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Medicine Ball In Training Regimes

Fed up with fitness gadgets which are just too complicated to use? It is time, perhaps, to rediscover medicine ball training. Simple yet effective, this straightforward fitness tool is championed by fitness experts, athletes and conditioning coaches alike. With nearly 3,000 years of history behind it, medicine ball training is one of the oldest forms of strength and conditioning training.

Legend has it that ancient Greek physician Hippocrates sewed the balls out of animal skins and filled them with sand. He then instructed his patients to throw the medicine balls back and forth for injury prevention and rehabilitation. The name "medicine ball" was derived from its close association with physical therapy. Today's medicine balls come in a variety of sizes, weights and materials.

Affordable and versatile, it is easy to see why medicine ball training is a popular choice among personal trainers, athletes and sports physicians. Personal training manager Alvin uses the weighted ball to train all his clients. To strengthen their abdominal muscles, he drops the medicine ball onto his clients' stomachs as they perform crunches and leg raises.

This enables them to "instinctively contract the abdominal muscles as a reflex action" and engage their core intensively during the exercise. Master trainer Terence, however, only incorporates. medicine ball training for his well-conditioned clients. "The use of a medicine ball requires a lot more coordination and stability and beginners may have problems perfecting all these at one go," he said.

Meanwhile, strength and conditioning coaches also use the medicine ball for sport-specific training. They favor it because of its versatility. Athletes can easily mimic the movement patterns in their sports with the round-shaped medicine ball. A standing torso twist with the ball can help golfers be more proficient in rotating their torsos, says Dr Benedict, a sports physician.

Medicine ball training is also regarded as a form of functional training, the current buzzword in today's fitness industry. Functional training is concerned with integrated movements that occur naturally in physical activities and works the body as one unit. Unlike weight machines that may limit and restrict natural movement, the dynamic nature of medicine ball training provides weight resistance from all planes of movement.

"Medicine ball training engages a combination of various physical skills like balance, coordination, strength, accuracy and flexibility. "It allows for movement in multiple planes which is more functional and does not merely focus on gaining strength in isolated muscle groups," says Kelvin, a strength and conditioning coach. As with any piece of exercise equipment, the medicine ball needs to be handled with care to minimise chances of injury. Proper warm-up is crucial, says Dr Benedict 

"When you pick up a medicine ball, bend at your hips and knees while keeping your back straight," he added. The exercises should be executed in a spacious environment so that the ball will not ricochet off the walls and injure someone. He also recommends starting off with a light medicine ball while aiming for 12 to 15 repetitions per set of exercises at first, then gradually increasing the weight of the ball and exercise intensity.

Develop Rock Hard Abdominals With The Following Medicine Ball Exercises

Seek medical clearance before attempting these exercises. Always start off with a light medicine ball and progress to heavier balls only when you have mastered the following exercises:

Side Twist

Muscle Groups Emphasised: Obliques

How To Do It: Start in an upright sitting position, with your knees bent, feet planted on the ground. Hold the ball directly in front of you with both hands. Slowly lean back to the point when you feel your stomach muscles contract. Holding the ball, gently twist your upper body to the left, bring it back to the front and twist to the right. Maintain a straight back and keep your chin up.

Medicine Ball Crunches

Muscle Groups Emphasised: Shoulders, chest, triceps and abdominals.

How To Do It: Lie down on the floor, with both knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Hold the ball above your head with both arms extended. Make sure your arms are in line with your ears. Lift your shoulders off the floor, keeping the same arm position. Do not arch your back.

Oblique Crunch

Muscle Groups Emphasised: Obliques

How To Do It: Start by lying down on the floor with both legs extended up towards the ceiling, grasping the hall between your feet. Your body should form an L shape. Lower both legs to above ground level. With one hand on the floor to stabilise and the other palm behind the head, slowly lift your upper body and twist towards yourr knees. Keep your knees bent throughout the movement. Do not straighten your legs.

Modified Push-Up

Muscle Groups Emphasised: Shoulders, chest, triceps and abdominals

How To Do It: Go into a standard push-up position with one palm placed on the medicine ball and one leg lifted up towards the ceiling. Beginners can perform this exercise with both knees on the floor. Slowly lower your body towards the floor, maintaining a straight back.

Leg Raise

Muscle Groups Emphasised: Lower abdominals

How To Do It: Lie down on the floor with both legs lifted to a 45-degree angle and grasp the medicine ball between your feet. Slowly lower both legs to above. ground level, then lift them to the original starting position. Repeat. Lower back should stay firmly on the ground.


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