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A new day for old-school fitness

Throwback equipment

“The trend is moving off machines,” says Jordan Evans, health fitness specialist at Wellmark’s Well for Life Center. Some regular gym-goers are tiring of treadmills, elliptical trainers and weight machines. For some, it’s an issue of not getting the results they want. For others, it’s just wanting a change of pace.

Whatever the case, medicine balls are back in play, along with other "throwback" equipment like jump ropes and kettle bells.

Not the medicine balls of years past

The newest medicine balls aren’t necessarily the rock-hard versions you might remember from gym class. Yes, those are still out there, and it’s likely you’ll find those in your gym. Here, we’ll focus on the latest weighted balls, which are bigger and softer and are sometimes called slam or wall balls. They are 14-inches in diameter no matter what weight you select and usually made of synthetic leather.

“I prefer using the latest, soft-type medicine balls”, says Evans. “They don’t bounce back at you. Most importantly, they won’t hit you in the face,” she laughs.

The right medicine ball workout will give you results, while saving you time in the gym.

“In one 20-minute sweat session with this piece of simple equipment, you can get an effective full-body workout,” says Evans. She says many of today’s gym-goers are looking for shorter, more intense workouts. “Many of my clients don’t have an hour to spend in the gym. Or, they are simply getting better results this way.”

Medicine balls provide great intensity, variety and bang for your buck. You don’t need a lot of money or space. You can find them stacked in the corner of your gym. Or, you can purchase one for home use, starting at about $30 each.

In her fitness classes, Evans often incorporates soft-type medicine balls. “Most people wouldn’t know how to use them outside of class,” she says. “The easiest way to use them is by simply walking around with them. You can hug the ball and walk or jog. You can carry it on one shoulder, and for a bigger challenge, you can carry it with both arms overhead.”

Medicine ball workout

Beginners should start with a 10-pound soft-type medicine ball and work up to a 15- to 20-pound medicine ball. Do 15 reps of each exercise, and complete the series three times.

Walking lunge with medicine ball twist

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding the medicine ball directly in front of you, with a slight bend in the elbows. Step with your right leg forward into a lunge, keeping your thigh parallel to the floor. Twist from your torso over your right leg with the ball. Then step through to a lunge with your left leg and twist left.

Make it harder:

Use a heavier ball, add more reps or move at a faster speed.

Weighted crunch

Lie on your back, holding the ball with both hands at chest, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift your body up and forward so your head, neck and shoulder blades lift off the floor. Hold for a moment, then lower slowly back to the floor.

Make it harder:

In a seated position, hold the ball with both hands at chest height, and lift legs off the ground to a 45-degree angle (or as close as possible). Twist from the core and tap the ground with the ball on each side of the body. The faster you twist and the higher you hold your heels off the ground, the more you’ll feel the burn.

Ball slam

Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the medicine ball with both hands, and lift it overhead. Bend at the hips, slightly hinging forward, and slam the ball as hard as possible on the ground in front of you. Retrieve the ball and repeat, keeping the core engaged the entire time.

Make it harder:

Add speed, use a heavier ball, add a squat while retrieving the ball or add more reps.

Squat with ball

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed forward. Hold the medicine ball out in front of your body, slightly above your chest, with arms straight. Do not lock your elbows. Bend your knees, as if you are sitting on a seat behind you, keeping your weight on your heels and your body as straight as possible. Keep your gaze in front of you. Lower yourself as far as you can, not past a 90-degree angle at your knees. Return to upright position.

Make it harder:

Try a squat toss or a wall ball. Hold the ball at chest height, keep your gaze up, lower into squat. Explode up to standing and toss the ball overhead or as high as possible against a wall. Catch the ball and drop back into a squat.

Want to add more challenge to this workout?

Grab a jump rope and jump 50–100 times between each set of exercises.

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