Friday, March 30, 2012

Kick it up a notch with at-home medball workouts

The time has come to go hard core with my medicine ball workout once again - The Tar Heels Workout, which Men's Health calls their Ultimate Medicine Ball Workout.

The workout is basically 200 repititions, 20 each of 10 different exercises using a medicine ball. I am going to start by using an 8-pound ball, since I haven't been working out this intensely for a while. But within two weeks I plan to move up to a 12-pound ball. I was using an 18-pound ball before, but I'm going to give myself at least a month to six weeks to work up to that again. I want to avoid injury at all costs.

Here are the basic 10 exercises that are part of the Tar Heels Workout with a brief description of each. These ten exercises together are considered one complete set. The goal is to do all 10 exercises with no break between them for a continuous 200 repititions, but start off slow and take short breaks as necessary until you can do more. Then, work up to three sets of these exercises, resting no more than three minutes between each set. (Go to the Men's Health site for better descriptions and pictures of each exercise, as this is a description of my personal exercise routine, and I am not a certified personal trainer.):
  1. Big Circles - Start with the ball in both hands, outstretched above your head. Feet shoulder-width apart. Then make big circles in front of your body, with your arms acting like the hands of a clock, twisting your core to the side at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. Do ten circles in each direction.
  2. Wood Chopper - Start in the same position as Big Circles but with legs slightly more spread. Make a chopping motion with the ball, thrusting it through your legs and returning to the erect position, ball stretached above your head. (Last summer I posted a video of me doing this exercise on YouTube.)
  3. Russian Twist - Start with the ball in both hands stretched out in front of you at shoulder height. Then, twist and stretch fully to the right, pivoting on your left toe, and then to the left, pivoting on your right toe. Once you are back to the center this is one repetition.  
  4. Squat to Press - Start again with the ball raised above your head. Then, as you squat, bring the ball down to your chest. Once in the squat position, burst up again to original position. This is one repetition.
  5. Medicine Ball Sit-Up - Lie on the floor with your legs bent comfortably and with the medicine ball at your chest. Hold the medicine ball to your chest as you do your sit-ups. Be careful to hold the ball in a stable position to avoid injury.
  6. Rocky Solo - Start in a seated position, holding the ball in front of you. Then, twist to place the ball around behind your back and leave it there as you twist around to the other side to pick it up. When in the original position, this is one set.
  7. Toe Touch - Starting flat on your back with your legs straight and on the floor, place the medicine ball in both hands and stretch your arms along the floor above your head. Then, at the same time, life your legs and your arms to touch the ball to your toes. Return to the original position for one repetition.
  8. 45-Degree Twist - Seated, with legs slightly bent and your back at a slight angle, take the ball in both hands straight in front of you. Then twist to the left side with arms outstretched and touch the ball to floor. Twist back to the right side, touch the floor with the ball, and return to the original position. This is one repetition.
  9. Suitcase Crunch - Start with your back flat on the floor, similar to the Toe Touch, and bring up one leg toward your chest separately while bringing the ball forward at the same time, over the knee, crunching, to touch the toe. Repeat with the other leg. This is one repetition.
  10. Diagonal Crunch - Start this exercise lying on the floor as in previous exercises, but this time with your torso twisted to one side and with your legs spread wide apart. It is like doing a twisted sit-up, where you come up from the twisted position to sitting straight up on the floor. Tap the ball to the floor and go back to the lying position, this time twisting to the the other side. Sit up, tap the ball and return to the original position for one repetition.

I did this routine for nearly six months straight, about three to four days per week, but I stopped doing this it in its entirety after moving to Boston last July. After quitting my favorite gym - Island City Health and Fitness in Wilton Manors, FL - I just couldn't find another place to get into the routine. I loved that gym because there was a quiet, mirror-clad room where I could do the full workout and see myself from every angle and during every exercise. That kept me motivated because I could watch my form and measure my progress at every moment of the workout.

Now that I am in a new place and have plenty of room to workout at home, I'm setting things up so I can do this workout four days per week without having to worry about gym dues. I will supplement this exercise, as always, by walking and/or hiking at least 20 miles per week.

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