Barbells and dumbbells are fine to pump up your muscles, but if you want what fitness freaks call core strength—the kind that makes your whole body strong from abs to fingertips—it's time to get some balls.
Medicine balls are making a big comeback in athletic training, and with good reason.
Because they involve twisting, turning and bending, medicine ball workouts train all the supporting muscles that don't get stressed during traditional strength-training exercises.
They also tend to use full-body movements, instead of just an arm or a leg curl, so they're unbeatable for increasing your core, or trunk, strength.
The better your core strength, the better you're able to transfer power through your body to your pedals. Plus, strong back and ab muscles help you ride longer without fatigue.
Medicine balls really work your central nervous system and connective tissues, so take the movements slow and easy when you start the exercises.
1. Downward Chop
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the ball behind your head, and then swing it down between your legs as if chopping wood. (Bend your knees slightly as you come down, as you would if you were hiking a football between your legs.)
Then swing it back up behind your head, straightening your body as you lift up. Start at a slow pace. Work up speed as you advance.
2. Squat and Toss
Stand with feet spread about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, upper body straight. Hold the ball at your chest. Squat down and then extend your legs up, throwing the ball directly overhead. (Not too high.)
Catch the ball, giving with your wrists and elbows to absorb the impact. Bring ball back to chest and repeat.
3. Side Chop
Kneel with knees spread about shoulder-width apart. Hold ball with both hands above your left shoulder. Bring the ball across your body and down to the outside of your right knee. Bring it back across your body to the starting position. Do a full set on each side.
For All Exercises:
- 10 reps on each set
- Start with one set, work up to two
- Use a 6- or 8-pound medicine ball
- Do this two days per week