Kick up the intensity of your abdominal and oblique exercises by throwing a medicine ball into the mix. Regular crunches force your abs and obliques to lift up the weight of your head and shoulders, but if you add a medicine ball, your core muscles have to take on your own body weight and the weight of the ball, forcing them to work even harder.
A common training misconception is that the more often you do your ab workout, the greater the results. But, your abdominals and obliques are just like your other muscles and to effectively train them, you’ve got to provide them rest periods in between workouts. Complete your medicine ball workouts two or three days per week, with one to two days in between each session so your muscles can recover. Complete each exercise for two sets of 20 to 30 repetitions.
To target the rectus abdominis muscle, which is the primary muscle in your stomach, grab a medicine ball and complete the straight-arm crunch and suitcase crunch. For the straight-arm crunch, lie on your back with your legs straight and held up vertically. Hold the medicine ball over your chest with your arms extended fully. Crunch up and tap the ball against your feet, and then lower your shoulders to the floor. To perform the suitcase crunch, lie on your back with your legs extended and a medicine ball in your hands with your arms straight behind you. Crunch up as you swing the ball over your head while you simultaneously bring one knee toward your chest. Touch the ball to your toes and then extend your arms and legs back to the starting position. On the next repetition, bring up the other knee to touch the opposite set of toes.
To target your obliques, which are located on either side of your torso, incorporate the medicine ball seated twist and the standing wood chop. For the medicine ball seated twist, sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Hold a medicine ball at your chest. Recline back and pick your feet up off the floor. Hold yourself in that position as you rotate your hips and shoulders to the left until your torso is perpendicular to your legs, and then rotate back to your right. Continue twisting back and forth until all assigned repetitions are complete. For the standing wood chop, set your feet shoulder-width apart with a medicine ball down by the side of your right hip. Twist to the left as you swing the medicine ball across your body and up over your left shoulder. Rotate back to the starting position and repeat. After you’re done with your set, switch sides.
Medicine balls come in an array of weights. The weight you should use is dependent on your strength and it could vary between 2 to 25 pounds. Choose one that makes it challenging for you to complete each set. If you perform 30 repetitions of an exercise with a weighted ball and still feel like you could easily perform more repetitions, you aren’t maximizing strength and toning benefits. In addition, you may need a heavier weighted ball for one exercise and a lighter one for another exercise. During the oblique exercises, begin with a lighter weighted ball until you build strength and avoid jerking as you twist back and forth to minimize the stress on your spine.
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.