Power Ball

Fitness
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Fitness
Evolution 1205

Forget the fancy equipment. All you need to muscle up for the mountains is a dose of good old-fashioned medicine. So, you've been doing squats since October. But if you can't translate that strength into quick, powerful movements, your efforts won't mean squat on the hill. How about revisiting an old-school exercise tool? The medicine ball will help you achieve ski fitness that emphasizes not just strength, but also explosive power, core stability and split-second responses.

"Skiers use heavier weights to build strength, but the medicine ball is a much lighter option that helps you move more dynamically, says Andy Higgins, co-author of Medicine Ball Training and director of the National Coaching Institute in Ontario, Canada. The result is faster, more fluid skiing and reduced risk of injury, which is why the U.S. Ski Team incorporates medicine balls into all phases of training, says Per Lundstam of the U.S. Ski Team's Sport Science Department. "It teaches you to adapt very quickly.

To learn to adjust to whatever the mountain throws your way, try the following workout. Work on the basics for several weeks to cultivate core and leg strength, then progress to the advanced moves, which will help you translate that strength into smooth, powerful turns.[NEXT "Lift"]Lift

Basic
Lie facedown on the floor and hold a medicine ball out in front of your head with both hands. Keeping your arms steady and your face downward, lift your chest several inches off the ground. Lower to just above the starting position. Do three sets of 12 reps.

Advanced
Lie facedown on an exercise ball so that it supports your hips and lower torso. Brace your feet against a wall or have a partner hold them on the floor. Hold a medicine ball in front of you so it's touching the floor. Raise your chest until your body is in a straight line, tossing the ball in the air as you lift. Catch the ball and lower to starting position, but don't touch it to the floor. Do three sets of five reps.

Target Muscles
upper back, lower back, glutes, triceps[NEXT "Crunch"]Crunch

Basic
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a ball in both hands with your arms outstretched behind your head. Tighten your abs and crunch up, keeping your arms steady above your head and your lower back on the floor. Do three sets of 12 reps.

Advanced
Use the same form as the basic move, but pull up farther so your lower back is off the floor. As you come up, keep your hands overhead and toss the ball to a partner or bounce it off a rebounder (see page 194). Stay up until you receive the ball back, then lower to the starting position with a slow, controlled movement. Do three sets of five reps.

Target Muscles
abs, lats, triceps[NEXT "Twist"]Twist

Basic
Lie on the floor with your knees bent. Hold a medicine ball above your chest with both hands and crunch up. Keep your tailbone on the floor and use your abs to hold yourself up. With your arms extended, rotate to the left and touch the ball to the floor. Return to the center, pause, then rotate to the right. Do three sets of 20.

Advanced
As you return to the center after rotating to the left, throw the ball to a partner, who should be seated ahead of you and to your right. Receive the ball back and twist again to your left, touching the ball to the floor. Do five reps, then have your partner move ahead of you and to your left, and do five to the right. Repeat for a total of three sets.

Target Muscles
abs, obliques, chest, triceps[NEXT "Squat"]Squat

Basic
Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, and hold a medicine ball in front of you with both hands. Slowly drop your glutes back as if you were sitting in a chair. Keeping your weight on your heels, your knees behind your toes and your chest lifted, lower as far as you can without losing your form. As you squat, lower the ball between your legs until it's almost touching the floor. Then stand up and press the ball up above your head. Lower the ball to the starting position. Do three sets of 12 reps.

Advanced
When you're almost touching the floor with the ball, explode upward, tossing the ball above you as hard as you can (don't try this one with a low ceiling). Do three sets of five tosses. Also, try doing the squat on one leg instead of two to improve your balance.

Target Muscles
quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, shoulders, triceps[NEXT "Lunge"]Lunge

Basic
Stand between two lines about 10 feet apart. Hold the medicine ball in front of you with both hands. Step explosively to your left, landing your left foot across the line. Lower the ball to the outside of your left ankle as you drop into a side lunge position. Then reverse the motion, rotating your body to a forward position as you straighten and hop back to the center. Repeat, moving to the right instead of to the left. Do two sets of 20 lunges (10 on each side).

Advanced
Have a partner stand in front of you and throw the ball to you so that you receive it as you start to drop into the side lunge. Lower the ball to the outside of your ankle as you lunge. As you explode up, toss the ball back to your partner, rotating your trunk back toward the center.

Target Muscles
quads, hamstrings, glutes, hip abductors, calves, trunk rotators, chest, triceps, shoulders[NEXT "Power Tips"]Power Tips

Start with a lightweight ball (one to three pounds) and progress to a heavier one. Don't attempt the advanced exercises until you've mastered the basics. For exercises that involve throwing and jumping, Lundstam suggests limiting your reps to five. "With fewer reps, he explains, "the emphasis is on stimulating your neuro system rather than just building muscle. That'll help you coordinate your muscle contractions. Ultimately, you'll be faster, stronger, more explosive.

The Medicine Cabinet
Enhance your med-ball training with these tools. Substitute a wall for a workout partner with Power Systems Power Med-Ball ($13—$50, depending on weight), which has a hollow construction that allows it to bounce (power-systems.com). Or try the Topaz Medical Medi-Ball Rebounder ($495; $639 with six balls and two workout books). It adjusts easily for predictable returns (topazusa.com).

The burst-resistant Ball Dynamics Fitball ($30) challenges your core-stabilizing muscles, increasing the challenge of medicine-ball training and making any workout more ski-specific (fitball.com).

If a balance board and an exercise ball got together, their offspring would be the Exertools Dyna-Disc ($25). It will boost your balance and strengthen your core (exertools.com). December 2005