A Medicine Ball Workout for your Clients
An exciting alternative to dumbbell exercises, medicine ball training is versatile, cost-effective and simple to teach, and it's time-efficient because it requires multiple body parts to work in harmony. Using just one weighted ball, you can help your training clients or class participants improve fitness, strength, posture, movement mechanics, athletic skills and more.
To that end, check out the eight-exercise med ball workout available via this article, excerpted from the new, third edition of Strength Ball Training (Human Kinetics, 2016). Add a warm-up (see below) and try out the complete routine with the right clients, or insert individual exercises into your training sessions, boot camps and/or classes. First, consult the tips below for important guidelines and reminders about medicine ball training.
A dynamic warm-up helps clients increase core temperature and prepare their joints for the exercises to come. With med ball training, it’s a good idea to break down the warm-up into general and specific phases, says Lorne Goldenberg, co-author of Strength Ball Training (with Peter Twist) and Director of the UPMC Sports Performance Center in Pittsburgh. Goldenberg has worked with athletes from the National Hockey League and the Canadian Football League. “A general warm-up would include exercises such as walking lunges, torso twists, hip hinges, hops and wall push-ups,” says Goldenberg. Immediately following the general warm-up, get into specifics: Have the client practice a few med ball exercises with lighter loads. For example, if a client will be using a 20-pound ball for the Standing Overhead Medicine Ball Rotation (shown below), Goldenberg suggests having him or her complete a submaximal set of lower reps with a 10-pound ball. “This will groove the motor pattern and result in a more effective loading pattern,” he says.
Careful progression is part of any successful workout, especially when introducing a new training tool. Employ appropriate progression strategies, such as load, range of motion, lever length and bilateral-to-unilateral sequencing. Med ball training in particular might also include faster movement patterns and twisting exercises, which is not as customary when using dumbbells. This is another reason for taking a sequential approach. “Speed of movement, explosive throws/twists, etc., should be used with caution with clients who have never experienced this type of speed,” says Goldenberg. “They should be prepped with slow movement [first] and then progress to faster movements over time.” Strength Ball Training includes assessments and modifications for nailing down appropriate starting points for each client.
TOSSING THE BALL
Dating back to childhood, the first thing most people feel compelled to do when they hold a ball is to throw it, and med balls are no different. With partner training, you can toss the ball back and forth with a client or cue two or more clients to pass the ball between each other. Keep in mind, however, that some clients might be able to hurl the ball hard. Ensure the recipient of a toss is: (1) able to manage the force, and (2) prepared to receive the throw.
“In an athletic environment, such as I have experienced in the NHL, safety always comes first,” says Goldenberg. “Clients of this caliber have the force and power to injure someone when throwing a heavy ball.” Even with well-matched, non-athlete clients, inattention can lead to safety issues, especially if the med ball has the ability to bounce (some do, some don’t). “Start partner exercises with the question: READY?” advises Goldenberg. The ball-tosser should wait for the recipient to confirm that he or she is ready to accept the ball. Apply the tips and exercises in this article to deliver dynamic medicine ball workouts to your clients. For more exercise ideas and further direction on working out with medicine balls and also stability balls, refer to the Strength Ball Training book and its companion continuing education course.
The exercise excerpts have been reprinted with permission from Strength Ball Training (Human Kinetics, 2016), written by Lorne Goldenberg and Peter Twist. All exercise descriptions and images provided by Human Kinetics.
Amanda Vogel, M.A., is a fitness instructor and presenter in Vancouver, B.C., where she teaches a weekly HIIT class. In addition to being a writer for popular fitness magazines, she is a social media consultant for the fitness industry and a Fitness Technology Spokesperson for IDEA. You can reach her at ActiveVoice.ca, FitnessTestDrive.com (blog), @amandavogel (Twitter), @amandavogelfitness (Instagram) and Facebook.com/FitnessWriter.