September 24, 2013
Medicine balls, a staple item in most gyms, are an easy-to-use, low-cost fitness tool that serves many purposes. From the development of power, coordination, mobility and core strength to rehabilitation benefits and “big bang for your buck” calorie burn, it’s no surprise that medicine balls are used in a wide range of workouts.
These four full-body exercises all involve rotation and power for a rock-solid core and maximum calorie expenditure. Based on your size and strength, select a medicine ball between 4 and 15 pounds. Make sure the weight you select does not compromise your form, and always remember to do a warm-up before any type of strength and power training.
Medicine Ball Toss-Ups
Why: This powerful move is not only a blast to do (who doesn’t want to see who can throw the ball higher?), it’s also great for strengthening the back side of the body and developing speed and power.
How: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower the medicine ball down toward the floor and drop the hips down and back (think kettlebell swing with a deep squat). Keep the shoulder blades down and back with the spine long as you extend through your hips and swing the medicine ball up as fast as possible and release above your head. Be careful to get out of the way and let the ball bounce at least once before catching.
Remember: When swinging the medicine ball down, safeguard the spine by keeping the back flat and the hips hinged.
Medicine Ball Lateral Lunge With Low Reach
Why: Lateral lunges target all of the muscles of the legs, but are especially beneficial for strengthening the gluteus medius and minimus—the muscles responsible for stabilizing the hip. Keeping these muscles strong can help you prevent or recover from lower-extremity injuries. Incorporating the medicine ball reach adds an element of rotation and deceleration to this move.
How: Begin with feet in a narrow stance and hold the medicine ball overhead. Step to the side, keeping the lead foot pointing forward and the knee in alignment over the foot. Sink the hips down and back while simultaneously dropping the medicine ball to the outside of the bent knee. Squeeze through the hips for stability, bring the straight leg in and lift the medicine ball back overhead. This move can be done while traveling or moving back and forth as you alternate sides.
Remember: During the movement ensure that the knee tracks over the foot (not buckling in or out) and the back stays flat with the chest up and open during the medicine ball reach.
Medicine Ball Diagonal Slams
Why: Medicine ball slams strengthen the front side of the body and also help to improve speed and power.
How: With the medicine ball overhead, engage your core and slam the ball down to the ground just to the outside of your right foot. Catch the ball on the up-bounce and immediately lift it overhead. Slam it down once again, this time to the outside of your left foot.
Remember: Keep your face clear as the ball bounces back up.
Medicine Ball Diagonal Chop
Why: Adding the medicine ball chops to squats not only adds rotation to a basic strength movement, but it also enhances hip strength and stability as well as overall power.
How: Sink the hips down and back into a squat depth that is comfortable to you, while simultaneously reaching the medicine ball to the outside of your left knee. Drive through the floor as you explosively reach the ball to the opposite corner of the room using the hips to power the movement. Pivot both feet and stick the end range of motion at the top before returning to your starting position for another repetition.
Remember: The back should remain straight and chest elevated throughout the movement. Keep the eyes up to avoid hunching over during the reach. Do this exercise in front of a mirror to keep the knees from buckling in or out during the movement.
All of these exercises can be preformed for reps (10 to 20) or time (20 to 45 seconds). If the quality of movement and power begin to suffer, be sure to take a break.
Shana is an American Council on Exercise and TRX Master Instructor and a six-time world champion lumberjack athlete. She also holds records as a collegiate pole vaulter and is a nationally ranked fitness competitor. She holds a degree in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and is a certified personal trainer through ACE, NASM, and NFPT.
The Fitness Director at Supreme Health and Fitness in Madison, Wis., Shana is also a highly accomplished coach across multiple disciplines. She has guided her lumberjack athletes and fitness competitors to world best performances and her collegiate track and field athletes hold many school records. An energetic and personable speaker, she is also the national spokesperson for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.