Fit&Happier Workout of the Month defined: These are 30 minute general fitness workouts designed to offer a complete and balanced approach to strength and cardiovascular training in the most efficient way possible. Strength training workouts will each feature a different form of resistance, or load, so that you can choose the type of resistance based on equipment availability and your preference. These will offer full-body strength training and muscle toning with base exercises appropriate for beginners and progressions for those more experienced in strength training. Cardio workouts are designed to get the most calorie burn possible in the time allotted. Combo workouts combine strength and cardio training into one, efficient, full-body, calorie-burning workout. All workouts conclude with flexibility training as no workout is complete without it. Click on the exercises to link to step-by-step written and video instructions provided by ACE Fitness.
Medicine Balls: Like free weights, medicine balls are a terrific, versatile tool for full-body strength training for general fitness. Because they offer a slightly different lever experience and tactile sensation as compared to free weights, using a combination of free weights and medicine balls in one workout or switching between the two from one workout to the next helps to keep your strength training routine fresh and varied and offers a wider range of options in working all your muscle groups. For women looking to build strength for boosted metabolism and fitness, as well as visibly tone muscles, a range of medicine balls and/or free weights from 3-10 lbs is sufficient. These load amounts are readily available in the weight training area of most gyms. If you want to do this workout at home, a total of 3 medicine balls is sufficient, such as 4lbs, 6lbs and 10lbs. To do a combination of free weights and medicine balls, choose free weight pairs of 3lbs, 5lbs and 8lbs with a 4lbs medicine ball.
There are a number of medicine ball types available. Each has unique training options. Hard sided balls (pictured above) can roll and have a slight bounce when dropped on the floor. This is the best choice for partner workouts and those training arm speed and power. Soft-sided balls (pictured immediately below) are easier to grip and usually have a harder inner core that shifts as the ball is moved around in space. This shifting center of gravity in the ball adds stability challenge to any exercise you do with the ball which strengthens the core. Some hard sided balls also have handles on them (pictured further below). Handled medicine balls are preferred if you’re using heavier weights (10+ lbs) because the handles provide more stability and safety. The handles are also a nice feature if you decide you don’t want to purchase both free weights and medicine balls because the handles allow you the option of using it either like a traditional medicine ball or like a free weight.
Any type of medicine ball will work well with this workout. Part of what I enjoy about working out with medicine balls is that I like the feel of it in my hands. There’s something more comfortable about it compared to the more industrial-styled dumbbells. I believe the reason is it harkens back to childhood and gives me a bit of a nostalgic feeling. It’s why I recommend one should actually try each type out to see what feels best before buying.
Medicine Ball Strength & Flexibility Workout
Concept: Use medicine balls and gravity to strengthen the major muscle groups of the body. Utilize the lowest weight possible to reach exhaustion, or maximum effort, between 10 and 16 repetitions. If you can perform 16 or more repetitions with excellent form before reaching exhaustion, you should increase the weight amount. If you lose form before the 10th repetition, you should decrease the weight amount. Where noted, some exercises can also be progressed by switching from a seated to standing position or from a double leg to single leg stance. Be sure you’ve mastered the base exercise before adopting the progression. It’s likely the correct amount of load for you will be different from one exercise to the next.
Maximum effort or muscle exhaustion means you can’t perform another repetition of the exercise without losing form and/or engaging another muscle group. An example being, when performing biceps curls, the biceps are targeted and the movement should be only elbow flexion and extension. As one reaches her maximum effort-point of exhaustion, the biceps may begin to feel strained or “burn” and/or the individual may begin to swing or sway at the hips or torso, engaging hip or abdominal muscles instead of the biceps muscles.
Medicine ball exercises allow one to work opposing muscle groups by controlling the momentum of the movement against gravity. This is accomplished by moving more slowly on the down phase of an exercise. Using the biceps curl example from above: when you are lifting the free weight against gravity, you are isolating the biceps on the up/lifting phase. Assume it takes a count of 2 to perform the curl movement. If you lower the weight to the start position at a slower pace, as in a count of 3 or 4, you are resisting against gravity’s pull while lowering the weight, which isolates the triceps muscles on the down/lowering phase.
I recommend using a cushioned, no-slip surface to perform this workout, such as an exercise mat or open area of wall-to-wall carpeting. Be sure to have enough unobstructed space around you to allow for full range of motion of arms and legs. Perform this workout 1-3 times per week, allowing at least 48 hours before repeating this workout.
Warm-Up: 2-5 minutes high-knee marching, swinging opposing arms to shoulder height as you lift knees to hip height or any other form of light to moderate cardio movement you choose. The goal is to raise your heart rate slightly before working your muscles.
Strength Workout: Perform the following exercise circuit in succession with no rest between exercises:
- Walking Lunge with Twists: 10-16 repetitions each side. Muscles worked: hip flexors, quads, hamstrings & obliques on the down & twist phase (count of 4 or 5); glutes & back on the up phase (count of 3). Progression: Lunge with Overhead Press: 10-16 repetitions each side. Progression also works the shoulders & back.
- Overhead Triceps Extension: 10-16 repetitions. Grasp medicine ball between palms of both hands. Muscles worked: triceps on the up phase (count of 2); biceps on the down phase (count of 3 or 4)
- Seated Trunk Rotations: 10-16 repetitions each side. Works lower back & abdominal muscles, especially the obliques. Progression: Standing Trunk Rotations: 10-16 repetitions each side
- Squat: 10-16 repetitions. Hold medicine ball between hands in front of you at chest height. Muscles worked: core throughout all movements; hip flexors, quads, hamstrings & shins on down phase (count of 4 or 5); glutes & calves on up phase (count of 3). Progression: Single Leg Squats: 10-16 repetitions each side.
- Half Kneeling Hay Bailer: 10-16 repetitions each side. Muscles worked: obliques, upper back & shoulders on the up phase (count of 2); lats & obliques on the down phase (count of 3 or 4). Progression: Standing Hay Bailer: 10-16 repetitions each side.
- After performing each exercise once, rest for 1-2 minutes and repeat the circuit (walking lunges through hay bailers) for a second set of each exercise. After performing the complete circuit twice, perform the flexibility workout.
Flexibility Workout: Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and breathe deeply throughout each stretch:
- Overhead Triceps Stretch: 20-30 seconds each arm
- Warrior I: stretches legs, obliques & back, be sure to stretch both sides
- Cat-Cow: targets abs, chest & back, hold each pose for 20-30 seconds
- Cobra: stretches abs & hip flexors
- Childs Pose: a relaxing stretch for your core & glutes to end your workout
Author’s Note: Always consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program.
Check back for these upcoming Fit&Happier Workouts of the Month – May: Stability Ball Strength Training; June: Balance & Strength Training; July: Functional Training (Strength); August: Interval Training (Cardio); September: Schoolyard Play Workout (Combo); October: Outdoor Cardio & Strength Combo; November: Timed Circuit (Combo); December: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training-Cardio)
Click on the link to view previous Activity-Specific Workouts of the Month: Hockey & Cross-Country Skiing, Snowboarding & Figure Skating, Golf & Softball, Distance Running, Racquet Sports, Swimming, Waterskiing & Surfing, Cycling, Rowing & Desk Jockeys, Track, Field & Court Sports, Throwing & Pitching, Dancing, Downhill Skiing