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Medicine Ball Training, Part II
Last month we discussed the use of medicine balls for partner and abdominal exercises. This month, we’ve included some climbing-specific exercises you can add to your workouts. Remember that you can easily perform just about any free weight exercise using medicine balls. They provide a good training option for rehab purposes if you currently experience any elbow or finger tendon strain. Try working with an open-palm grip with medicine balls and see if your arms start to feel better.
Ball Squat Push-Press
To strengthen shoulders, muscles in the core, and legs all at once, hold a substantial medicine ball at your chest, with feet wide apart and toes turned out, as though you were standing close to a climbing wall with your hips held in close to the wall. Squat down with ball at your chest, and as you stand, press the ball up overhead. Repeat for desired number of repetitions. This is an excellent endurance builder for the whole body if you work up to continuous movement for 1-2 minutes at a time. Be sure you keep your torso erect, weight back in the heels, and shoulders back to remain in the proper position.
Overhead Ball Squat
To strengthen shoulders, muscles in the core, and legs all at once, hold a substantial medicine ball overhead with palms parallel, feet about shoulder distance apart, and toes pointing straight forward. Squat down as far as you can comfortably go, keeping torso erect, abdominals tight to support the lower back, and arms up overhead throughout the exercise. If you have difficulty keeping arms up overhead, you may want to try this with a dowel, towel or broomstick with hands wide apart, until you get the necessary flexibility in the shoulders to hold yourself upright.
Grasp the ball with two hands and pivot lunge sideways to the right while extending both arms holding the ball. Keep the knee aligned with the toe, and keep the pivot foot on the floor. You will feel a stretch in both the left hip flexor and the left lats and obliques, while the right glutes and abdominals and lower back do the work to support the body as you reach. Repeat to the other side. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.
Medicine Ball Leg Lifts
This exercise will help you develop the core strength needed to keep your feet on holds on any overhangs. Lie on your back on the floor with a medicine ball squeezed between your knees or feet. Keep your lower back pressed into the floor and slowly raise your legs up until they are nearly vertical. With ball between the knees, the lever is shorter and the exercise will feel easier; once you can do this with proper form, move the ball to your feet or increase the weight. If you feel discomfort in the lower back, try this without the ball or with bent knees until you increase your abdominal and hip flexor strength. Be prepared to catch the ball if it drops from your feet.
Upper Body Exercises
To increase strength and power in your chest, shoulders and triceps, try this partner exercise. Stand about 15-20 feet from your partner and start with an 8-10 pound medicine ball. Position your feet together or stagger them slightly, to more closely simulate your particular sporting requirements (i.e. for playing basketball, you’d choose to stagger your stance). Pushing from your chest, with fingers on top of the ball or slightly forward, pass to your partner. Exhale as you pass the ball, and as the ball comes to you, let your arms move and cradle the ball as you catch it, in order to prevent jamming your fingers.
If you have any difficulty doing pushups with your palms flat on the floor, an option that might be more comfortable for the wrists is trying them with your hands on medicine balls. This option also challenges the muscles in the shoulders, abdominals and lower back, as the balls can roll.
Rotator Cuff: Propped External Rotation
Sit on a bench with one foot on the bench in front of you, knee bent and right angle to the elbow propped up on your knee directly in front of your chest. Pivot point is the elbow; slowly lower the ball until forearm is parallel to the floor, then exhale and lift back up to just shy of vertical (keeping constant tension in the muscle.) Start with a light (2-5#) ball, and keep the repetitions high (15-20). Repeat to the other side.
Pinch Grip Training
To add endurance in your fingers for pinch grip training, try using medicine balls. Start with a fairly small and light ball that you can hold easily in one hand with a pinch grip. Try to hold for 45-60 seconds. For more intensity, place one or two heavier balls on a bench in front of you and grasp each ball with one hand. To simulate climbing, hold the ball for 5-10 seconds, set it on the bench and pick it up with the other hand, alternating hands just as you would on the climbing wall. To work pinch grip endurance, build to 2-3 minutes of alternating hands.
For more grip training ideas, see BODY RESULTS grip pages.