After 12 years
rounding tracks at 200 mph, Jeff Burton felt that g-forces were knocking his
5'7" frame out of whack. "There were times taking the turns that I
couldn't lift my neck off the stabilizer pad," says Burton. "Your line
of sight is altered. It may sound like a small thing, but a really good car is
a 10th of a second better than a good car. Small things matter." Last
November, Burton began working out four days a week with Carolina Panthers
martial arts instructor Ken Nazemetz, who believes the body should be perfectly
aligned, both sides developed symmetrically. Burton has gained five pounds of
muscle (he's at 156) and dropped from 14% body fat to 9%. "If you're in
shape, it will help at the end of a race when it's 140 degrees in the car,"
says Burton, 39, who's fourth in the Nextel Cup standings. "For me, it's
not about being the fastest guy but being the guy that will never
Burton and Nazemetz face each other in a martial arts pose (right) with right
leg forward, left leg back, right fist up, left hand back and protected by a
pad. Without warning Nazemetz throws a jab at Burton's pad; Burton reacts by
throwing his own. The idea is for the jabs to hit the pads simultaneously. They
punch repeatedly for three minutes, then reverse stances, to lead with their
"This is for hand-eye coordination and reaction time," Nazemetz says.
"When you're driving, you have to react immediately."
EXTERNAL SHOULDER RESISTANCE
Burton begins with his right elbow at shoulder height, bent at 90 degrees, his
palm facing forward. As Nazemetz provides resistance by gripping Burton's wrist
and elbow, Burton swings his forearm down so the palm is facing back. He does
10 reps, then 10 reps starting with hand down, palm facing back, then swinging
up. He repeats with his left arm. ( Burton then does an exercise which begins
with his elbow at waist height at 90 degrees, forearm parallel to ground and
out to the side, palm facing front. Against Nazemetz's resistance, he swings
the arm to his stomach. Ten reps, each arm. Then 10 reps starting with hand at
stomach and pushing out.)
"These strengthen the small-muscle groups that stabilize the shoulder,"
Nazemetz says. "They hold everything in place, and strengthening them helps
Burton holds a 25-pound weight in front of him with elbows slightly bent and
hands at nine and three o'clock. He rotates it 90 degrees so his right hand is
at the top. Then he rotates it in the opposite direction and back to the
starting point. He then lifts the weight overhead and finally returns to the
starting point. Ten reps.
"This is for shoulder strength and rotation," Nazemetz says. "The
wheel inside a race car is much closer to the body than in a standard [car], so
Jeff drives more with his shoulders than his arms."