Stevan Ridley is attempting to make the transition from bowling ball to wrecking ball.

The running back exploded in the Patriots offense last season, flashing a punishing style between the tackles and enough burst to get into the third level of the defense. Now, Ridley wants even more out of himself, and he has intensified his work in the weight room, leading to a noticeable increase in muscle mass, particularly in his upper body.

Ridley’s combination of a tenacious running mentality and deceptive speed helped him finish seventh in the NFL with 1,263 yards last season. He was also tied for third with 12 touchdowns, third with 82 first downs and ninth with 33 runs of 10-plus yards.

The current question is whether the added muscle will aid Ridley between the tackles. That’s the obvious goal, as all running backs consistently absorb the type of hits that have been compared to car crashes. With the ability to withstand those hits, or at least wind up on the giving side of more of them, it would give Ridley the power to break more tackles, gain tougher yards and become more of an imposing threat in the fourth quarter.

“The offseason is when you really train hard,” Ridley said. “During the season, you’re trying to maintain what you’ve got, but during the offseason, you really stack on the pounds. You try to get faster. You try to get bigger. You try to get stronger. This is the time that you have to do that. That’s why the weight is coming on, and I’m hitting the weight room a little bit harder right now. It’s there. I feel it. Hopefully, we’re just going to see how it goes through (organized team activities) and camp, and just see if I can keep it on and carry it well.”

This is a bit of an experimental phase for Ridley, who has matched the weight work to improve his conditioning, too. The last thing he wants is to gain muscle but lose speed and endurance. After all, he recognized his capability last season, so this isn’t as much about a makeover as an effort to keep improving.

Ridley hasn’t noticed any drawbacks to this point, but he’s remaining well aware of his body every day that he takes the field. Practice heated up last week when the Patriots launched their OTAs, which run through next week and into minicamp June 11-13. After that, he’ll evaluate his performance in terms of speed and conditioning. He knows if he can’t hack it now, it surely won’t work in August when they put on the pads for training camp.

“It’s a little bit heavier,” Ridley said. “I know that, and I’m aware of it every day in practice with me running and stuff like that. It’s all about being conditioned as well. You can’t have all that weight on and be sucking air two or three plays in. That’s why I say you have to see how well you can carry the weight and if you can go day to day being successful with that.

“It’s a good heavy as long as I can keep rolling, so we’ll see. Right now, it’s working, so it’s OK.”