Medicine balls are a cheap and versatile piece of exercise equipment, and, yet, few people realize their true potential within high intensity exercise programming. This potential is a testament to their durability against being thrown, smashed, or tossed; it is quite difficult to break them. This property lends them well to HIIT exercise, allowing you to utilize maximal, explosive force when exercising. In this article, we will review a seven exercise HIIT circuit that uses only a medicine ball to test your entire body.
1. Hulk Smashes
Up first in the circuit are Hulk Smashes. In this exercise, the medicine is lifted overhead with both hands then thrusted towards the ground and caught on the bounce back up before being thrown again. By putting the entirety of your force into the smash, it, like other exercises in this circuit allows you to drastically raise your heart rate to +80% maximum as recommend for HIIT training (Zuhl & Kravitz, 2012). The exercise heavily recruits your abdominals, lats, posterior shoulder, and triceps.
2. Old Grannies
These Hulk Smashes can be followed by an exercise that applies the same movement pattern but in reverse: Old Grannies. Reminiscent of the two-hand, between the legs shot in basketball or bowling, Old Grannies require you to perform that same between the legs motion but toss the medicine ball vertically, up into the air as high as you can. Catching it after its first bounce and tossing it with maximal effort again becomes taxing very quickly: a good goal for any efficacious HIIT circuit. In your tosses, ensure to bend at the knees and waist, adopting strong deadlift-style form, and recruit your glutes to send the ball that extra few feet.
As Old Grannies work in a similar movement pattern but opposite direction to Hulk Smashes, these two exercises well complement each other. The relaxed antagonist muscles (those that oppose the movement of primary mover “agonist” muscles) in the first exercise become agonist muscles in the second and vice versa allowing more muscle groups to be worked by their combination. This exercise primarily recruits the glutes, upper and lower back, and anterior shoulders.
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The following exercise better recruits the obliques, quads, and lateral shoulders and are called Shovelers. In a Shoveler, the medicine ball is again held in two hands and pulled from the ground to over the head, but this time, it crosses the midline of the body. That is, the exerciser starts in a squat-like position with the medicine ball in two hands touching the ground as far outside of one foot as they can reach. The exercise movement is then a shovelling action as if the medicine ball were dirt and you are exploding upward to a standing position and trying to toss the dirt over your opposite shoulder. This exercise works nicely with a wall to hit the ball against or a partner doing the same exercise so you can *clink* the two medicine balls together. Remember to include the exercise on both sides in your circuit!
4. Chest Passes
Chest Passes are your fourth exercise in the circuit. Identical to a basketball chest pass, during this exercise, the medicine ball is squeezed between two hands at the chest and thrown by pushing the ball outward. Perform this exercise against a wall or with a partner to have the ball come right back to you, maximizing the number of passes in the circuit interval and keeping your heart rate up. This exercise is excellent for your chest, core, and triceps.
5. Crawl Out
Our next exercise recruits a number of muscles groups but is primarily aimed at increasing the strength of the core. In a Crawl Out, the exerciser gets into a plank position with both hands on the medicine ball. They then attempt to roll the ball out as far as they can maintain good posture in their plank and then crawl with feet back to their initial plank position. For our HIIT circuit, this should be done at speed to keep heart rates high; exercisers should prioritize distance achieved over the course of the time interval rather than trying to achieve the greatest spread possible in the plank position. This exercise can also be done with bent arms to increase the demand on the triceps and biceps or by simultaneously rolling out the ball and crawling with the legs to ease the difficulty.
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6. Russian Twists
Russian Twists are one of my favourite exercises and any medicine ball circuit would be remiss without them. These twists target the abdominals, obliques and hip flexors by having the exerciser adopt a sitting position, legs bent and out front, with the medicine ball in two hands. The exerciser then reclines backward, lifting their feet off the ground and balancing on their bum. Next, they rotate their trunk to tap the medicine ball on the ground on either side of them, alternating sides and repeating. As this exercise can be quite difficult, it can be helpful to tuck your feet under a stable surface to maintain balance and reduce the workload when just starting out.
The final exercise of our circuit will be Dunks. Dunks are fantastic for working the quads, glutes and calves, and are much like what they sound. In this exercise, you will begin by face a wall and holding the medicine ball overhead. You then squat down and jump as high as you can, tapping the ball against the wall at your highest point. Pick a spot on the wall to tap and see how long you can maintain it over the interval. This exercise will be much of what you make it, and so to get the best burn, ensure you are jumping as high as possible and keeping the tempo up.
Combining these seven exercises into a quick 24-minute circuit can give you the workout you need for the day to lose weight and live healthier. Try two rounds of 45 seconds on and 45 seconds off. If you’re looking to build endurance, lengthen the “on” interval relative to the off or increase the number of rounds. If you are looking for a more traditional HIIT circuit, up the rest period and ensure you have the energy to go all out when you are on.
Have a good workout Forever Fit Sciences!
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