When your workout routine starts to look like the same combination of cardio and weights, it’s time for a change. For one thing, you’re missing out on a key piece of a well-rounded exercise program. Cardio addresses your aerobic fitness and lifting weights helps improve musculature strength, but neither addresses power, the combination of strength and speed. Any type of athlete, even those who just play an occasional game of basketball, can see increased performance by working to improve power.
And let’s not forget the boredom factor. If you’re always doing a few miles on the treadmill followed by lifting dumbbells and barbells, you’re going to get bored pretty fast. You’ll find yourself feeling disengaged and your workouts will likely suffer.
Introducing a medicine ball to your routine can both add variety and help you build power with the right moves. Getting started is simple because you can use a medicine ball at home just as easily as at the gym. Get started with these five exercises.
1. Squat and toss
Squats help strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, but they don’t typically do much for your upper body. By incorporating a medicine ball toss, the basic move turns into a total-body exercise. Make sure to use a medicine ball that doesn’t bounce for this move so you don’t have to dodge out of the way as it falls to the ground.
Get into position with your feet spaced shoulder-width apart, holding the medicine ball directly in front of your chest with both hands. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Moving with as much speed as possible, push back up while you throw the ball as high as you can. Let the ball fall back to the ground, then repeat. Men’s Fitness recommends using a 15- to 25-pound ball for this workout. Aim for three to five sets of five to six repetitions.
2. 45-degree twist
Abs get all the love when it comes to core workouts, leaving the other muscles forgotten. This exercise adds a twisting motion that helps activate your obliques, the muscles that run along the side of your torso, and even gives your upper back and arms a bit of work. This move is tougher than it looks, so start with a relatively conservative amount of weight. If you need to, you can increase the load later.
Sit with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Lean back at a 45-degree angle an lift your feet off the ground, keeping your knees bent. Hold the medicine ball directly out to the front, keeping your arms straight and your core tight. Keeping your arms high and your legs in place, rotate the ball as far as you can to one side, then reverse the movement to the other side. Men’s Health recommends 20 repetitions of this exercise.
3. Kneeling medicine ball throw
For the ultimate exercise to build explosive power in your chest and arm muscles, look no further than the kneeling medicine ball throw. This move incorporates a forward fall, so you really want to focus on throwing the ball as hard as you can. This is another one where you want to avoid using a medicine ball that bounces to avoid a potential injury.
Start in a kneeling position in front of a wall and grasp a medicine ball just in front of your chest. With as much force as you can, thrown the ball toward the wall. Allow yourself to fall forward, then catch yourself with your hands, allowing your elbows to bend as generously as needed. Pick up the ball and repeat the exercise. Check out Bodybuilding.com for a full tutorial.
4. Puncher’s push-up
Push-ups are one of our favorite moves for building chest and arm strength. With the addition of a medicine ball, they can help you build explosive power. This move is also a great multitasker because it’s extremely challenging for the core muscles.
Get into the basic push-up position with one hand resting on a medicine ball and your feet wide apart. Lower yourself until your chest is just above the ground, then forcefully push yourself off the ground so your hand comes off the floor and reaches the same level as the hand on the medicine ball. Your hips and shoulders should be flat, so avoid the urge to rotate. Hold the top of the move for a moment before going into the next one. Head to Life by Daily Burn for a diagram. If you need more of a challenge, try reaching your free hand straight out in front of you at the top of the push-up.
5. Medicine ball lateral lunge with low reach
While basic lunges are a great way to strengthen your lower body, lateral lunges better target the stabilizing muscles around your hips. Weakness in these muscles is often behind many aches and pains in the lower body, so strengthening them can reduce your risk of injury. ACE Fitness explains adding an arm movement with a medicine ball forces you to work harder against the acceleration as well as the rotation.
Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold a medicine ball above your head, with your arms fully extended. Keeping your foot pointed forward and your knee in line with your ankle, step out to the side. As you lower into the lunge, swing the medicine ball down and across your body until your hands are just outside your lunging knee. Step your extended leg in as you bring the medicine ball back overhead. Repeat the move on the other leg.