Brooke Nicholls Nelson: Strengthen core with medicine ball workout
Feb 02, 2014 | 5017 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Christmas gifts are supposed to bring joy, Mom,” complained my 24-year-old son, Cole. “This 15-pound medicine ball you gave me is painful.”

That’s right, I gave my son, as well as my running buddies, medicine balls as gifts. Nothing says “love you” like a heavy workout ball.

I have a love-hate relationship with my 12-pounder. I love what it does for my core strength, particularly my abs, but about 40 minutes into one of Star fitness columnist Ann Angell’s All Ball Classes at the Oxford Y, and I sort of start to hate the thing, too.

No matter what sport you’ve chosen — biking, running, walking, swimming — core strength is essential to increasing endurance and improving your biomechanics. Core strength reinforces the way your pelvis, hips, abs and lower back work together and decreases your risk of injury. Google “core strength exercises” and you’ll find a multitude of valuable exercises geared to improve results for whatever sport you choose. But today’s column is dedicated to improving core strength via a medicine ball.

Medicine balls, or med balls for short, come in a variety of sizes and styles. The weight starts at 4 pounds and goes up from there, and there are two basic styles — squishy or hard with a bumpy or scored surface for easier handling. You can test different types at local stores and workout facilities, and they are available for purchase at Wal-Mart, Dick’s and online. Pricing varies from $20 to $50.

To start a med ball workout, you want to be challenged, but not to the point that you can’t lift the ball above your head. Start light and move up as you become comfortable with the workouts.

Here are my five favorite med ball workouts. Incorporate these simple exercises into your weekly routine and you’ll notice a big difference in a short time.

Note: These workouts and more can be found online at menshealth.com.

1. Woodchopper

Stand with your feet just beyond shoulder-width apart. With your arms nearly straight, hold a medicine ball above your head. Now bend forward at your waist and mimic throwing the ball backward between your legs — but hold onto the ball the entire time. Quickly reverse the movement with the same intensity, and return to the starting position. That’s one repetition.

2. Medicine-Ball Situp

Grab a medicine ball with both hands and lie on your back on the floor. Bend your knees 90 degrees, place your feet flat on the floor, and hold the medicine ball against your chest. Now perform a classic situp by raising your torso into a sitting position. Lower it back to the start. That’s one repetition.

3. Toe Touch

Grab a medicine ball, lie on your back and raise your legs so they’re straight and perpendicular to the floor. Hold the ball above the top of your head (by the floor) with your arms straight. Without moving your legs or bending your elbows, simultaneously lift your arms and torso until the ball touches your toes. Lower yourself back to the starting position. That’s one repetition.

4. 45-Degree Twist

Grab a medicine ball and sit on the floor. Lean back at a 45-degree angle, raise your legs and feet off the floor, and hold the ball with both hands in front of your chest, your arms straight. Without dropping your legs or arms, rotate the ball and your torso as far as you can to the right. Then reverse direction, rotating all the way to the left. That’s one repetition.

5. Suitcase Crunch

Lie on your back with your legs straight. Use both hands to hold a medicine ball above your head and barely off the floor. Simultaneously raise your torso and bend your right knee toward your chest as you bring the ball over your knee and toward your foot. Reverse the movement and repeat, this time bending your left knee. That’s one repetition.

The beauty of medicine ball workouts is you can do them almost anywhere, and they yield great results.

For more information on Ann Angell’s “All Ball Class” or other fitness classes, contact Angell at the Oxford YMCA, 256-832-YMCA.

Got ideas for a fitness column? Contact Brooke Nicholls Nelson at brookenelson@amcvets.com.
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