You don’t need dumbbells or a gym membership to get in shape. Colorful, weighted rubber balls called “medicine balls” can take the place of traditional dumbbells. They’re a fun way to make exercise seem less like work and more like play! Best yet, the variety of medicine ball exercises requires you to engage your core muscles so your abs get a serious workout to boot!
Tips for core training with a medicine ball
Begin with a ball that’s no more than five percent of your body weight for a warm-up.
Work within your capabilities: Start off slowly, especially if you haven’t been off the couch since Taylor Hicks won American Idol (no one else remembers him either).
Keep in mind your legs may be strong but the smaller joints of the wrists, elbow and shoulder may not be, which is another reason to start slowly.
Medicine ball exercises for your core
Try these basic moves as part of your abs routine or on their own.
Squats with medicine ball
Start position: Keep feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, toes pointing straight ahead. Hold the medicine ball straight out in front of you, arms parallel to the floor.
Movement: Keeping your toes and knees pointed straight ahead (don’t allow your knees to cave in) and abdominals tight, slowly bend the knees and lower hips towards the ground, keeping heels on the floor and arms straight ahead. Lower your body into a squat position until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor, then slowly return to your starting position, pushing through your heels.
Perform: Repeat 15 times.
Torso rotation with a partner
This exercise works best with a larger soccer- or basketball-size medicine ball.
Start position: Stand back-to-back with a partner, about six inches apart. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, abdominals contracted.
Movement: Holding the ball in front, Person A quickly rotates to her right, passing the ball to Person B, who rotates to her left to accept the ball. Person A immediately turns to accept the ball on her left side and rotates again to pass it back to Person B on her right.
Perform: Repeat 10 times, then switch sides of rotation.
Abdominal crunches with a twist
This targets all the major ab muscles.
Start position: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Holding a medicine ball in front of you, arms straight ahead, lean back to approximately a 45-degree angle until you feel your abdominal muscles engage to keep you from falling all the way back.
Movement: With your abdominals tight (pull your bellybutton in towards your spine), keep your arms straight and rotate your entire upper body (not just your arms!) as your eyes follow the ball side to side, exhaling as you turn to each side.
Perform: Repeat 10 times each side or until you lose good form.