If you've been training long enough, chances are that just about everything you do is routine. Possibly the worst part of having a routine is monotony and boredom, especially when it comes to warming-up; you know it's important, but damn if it isn't downright boring!
The med ball warm-ups below are sure to break the monotony and make training fun again! However, keep this in mind ... this isn't a traditional warm-up routine.
Gone are the days of watching Britney Spears run around half-naked on the TV screen in front of you. These warm-ups are guaranteed to get the blood flowing and your body and mind ready to train.
According to Alter, here are just a few of the benefits of a thorough warm-up:
- Increased rate and strength of muscle contraction.
- Increased muscle coordination through related movements.
- Increased metabolic rate.
- Increased efficiency of the neuromuscular system.
- Increased work capacity.
- Reduced possibility of injury through increased muscle elasticity and improving joint ROM.
- Psychological benefits.
Med balls are an excellent medium because you can throw them, bounce them, and a variety of other things (keep your minds out of the gutter here!) I'm going to describe the individual exercises first, and then give you some basic routines you can use in place of your current boring warm-up.
Med Ball Exercises
Before I get into the specific exercises, let's discuss something: Have some fun while doing these exercises! As I stated before, this isn't your average boring warm-up. Perform the exercises with some snap and get a nice sweat going. Not only will you be better prepared for your workout, but you'll enjoy the warming-up process a hell of a lot more than you do now!
Chest Pass Against Wall
Start with the med ball in front of your chest. The knees should be slightly bent and your body in an athletic position. To start, take a step with one leg, and pass the ball into the wall. Catch and repeat with the opposite leg. This exercise is excellent for warming-up the pecs, shoulders and triceps before a bench workout.
Overhead Throw Against Wall
Start with the med ball overhead and the body in an athletic position. Stride forward with one leg and toss the ball from the overhead position against the wall. Catch and repeat with the opposite leg. This drill focuses on loosening up the abdominals, lats and triceps.
For this exercise you'll be holding the ball with both hands off to one side of the body. From here use the hips and core to whip the ball forward at an angle so you can receive it on the opposite side.
Catch on the opposite side, and then repeat until back at the starting position. The rotational muscles of the core are the primary target here.
This exercise is similar to the side-to-side twists, with the exception being you're only going to use one hand at a time, and you're also not going to throw the ball. Start with the ball held in one hand and the arm extended to the side of the body.
Swing the arm to the front of the body, and take the ball with the opposite hand. Take the ball back as far as possible by rotating the hips, and then return to the middle of the body and switch hands again. Repeat as necessary.
There have been plenty of excellent articles written for Elite regarding proper squatting technique, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here. This also isn't the time or place to extol the virtues of squatting in your program, but needless to say I feel like squats are probably the single-most powerful exercise you can use in a strength training program.
But I digress ... this exercise will loosen up virtually every muscle in your low body, so if you're not going to use it to strengthen your body, the least you can do is use it to loosen up a bit!
Start with the med ball in front of your chest; sit back with the hips until your thighs are below parallel. Return to the starting position and repeat as necessary. Make sure to keep the chest up and low back arched throughout the movement.
Holding a med ball next to your chest, perform a squat. As you come up to the top position, drive the med ball overhead into an overhead press position. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Holding a med ball next to your chest, perform a full-squat. As you come up to the top position, push the med ball in front of you like a bench press. Return to the starting position and repeat.
If you've ever performed good mornings before, there is no difference between the barbell and med-ball versions of this exercise. Start by holding the ball with both hands on the upper back. With soft knees and the chest up, push the butt back as far as your flexibility will allow. When you feel like you are about to round over, squeeze the glutes and hamstrings and return to the starting position.
The lunge is a staple exercise in most training programs and for good reason. Very few exercises simultaneously hit the quads, glutes and hamstrings, so using it as a part of a warm-up is really a no-brainer. I'll describe two different versions here: the basic lunge and the lunge with a twist.
The basic lunge is performed just like it sounds. Hold the med ball in front of the chest, and take an exaggerated stride forward. Land on the heel, lower the hips and torso until the back knee is close to the ground, and then drive back off the heel to the starting position. If you want to mix it up, feel free to perform the walking version of this exercise as well.
Lunge With A Twist
The second version increases the balance and coordination requirements, as well as increasing the stretch of the hip flexors. Instead of starting with the ball in front of the chest, let the arms hang down with the ball at hip level.
Take a step forward with one leg, and as you lower into the lunge position, act like you are going to throw the ball up and over the shoulder of the lead leg. Another similar option is to hold the ball in the same side hand and twist the entire torso with the ball extended to that side.
Walking Toe Touch
Several of the dynamic flex stretches I utilize are based around the toe touch, but the med ball kicks the intensity up several notches. If you've ever performed this exercise before, you'll know that it not only improves your dynamic range of motion, but also your balance and coordination as well.
With the med ball at arms length down by the hips, take a step forward, placing the weight on the heel. Lower the ball down toward the top of the foot, while simultaneously swinging the opposite leg back. You will get an awesome stretch in the hamstrings of both legs, but specifically the stance leg. Step and repeat with the opposite leg.
Don't over think this one! Start with the ball held in front of your chest and jump as high as you can.
The woodchopper series is excellent for integrating upper and lower body function. The feet should be wider than hip width, and let the arms hang down with the med ball held in front of the hips. From here, shift the hips down and back as if performing a deadlift, and allow the med ball to swing back in-between the legs.
Reverse the motion by extending the hips, knees and ankles and allowing the shoulders and med ball to come up high overhead. Repeat throughout the full ROM for the desired number of repetitions.
Start in the same position as the previous exercise, with the only exception being that the feet should be shoulder width apart. Twist with the ball to the outside of the thighs, and then reverse across the body as if you are going to throw the ball over the opposite shoulder. Perform the desired number of repetitions and then repeat on the opposite side.
Forward Underhand Tosses
This exercise is actually very similar to the forward woodchopper, only now you're going to launch the ball into the stratosphere overhead! The execution is identical: Shift the hips back and let the ball swing between your legs and then violently triple extend and launch the ball up as high as possible!
Obviously this exercise is best performed outdoors; something tells me that manager at your local Bally's wouldn't be too thrilled with you putting holes in their ceiling!
Both circles and Figure 8's are excellent exercises to warm-up the multi-planar muscles of the shoulder girdle. When you perform them, resist the urge to envision yourself as the next member of the Harlem Globetrotters!
Circles are fairly simple: All you're going to do is loop the ball around your body from head-to-toe. Start off making some circles around your hips, passing the ball from hand to hand in the process.
Make a few circles here, and then progressively move the ball up so that you're passing it around your head. Make a few circles, here, and then work it back down to your hips, knees and ankles.
Start off with the legs wider than hip width and bend over at the waist. Start with the ball in your right hand in front of your right leg. From here, take it back between your legs so you receive it with your left hand behind your left leg.
Loop it around this leg (now it's in the front), between the legs and then receive it with the right hand behind the right leg. Repeat for the necessary repetitions, and then make the '8' in the opposite direction.
Med Ball Routines
Now that you are familiar with the individual exercises, let's put the pieces together into a couple easy-to-follow routines. For the ADD individual in all of us, I've supplied you with three different routines so that you have options and will be more likely to use these warm-ups in your program.
The ballistic med ball warm-up is a little different from the other two I'll be describing, so I'll take care of it first and foremost. This one is also probably the most fun because you can take out a lot of rage and aggression if need be!
The ballistic med ball warm-up is just that: Ballistic! Not all of the exercises involve throws, but it is necessary to have a ball that bounces. Another key is to have a reinforced wall you can bounce things off of. Finally, when you are performing these exercises, make sure your hips and shoulders are square to the wall throughout.
Here is the routine for the ballistic med ball warm-up:
- Chest Pass Against Wall
- Overhead Throw Against Wall
- Side-to-Side Twists
- Forward Underhand Tosses
*All exercises are performed for 10 repetitions. For exercises such as the side-to-side twists, 10 repetitions are performed for each side.
Dynamic Warm-Up #1 (Upper Body Emphasis)
Warm-up #1 is a mix of core and upper body med ball exercises. I find this workout is great before upper body workouts, specifically because you warm-up all the muscles of the core and upper body (specifically the shoulders, pecs and upper back).
Below is the progression:
- Woodchopper Forward
- Side-to-Side Woodchopper
- Figure 8
*All exercises are performed for 10 repetitions. For exercises such as the side-to-side woodchopper, 10 repetitions are performed for each side.
Dynamic Warm-up #2 (Lower Body & Dynamic Flexibility
This final warm-up is excellent before you perform lower body work. An added bonus to this is that you get some dynamic flexibility work with the good mornings, lunges and walking toe touch.
- Trunk Twists
- Good Mornings
- Walking Toe Touch
- Vertical Jumps
*All exercises are performed for 10 repetitions. For exercises such as the lunge and walking toe touch, 5 repetitions are performed for each side.
Let's be honest here: We all know that we should warm-up thoroughly before we train, but how many of us actually do?
Warming-up doesn't have to be another tedious component of our training, after all, that's what we have flexibility for! So next time you hit the gym, incorporate one of these routines and watch your workout reap the benefits!
About The Author
Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., U.S.A.W., is the Director of Custom Athletics and President of Robertson Training Systems in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mike received his Masters in Sports Biomechanics from the Human Performance Lab at Ball State University.
Mike has been a competitive powerlifter for the last 4.5 years and is currently the USA Powerlifting State Chair in Indiana. To contact Mike, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.