STRENGTH TRAINING

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Harder Core: The Med Ball Core Workout

By Mike Clausen

Lately we've been offering you outdoor workouts to make use of the last good weather of the year. Today I've got one that you can do outside until it's too cold and then take right back into the gym—or, your living room. That's because all you're going to need is your bodyweight and a medicine ball. With just those two elements and a little bit of space to work in, you can build strength, agility, and a seriously strong core.

My favorite medicine balls are made by Nike and you can find them at any Sports Authority. I recommend getting either the 10 or 12 pound balls. The workout will be broken up into supersets. For each exercise, do 20 reps, and then continue to the next exercise within the group. When finished with the group, rest 30 seconds to a minute and move onto the next group of supersets. Cycle through the workout two to three times depending on your time frame. Allow anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. And, push yourself. If this workout seems easy, then add reps, or lessen recovery time.

Notice that even though this is primarily designed as a workout for your core, you're not just doing crunches. I'm treating your core as an integrated part of your muscular system. It's your center, abs, and back, but is integrated with the rest of your musculature. So, you're going to work your lower and upper body along with your abs and back as part of this workout. The idea: that you end up flexible, agile, and strong.


Group 1: Do back-to-back, 20 reps per exercise.

GROUP 1 EXERCISES
Medicine Ball Chop Squats
Stand upright with a medium-sized MB in front of you in both hands and your feet about hip-distance apart with knees slightly bent. From the starting position, bring the medicine ball down in front of you in a wood-chopping motion—directly forward and down, either to between your knees or, for a greater challenge, until you tap the floor. From the bottom of the motion, reverse direction and bring the ball back up, all the way to overhead. Try to maintain an even pace throughout the motion. Keep your chest and head high on both the lift and the descent, and allow your feet and legs to bend and pivot as demanded by the motion of your upper body.
Push-ups
Position yourself on the floor in a prone position (face down) with your legs together and extended straight behind you and your arms slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Support yourself on your toes and your hands, with your palms down on the ground. Your arms should be straight but without locked elbows. Your spine should be neutral with no arch. Slowly bend your arms and descend toward the floor. Keep your neck in line with your spine throughout the movement; do not jut your chin out towards the floor at the bottom of the movement. Stop when your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Reverse position and push back up to the starting position. Do not lock your elbows at the top of the movement.



Group 2: Rest 30 seconds to one minute. Then, do Group 2 exercises back-to-back, 20 reps per exercise.

GROUP 2 EXERCISES
Stationary Squats with Medicine Ball Side-to-Side
Stand upright with your back and shoulders straight and your feet almost shoulder-width apart. Hold the MB in front of you. Next, step your right foot approximately two feet in front of you. Don't overdo the length of your step; keep your steps short enough to maintain control and balance. When your right foot is place, lunge forward with your right leg until you have a 90-degree bend in your right knee, staying light on your back foot. Your upper body and right knee should not move forward as you lower and raise your body. Make sure your right knee does not go beyond a 90-degree angle. As you go down, rotate the MB from side to side. Reverse direction and return to the starting position. To fully isolate your hamstring, glutes, and quad muscles, avoid putting any weight on your left leg as you come up from the lunge position.Perform a full set of 20, then repeat with the left leg forward.
Walkouts
Back at the start line, start with your hands and feet on the ground with your arms and legs straight and butt up in the air, in a pike position, or like an A-frame. Slowly walk your hands out as far as you can reach in the grass (way past a push-up plank), keeping your chin tucked so your abs stay engaged as you reach out. When you reach your full stretch, slowly walk with your toes back up to the pike position and to a bent-over hamstring stretch. Then repeat again by walking your hands out as far as possible, followed by walking your feet in. Walk halfway across the field, then walk back to start.
Stationary Squats with Medicine Ball Overhead
Stand upright with your back and shoulders straight and your feet almost shoulder-width apart. Hold the MB in front of you at your chest. Next, step your right foot approximately two feet in front of you. Don't overdo the length of your step; keep your steps short enough to maintain control and balance. When your right foot is place, lunge forward with your right leg until you have a 90-degree bend in your right knee, staying light on your back foot. Your upper body and right knee should not move forward as you lower and raise your body. Make sure your right knee does not go beyond a 90-degree angle. As you go down, push the MB up overhead and then do a tricep extension with the ball coming behind your head. Bring the ball back to your chest level. Reverse direction and return to the starting position. To fully isolate your hamstring, glutes, and quad muscles, avoid putting any weight on your left leg as you come up from the lunge position. Perform a full set of 20, then repeat with the left leg forward.
UFC Push-ups
Get in push-up position, with your feet wide. As you go down, bring your right knee to your right elbow, using your obliques. Reverse the direction as you come back up. For the next push-up, bring your left knee to your left elbow. Reverse direction as you come back up. Alternate sides so that you do 10 reps each side for the 20 pushups.



Group 3: Rest 30 seconds to one minute. Then, do Group 3 exercises back-to-back, 20 reps per exercise.

GROUP 3 EXERCISES
Walking Lunges with Medicine Ball Front Raise
Stand on the floor with your feet hip-width apart. Hold the MB in front of you. From the starting position, step your right foot forward and drop your left knee down into a lunge. Lower the left knee down until the right quadriceps (thigh) is parallel to the floor. Do not allow the right knee to come out in front of your toes. As you go down, raise the MB in front of you, using your front delts (shoulders). From the lunge, stand up and take a short step forward with your left foot. Then step the right foot forward again and drop your left knee down again into another lunge. Repeat steps one and two above for a full set of lunges with the right leg leading, then switch legs and perform another set with the left leg leading. As you do these lunges, keep your steps short enough to maintain control and balance.
Close-Grip Two-Hand Medicine Ball Push-ups
On the floor, place both hands on the MB with your fingers facing away from you on the sides of the ball. Have your feet wide apart. In a steady motion, do a close grip push-up. Make sure your motion is steady so that the ball does not shoot out from under you. Push yourself back up and repeat. Go as low as you can so that you are able to get back up. These are tough and work every part of your body.
Reverse Walking Lunges with Medicine Ball Front Raise
Use the same form as the above walking lunges, but now you are going backwards.
Chop Squat with Medicine Ball Bicep Curl
Stand upright with a medium-sized medicine ball in front of you in both hands and your feet about hip-distance apart with knees slightly bent. From the starting position, bring the medicine ball down in front of you in a wood-chopping motion—directly forward and down, either to between your knees or, for a greater challenge, until you tap the floor. From the bottom of the motion, reverse direction and bring the ball back up, performing a bicep curl with both arms once you reach your standing position. Try to maintain an even pace throughout the motion. Keep your chest and head high on both the lift and the descent, and allow your feet and legs to bend and pivot as demanded by the motion of your upper body.



Group 4: Rest 30 seconds to one minute. Then, do Group 4 exercises back-to-back, 20 reps per exercise.

GROUP 4 EXERCISES
Single-Side Push-ups (Right)
Place the MB under your right hand. Have your feet wide for stability, and your other hand on the floor. You are going to do a normal pushup, but one hand will be pushing on the ball. This will work your core and make you stabilize so that the ball does not roll away. Do 10 pushups here.
Jump Squats with Ball Held Close
Hold the MB at your chest. Begin by lowering yourself down to a fully squatted position as you did in the standard squat. When you have reached the depth of the squat, reverse motion and jump up into the air as high as you possibly can. When you land from your jump, go immediately into your next squat.
Single-Side Push-ups (Left)
Same as before, only place MB under left hand.
Jump Squats with Ball Held Close
Hold the MB at your chest. Begin by lowering yourself down to a fully squatted position as you did in the standard squat. When you have reached the depth of the squat, reverse motion and jump up into the air as high as you possibly can. When you land from your jump, go immediately into your next squat.



Group 5: Rest 30 seconds to one minute. Then, do Group 5 exercises back-to-back, 20 reps per exercise.

GROUP 5 EXERCISES
Sit-ups with Medicine Ball Held Overhead
Lie flat on a floor mat with your legs straight out in front of you, flat on the floor with your knees straight. Place your arms over your head flat on the floor behind you, holding the ball. From the starting position, lift your arms over your head in an arc and then follow with your upper body. Be sure to tuck your chin hard to your chest throughout the movement to prevent neck injury. Your arms will help propel your body through this movement. Touch the ball to your toes, or as close to your toes as you can get, then reverse the movement and, again keeping your chin tucked, go back down to starting position. As soon as your back and arms are touching the ground, reverse the motion and start your second repetition.
Toe Taps
Take the MB in both hands. Lie on your back on the floor, with your arms extended overhead. Extend one leg straight on the floor, and bend the other so that your foot rests on the floorFrom the starting position, simultaneously raise the MB with both hands overhead as you lift the extended leg. Your head, neck, shoulders, and upper/middle back should rise off the floor at the top of your motion. Continue this motion until the MB meets the toe of the straight leg. Lower yourself back to the floor, returning the MB and raised leg to their original positions. Repeat these steps for a full set (20) on one side. Then switch to the other leg for the same number of repetitions. Keep your breathing regular throughout the exercise. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower your arms and leg.
Medicine Ball Hold Cross-over
Sit near the edge of a flat bench and lean back with your hips piked at a 45-degree angle to make a V with your body. Take the MB in front of you and move it across your body and down to the side, twisting as far as you can while keeping your V position. Then, take the ball to the other side, all the while keeping your legs in the air. Do this for 20 crosses.
Prone Cobra (1 Minute)
Lie on your stomach with your hands at your sides, palms down with thumbs facing out. Squeeze your butt and lift your legs, chest, and shoulders off the ground as high as possible. Rotate your thumbs up and out so that your shoulders roll back, opening your chest and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep your head facing ground with your neck in line with your spine. Hold for 60 seconds.
About Mike Clausen: Clausen is the founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006. He has been actively involved in sports and weightlifting since high school, and continues to use that knowledge when training his clients. Clausen is both A.C.E. and N.A.S.M. certified and has been training clients professionally for six years. He enjoys making his clients stronger, both physically and mentally, giving them the tools to create an efficient body and to do things they thought were not possible.