks to be considered as well. In this Fitness Roundtable, the experts offer their own insights and offer some great guidance for future training.


Rory McIlroy was weak.

He was winning some golf tournaments, but ultimately McIlroy realized he needed to upgrade his fitness to stay competitive.

When he started hitting the gym, he struggled.

"I couldn’t stand on one leg for more than 10 seconds and I couldn’t hold a plank for more than 30 seconds," McIlroy says.

That was at the end of 2010. Since then, McIlroy has transformed his body. In doing so, he has also sharpened his mental outlook.

"I’ve always been naturally quite a confident person especially when it comes to my chosen arena, which is that golf course," he says. "That’s where I’m most comfortable, but getting into the gym and building strength has been great -- my posture was terrible when I started, and just having better posture, standing up straight with your shoulders back and your chest out, that gives off the air of confidence.

"That’s one thing the gym has done for me -- you carry yourself better, you feel good about yourself. Mentally it’s a great thing for you as well, as training releases a lot of good endorphins. Training has definitely become a necessity and basically an everyday activity for me – I need to sweat at least once a day to make myself feel good."

McIlroy's enthusiasm for fitness -- and success with four major championships since committing to workouts -- folds in nicely with his Nike sponsorship. Nike Training is producing a new documentary series, which launches Tuesday, to illustrate the unique ways that some of its top athletes train and what motivates them to keep challenging themselves.

With The Masters coming up in less than two weeks, McIlroy was the company's choice to lead off the series. Additionally Nike is hoping to connect with McIlroy's fans by making his path to fitness relatable. His trainer, Dr. Steve McGregor, gave Nike some insight into his approach that weekend warriors and recreational golfers can apply:

  • The one key principle to keep in-mind is range. If individuals have range in their limbs, then they have stability. Without that range and stability, any high-end strength and power work will not only be more difficult to pursue, but it can be less efficient, no matter how hard one works.
  • In basic training, avoid moving too quickly to high-end strength training and focusing on individual body parts; don’t train body parts, train function.

McIlroy's story is also an organic way for Nike to do some cross-promotional marketing for its fitness apparel. One of the booming segments in fashion is athletic gear. In early March, Dick's Sporting Goods made headlines by adding music star Carrie Underwood’s Calia line to its store inventory by reducing the shelf space it had given to Adidas and Reebok. Nike is a leader in this category but competition is prevalent from these brands, plus others such as Under Armour and Lululemon

When McIlroy appears in the documentary about his regimen, most of the time he is clad in Nike workout gear -- shirt, shorts and shoes -- not golfing attire. McIlroy regularly works out five to six times weeks, even during a tournament. Most average people have better chance of working out five to six times a week, even if the activity is something as simple as running around the block, than golfing, so there is also practical element to Nike's series.

On a team with three Pro Bowl defensive backs, there's not a lot of room for error among the backups. And perhaps with that challenge in mind, Robert Nelson is going all out this offseason.

The 25-year-old cornerback, who signed with the Cleveland Browns last year as an undrafted free agent, posted a video of himself pushing and pulling a small car. As if this unique form of strength training wasn't enough, Nelson is wearing an endurance mask that makes it feel as though he is training in altitude.

Sure, this is a smaller vehicle, but it's a car nonetheless. Plus it's a Mercedes, a fact that adds a certain prestige factor to Nelson's workout.

Nelson is going to have to have a stellar offseason in order to see the field in 2015. He's behind Joe Haden, Tramon Williams and Justin Gilbert on the depth chart. The Cleveand secondary was stellar in 2014, leading the league in opponents' QB passer rating (74.1), completion percentage (57.1) and passes defended (99).

Contrary to popular belief, J.J. Watt is human.

The 6-foot-5, 288 pound Houston Texans defensive end has demonstrated his freakish athleticism by jumping over boxes and people:

But there was one challenge that Watt couldn't conquer, and he wasn't embarrassed to let the world know. Watt, who is training this offseason in a secluded cabin in the woods of Wisconsin, posted these photos to his Instagram account:

Watt landed a 59.5 inch jump in the video above but apparently 61 inches was too much for him. That poor spotter can relate to the numerous NFL quarterbacks who have also been taken down by Watt.

The 2014 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Watt has made a name for himself by dominating in all aspects of the sport. In 2014 he tallied 20.5 sacks and forced four fumbles. He even lined up as a tight end and caught three touchdown passes.

He's also a skilled hockey player who wears No. 99 as a tribute to Wayne Gretzky.

It took Mark Jordan one year to train for an astonishing new world record and just one day to break it.

The 54-year-old Jordan has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world record holder for most pull-ups in one day. Jordan completed 4,321 pull-ups, breaking the previous mark by more than 100.

For Jordan, his achievement shows that people are never too old to hit the gym.

“This is about a message that it’s important to be able to take care of your health in many ways, no matter what age you are,” Jordan told the television station KRIS-6. “The benefits are something than can not only help you but allows you to be able to provide guidance and inspire others as well.”

Jordan set the mark in November 2014, but the Guinness Book of World Records didn't certify the mark until Monday.

Throughout his training and during the actual event, Jordan was raising money for a charity called HELP, the Hammons Education Leadership Program.

As for why he stopped at 4,321, Jordan says the consecutive nature of those four digits would make the number easy to remember.

The previous record was 4,210, set by Australia's Caine Eckstein in October.

The Internet's favorite dancing Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke is back with a new video, and this one involves an impressive feat of strength.

Jenneke, who became a YouTube sensation in 2012 for this sexy pre-race warmup dance, posted a clip in Instagram in which she performs "flying pushups."

As we did with this exercise sequence, we advise against trying the flying pushup unless you're experienced or working with a trainer that can supervise.

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 and with the hashtag #FitbitforAHA.

See Slideshow >>

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' 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

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