Medicine Ball Exercises

The exercises you choose to perform during a workout can be a very personal thing, so much so that over time, it becomes difficult to deviate from your routine. Granted, if you’re working out at all, you’re light-years ahead of many, but if you’re stuck in a routine, you need to spice things up. The funny thing is, adding a little variety to your workout will also increase the effectiveness and value of the time you spend on personal fitness.

Incorporating a medicine ball into your workout is an inexpensive way to broaden the scope of regular calisthenics. Strength development, either on targeted areas or through whole-body movements, will be enhanced by the extra weight and versatility of a medicine ball.
The medicine ball is not new to fitness. According to Wikipedia, some of the earliest references to medicine-ball-type apparatus date back 3,000 years to Persian wrestlers who worked out with sand-filled bladders. Fortunately, more modern versions of the medicine ball are available commercially in weights typically ranging from 2 to 25 lbs.

Power Development
You can use a medicine ball to develop power or muscle endurance. Power development comes from performing explosive exercises, such as throwing the ball rhythmically while moving through an exercise. You can also incorporate the ball into plyometric exercises, which you can perform with a partner or alone by bouncing the ball off a wall. 

The ball also provides the opportunity to strengthen muscles we use while performing everyday tasks, particularly twisting and ground-to-overhead lifting. While reinforcing the proper form through repetitive practice, holding the ball will add a little extra weight to these movements and therefore strengthen muscles that we might neglect in the gym.

Examples of power-building exercises include the squat plyometric with a vertical ball toss, sit-ups with a horizontal ball toss and the chest pass-toss with a friend.

The Squat Plyo
The squat plyo with the vertical toss will require some coordination. Holding the ball at your chest, drop into a comfortable squat, trying not to let your knees extend past your toes. Explode out of the squat while you toss the ball into the air or up against a wall. Then catch the ball and drop back down into the squat and repeat. When you reach the top of your extension, you can do an actual jump or just stay on the ground if you’re more comfortable with that. This exercise can also be performed with a partner.

Begin your sit-ups on your back with your knees bent and the ball at your chest. Note: It helps if you have a partner for this exercise because they can stand on your toes to keep you anchored.

As you sit up, throw the ball to your partner (or against a wall if no one is around to help.) Catch the ball as it comes off the wall or is thrown back to you (this can be challenging), and lower your upper body down to the start position. Repeat.

Chest Pass
Rapid chest passes between partners is a great way to develop explosive strength in the chest and arms.Standing about 5—8 feet apart, rapidly pass the ball from the chest back and forth until one or both of you is worn out.

Muscle Endurance
For muscle endurance development, you can take some of your favorite calisthenics–leg raises, torso rotation and lunges, to name a few–and add the medicine ball for extra resistance.

Leg Raises
For leg raises, hold the ball between bent knees while lying on your back. Brace your body with your arms by putting them either out to your side or under your butt. Focus on squeezing the ball while you roll your legs up and over your chest. Remember to keep your lower back on the floor as you lower your legs back down to the start position.

Torso Rotations
Torso rotations are another great partner exercise. Start by standing back to back with your partner while one of you holds the ball. Each person rotates toward the other, and the ball is handed off in a tight rotation. The recipient rotates around to the other side with the ball, as does their partner without the ball. As they meet on the opposite side, the ball is exchanged again, and so on.

There are multiple variations of lunges. To incorporate the medicine ball into a basic lunge, stand with the ball at your chest, feet together. Step forward, but make sure that when you lunge over your front foot, your knee doesn’t extend past the toes of that foot. Drop down to a position that’s comfortable for you and either keep the ball at your chest or raise it up, directly over your head.

If you take the ball overhead, focus on keeping your chest up and drawing back with your shoulder blades. This will incorporate a good upper back strengthening component to the exercise. Step back, lower the ball and repeat.

The Path of More Resistance
As you can see, by adding the medicine ball to basic exercises, you add a level of resistance that can enhance your normal workout routine. Remember: There’s always some way to include the ball in an exercise so you can take your workout to the next level.

Use your imagination, good form and common sense and you’ll see how useful this little tool can be.

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