Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Medicine Ball Exercises - Let's End the Trend

If your medicine ball that sits in the corner dusty until Wall Balls are in the programming it's time to bring it out of retirement and get it in your every day training routine.  Seriously, the medicine ball is one tool that can add that needed spark back into your programming.

Here's the deal - if you are going back to that same grab bag of exercises and movements that you've been using for the past 6 months or more, you will get bored.  And even more dangerous for the gym owner is losing clients due to lack of excitement and engagement in what goes on the white board day in and day out.

No amount of variety, rep schemes, timing patterns or combinations of thrusters, pull ups and kettlebell swings will keep you coming back for more forever.  Can it still be effective?  Absolutely.  But at some point if it isn't mentally engaging then it will lose it's luster and appeal then it's off to find the next mountain to climb.
Far too often, the Medicine Ball only comes out of hiding when it's time to throw it against the wall, but it's time to end that trend right now.

One of the best ways to build camaraderie and fun in your gym is the Partner Workout. Who doesn't get excited a little bit every time they see it up on the white board?  We've all seen the Mr. Bean imagery all over Facebook and Instagram...That look your friend gives you when a Partner WOD is announced.

Some gyms regularly schedule partner workouts while some do not.  There are the noted objections of "Will it be serious enough?" or "Will I get a good enough workout?"  We think yes in both cases when partner workouts are programmed with smart adjustments in timing, rep requirements or allowable change offs.  We'll cover more on that in another blog soon. [You are subscribing to these, right??]

Partner workouts can be incredibly effective in both fun factor and in intensity.  

The Partner Catapult Sit-up - This is an amazingly effective core blaster that you can even add a twist to but here's the basics.  Partner One gets on the floor in the standard sit-up position with knees slightly bent and a medicine ball held overhead but resting on the floor.  Partner Two stands in front of Partner One so essentially their toes are pointed toward each other.  Got the set up?  Good.  Now, partner one sits up and throws the medicine ball to their  buddy.  When they lie back down, partner two throws the ball back to them.  Variation: When Partner Two catches the medicine ball they have to Overhead Squat it before tossing it back to their partner on the floor.

The Partner Kayak - There are a few variations of this exercise but this one will give you enough to create more on your own.  Two partners stand back to back, one with a medicine ball in hand.  While keeping their feet firmly in place, pass the medicine ball from left to right.    One fun variation is to have the partners seated back to back but require that their feet not touch the ground.

Partner Medicine Ball Toss - Who wouldn't want to do this?  A game of catch is always fun.  To add intensity there are more than a few ways to crank this up a notch.  Increasing the distance between partners is step one.  Or having them throw from the knees is a great way to take the lower body out of the workout and add difficulty.  If you've got something in the gym that they can throw over that adds a bit of intensity as well.

If you're on your own, no problem.  And keeping your routine changed up and exciting is even more important if you are training on your own.  Training with a partner always adds fun and accountability so be sure to keep your training varied and different to keep your interest peaked.

You can modify any of the above partner medicine ball exercises by substituting the wall for a partner, and we've got some other lung burners for you to try, too so read on.

The Medicine Ball Burpee - Ok - we want to apologize in advance for bringing this one up.  It's a bit extreme and if you find it on the whiteboard the next time you walk in the gym well...we're sorry.  Tough, but amazingly effective is the burpee and if you just don't have time for 7 minutes of standard burpees, we'll guarantee that 30 Medicine Ball Burpees will be enough.  Tip: Toss the medicine ball on the ground before you get in the plank position for the pushup.

Bumper Plates work well for this movement too.
The Atomic Sit Up - Start from the bottom of the sit-up position with a medicine ball held overhead.  As you sit up, bring the medicine ball forward of your hips and through the knees.  As the medicine ball moves forward, use the momentum to stand up.  The finished position is normally with the ball held overhead.  For the beginner this movement can be adapted by removing the medicine ball.  The added weight does assist in creating momentum, but holding an object with both hands makes it impossible to reach for the floor to assist in the stand up.

Medicine Ball Pushups - Many coaches and trainers know that creating instability in movements recruits much more muscle fiber than when working with machines that isolate.  Equipment like gymnastics rings are one of the great tools to maximize this instability for many movements but the medicine ball push up is arguably even more difficult the the ring pushup.  If your gym isn't outfitted with a set of gymnastics rings, here is an great alternative for pushups.  The medicine ball push up and its variations recruits a massive amount of stabilizer muscle in the shoulders, back and arms.  From the standard plank position, place both hands on the medicine ball and lower until your chest and hands touch.  Fairly standard stuff but amazingly effective and difficult.  Variations: To increase difficulty, raise the level of your feet with a stack of bumper plates or a plyo box.  Or put one hand on a stick of bumpers and the other on your medicine ball for deficit pushups.  With two medicine balls use one for each hand or put both hands on one and both feet on the other.