Throw ’em, slam ’em, toss ’em, pass ’em — any way you use them, medicine balls are one of the most versatile workout tools around. Athletes and coaches use medicine-ball workouts to train the body in all three planes of motion — frontal, sagittal and transverse — and concentrate on balance, coordination, stability and total-body power. Translation: a symmetrical, well-rounded physique and a killer, ironclad core.
This is a dynamic, total-body circuit program that anyone at any level can do anywhere. All you need is a medicine ball (or two) and a flat, open area free of obstacles (such as sticks, rocks, sunbathers, etc.). Warm up by power walking or jogging for two to five minutes, then follow with five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching for your upper and lower body. Go through the routine once for a solid 20-minute workout or twice if you’re feeling ball-sy (get it?). Rest no more than 30 seconds between sets to burn oodles of fat and calories.
A Few Tips for Effective Medicine-Ball Training
• Always hold the ball with your hands wide open, fingers spread. This gives you the most surface area with which to handle the ball, offering superior grip and stability.
• Use balls with differing weights for different moves. For example, you can use a much heavier ball for toss-ups than you can for figure-8s.
• Never catch the ball with straight elbows; always absorb the impact by bending your arms to slow the ball down.
• Control the momentum of the ball with your core; never let it control you.
• Some medicine balls are bouncy. Test them out to see how they react before beginning your workout.
Setup: Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward, and hold a ball at your chest with both hands, elbows down. Look up toward the sky and shift your weight into your heels.
Move: Kick your hips back and bend your knees to squat all the way down —bottoming out — then explode out of the hole, extending your legs quickly and throwing the ball straight up into the air as you reach full extension. Catch it with both hands as it comes back down and immediately go into the next repetition.
Form Tip: Make this movement fluid and continuous. Frame your hands to catch the ball and cushion the impact by absorbing it with your elbows and lowering right into the next rep.
Intensity Tip: Play with the height of your toss . Throwing the ball higher requires more power and explosiveness, while tossing it lower and faster with more reps can be a good endurance workout.
Setup: Sit on the ground with your knees bent and hold a medicine ball at your chest with both hands. Lean back and balance on your tailbone with a straight back.
Move: Moving your torso and arms as one unit, twist to the side and touch the ball down to the ground by your hip. Turn the other way and continue, alternating sides.
Form Tip: Think about wringing out your waist like a towel as you do this move to really engage the core.
Intensity tip: Lift your legs, cross your ankles and balance on your tailbone as you twist from side to side.
Setup: Hold a ball with both hands at chest height and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Move: Raise the ball quickly overhead, then use your entire body to throw the ball to the ground, bending your hips and knees and whipping it downward by contracting your abs as you follow through. Pick the ball back up and repeat immediately.
Form Tip: Think about initiating this move with your abs and core, and use your entire bodyweight to generate force, not just your arms and back.
Intensity Tip: This move can be as easy or difficult as you make it. The harder you throw the ball down and the more you use your entire body, the more difficult the move becomes.
Rock And Roll Up
Setup: Lie on the ground with your knees bent, feet flat, and hold the ball with both hands overhead on the ground, elbows bent.
Move: Quickly bring the ball overhead in an arc toward your knees and use that weight and momentum to help you roll forward onto your feet into a squat, then stand up. Reverse the move to return to the start, then repeat right away.
Form Tip: If you have trouble rolling up into the squat, try bringing your knees into your chest and use the momentum of the ball and your legs to help pop you upright.
Intensity Tip: Try this move with just your bodyweight to begin, then move up to a light ball once you get the hang of it. As you get stronger, try to rely less on momentum and more on your abs and core to perform the move.
Setup: Stand with your feet together and hold the ball with both hands at your waist, arms extended. Extend one leg straight behind you, toes just brushing the ground.
Move: Fold forward, hinging at the hips and lifting your leg behind you as you lower your torso toward the ground with your back straight. As you lower, reach the ball upward until your arms, back and leg are all parallel to the ground. Pause, then reverse to return to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Form Tip: Try to move your arms and leg simultaneously to help maintain balance. Also, keep your standing knee slightly bent for better stability.
Intensity Tip:Use a lighter ball for this move so you don’t tip forward and get thrown off-balance. Beginners also can hold the ball at their chest. As you improve, slowly extend your arms until you can do it as shown.
One-Legged Hip Raise
Setup: Lie faceup and place a medicine ball underneath one foot. Extend your other leg into the air over your hip and reach your arms along your sides, palms down.
Move: Press down into the ball with your heel and lift your hips toward the sky, squeezing your glutes. Pause a moment, then lower slowly to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Form Tip: Do this move slowly and in control to prevent the ball from rolling.
Intensity Tip: This move also can be done on the ground if balancing atop the ball is too challenging.
One-Arm Ball Flye
Setup: Lie faceup on the ground with your knees bent, feet flat, and hold the ball with both hands straight up over your chest.
Move: Shift the ball to your left hand and slowly lower your arm straight out to the side until it is hovering above the ground. Raise your arm slowly to the start and switch sides to complete one rep. Continue, alternating sides.
Form Tip: Keep your elbow slightly bent to protect your shoulder joint.
Intensity Tip: Don’t rush; the slower you do this move, the more intense it becomes.
Setup: Hold a medicine ball with both hands and your arms extended straight out at chest height.
Move: Keeping your arms straight, draw figure-8s in the air in front of you. Reverse direction each five reps.
Form Tip: Make sure you have a good grip on the ball and remember to control it with your abs and core.
Intensity Tip: The bigger the 8s the harder the move. Play with your speed, as well, to challenge yourself.