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Set the ball rolling

A medicine ball brings that much-needed surge of power and speed to your workouts and can be used with different kinds of exercises too, reports Sai Raje.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 13, 2010 19:36 IST
Sai Raje
Sai Raje
Hindustan Times

You can always trust a plain old ball to up the fun quotient of boredom-filled days. Whether it’s a simple game of catch and throw or an explosive soccer game with your buddies, there’s never a dull moment when you are playing ball. Even when you are stuck with a drab and uninspiring workout routine, a ball is one of the things that can bail you out of boredom. A medicine ball, that is.

Also called an exercise or fitness ball, a medicine ball is nothing but a weighted ball that measures 14 inches in diameter and weighs anything between 1- 6 kg. It’s used in a variety of different workouts — from cardiovascular and strength training to flexibility, speed and even power training.

Spice things up

Tired of the same old squats routine? Spice things up a bit by holding up a medicine ball while you do your squats and intensify your training a bit more. Or hold up the medicine ball in front of you during a cardiovascular routine like running on the treadmill, to get the heart galloping.

“A medicine ball adds a bit of weight to your basic exercise and makes it more challenging and intensive. It adds to the variety of your training, makes it dynamic and conditions your neuromuscular system,” says Claudia Lepera, physiotherapist, Elite Athletes Performance.

What’s more, it allows you the scope to get creative and use the medicine ball in dozens of different strength training, flexibility and even core training exercises.

Use it under guidance

But it’s not as if you can use it the way you like. “It may look like a simple ball, but the medicine ball is a very technical piece of equipment. So you should have a trainer telling you how exactly to use one as it takes a while to get the movements right,” says Heath Matthews, physiotherapist with the Mittal Champions Trust.

Beginners typically start with lighter medicine balls and progress to heavier weights as their movements improve.

For explosive power

Apart from its usefulness in intensifying an overall fitness routine, the medicine ball is also specifically used by sportspersons in plyometrics, which is a type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements to improve performance in sports.

“Exercises in plyometrics consist of rapid movements using a medicine ball to improve an athlete’s power and speed. For instance, throwing the medicine ball a 100 times against the wall is a good exercise that tries to develop the body’s fast twitch muscles, which in turn improve your speed and explosive power,” says Matthews.

Sportspersons’ favourite

This kind of training is especially useful in sports like squash, rugby and cricket, where one needs to hit the ball, or boxing, where you have to hit the opponent, with explosive power. A medicine ball is an integral training tool for squash champion Ritwik Bhattacharya who thinks that core strength is an important asset when you play squash.
“In an action-packed sport like squash, core strength is the first thing that breaks down and I need to constantly work at developing it. So I do a lot of core strengthening exercises and throws with a medicine ball,” he says. He adds, “The medicine ball is also a good way for me to develop power. For this, I sit down with my legs stretched out and then toss the ball forward as far as I can.”

The ball also helps him develop his balance. “Standing on my feet on the ball is a great way to develop my balance too,” adds Bhattacharya.