Monday, 12 November 2012

Functional Medicine Ball Workout

As promised here it is, a medicine ball workout that can be performed in the gym, at home or outdoors (in fact if you have laminate floors you may want to take the ball outdoors especially for the slams).

Make sure you are prepared by completing 5 - 10 minutes mobility and a warm up (see my blog Stability Ball Workout dated 30th July) for ideas on joint mobility.  Have some water close by and rest as and when needed.  When I mention 'core switched on' I mean being aware of the muscles around your torso and lower back.  Think of gently pulling your belly button back towards your spine and sending your ribs down towards your pelvis.  Sounds complicated but if you imagine someone is about to punch you in the stomach, breathe out and brace or tense your abdominals. You should feel a contraction or a shortening / tensing around your middle. (Keep posted as I want to do a blog on getting in touch with your deep core muscles soon).

Medicine Ball Overhead Slam

An all round exercise that gets all muscles both upper and lower including heart and lungs.  And its functional because it includes both flexion and extension of the knees and hips (which is what we do when we sit and stand).  Start position, feet hip to shoulder width apart, core switched on.  Hold the ball overhead (if this is difficult you can hold the ball somewhere between shoulder and head height).  Take a breath in to prepare then expel the air as you slam the ball down with as much force as you can before catching it in both hands and repeating. Remember the lighter the ball the quicker and higher its going to come back up so I would suggest a weight 4kg or more.  But experiment and find what works best for you.  Teaching points - as you slam the ball down keep your knees soft with a slight bend in them to counter balance the force of the ball.  Try and keep the ball quite close to you, not so close that it hits you in the face nor to far away that you have to over reach.  Progressions, use a heavier ball or longer duration sets.

Try a 20 - 30 seconds round repeated 4 times.

Medicine Ball Standing Twist

Now adding in some twisting and a balance challenge. This exercise will promote core strength, hip and back mobility and a greater range of movement in this area.  It also works the obliques, butt and legs.  Start position, feet shoulder width apart, core switched on.  Hold the med ball at chest height, elbows at your sides.  As you twist the ball to your right simultaneously raise your right knee. 
Do 8 - 10 reps this side then swap sides, twisting to the left while raising your left knee.  Repeat 2 more rounds.  Teaching points - use your range of movement, especially if you sit a lot such as in the car or at work.  We tend to do a lot of things front and back and not so much twisting, although I believe it's important to do some twisting and rotational movements for a healthy spine.  Progressions would be to increase your speed as confidence grows and/or use a heavier ball.

Medicine Ball Throws

A little more pushing type exercise that will test your hand to eye co-ordination and cardio fitness.  Throws can be done with a partner, throw both underhand, overhand or push the ball with as much force as you can at chest height to each other.  You could also work the legs a little more by adding in a squat to push overhead, you may need some distance between you for this. 

If you do not have a partner but have a wall then try throwing the ball at the wall, again you can throw at chest height, overhand, underhand or side on so your adding a little rotation into the exercise.  Teaching points - core engaged, try and soften the knees when catching the ball.  Keep an eye on the ball, if tired rest, you don't want to end up with a black eye!

Try 20 - 30 seconds each exercise with a 10 second rest in between exercises.

Squat with a Medicine Ball Bear Hug

Squatting, yes we do it a lot, hate to think just how much of our lives is seated, heck of a lot I reckon.  And all that sitting around can sometimes hinder the way we perform the squat correctly.  You could say I'm in a squat position while I'm seated and typing this blog for you.  But not for long as I've got pilates and spinning later :)

But I am an advocate of the 'squat' it's one of my favourite exercises to do, and even more so when we add some weight to it like a dumbbell, kettlebell or in this case the medicine ball.  Start position, feet hip to shoulder width apart, core switched on.  Cross your arms and hug the medicine ball to your chest, now push your hips and butt slightly out behind you like your about to sit in a chair.  Go down as far as you comfortably can go, try and keep the weight down through the back of your heels. At the bottom of the movement, breathe out and stand quickly pushing your hips forward and squeezing your butt.  Repeat 12 - 20 reps 2 - 4 rounds.  Teaching points - as I've said only go as low as you can comfortably go, you shouldn't feel it directly at your knees.  If you do, don't go as low.  But if you are a desk jockey your knees are probably not used to going any lower than a 90 degree angle until your body gets used to it.  Pain isn't always indicative of something wrong, it may be like I've said you need to try these things. 

If you are unsure please get a qualified instructor like me to check your technique first!

So there you have it four exercises that put your body through a functional range of movement while also working your cardiovascular system.  Give it a go and let me know how you get on.

Till next time, all the best


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