Keeping the spine supple and the core muscles strong are important not only for athletes, but for regular everyday activities. If you garden, or play tennis, golf or basketball, or engage in any activity where turning, twisting or lifting are required you need this combination of flexibility and strength.
One simple yet effective way of strengthening the core and spinal muscle is with use of a medicine ball.
The medicine ball is a leather wrapped ball weighted with sand. Because it is round and a bit soft in places the sand/weight can shift, making it an awkward weight to move around. This awkwardness makes it great for firing off various muscles around the core that help strengthen and stabilize the area tremendously.
However, training with the medicine ball must be done correctly, or injury to the spine and back can occur. In today’s video article Alan Orr will show you two methods of training core strength with the medicine ball without using too much twist.
Rule #1 – Protect your spine
Your thoracic spine is mobile and your lumbar is also mobile. Your spine become more supple and mobile as it goes up from hips to head. When people train with the medicine ball, you often see them doing big twists from the lumbar or lower back to turn the body. However, the more you twist from the lower back with the heavy medicine ball the greater your chances of damaging, spasming or herniating the lower back.
Twisting is fine, for sport specific movement or overall mobility training, if done properly. Too many people twist and turn behind them to pass the medicine ball to a partner. This is great for motivation but not for spine safety. Here are two medicine ball exercises to develop core strength, while protecting the spine. The first is a mid-spine twist and the second is a full spine twist, all done safely.
Mid-Spine Twist – If I want to just train my abs, I can move the medicine ball without using a large motion to twisty my hips. To do this, stand feet apart with ball in front and utilize more thoracic (middle back) movement. As I twist back and forth I want to pre-tense or contract my abdominal muscles. Keep the abs tight, and squeeze them, as I breathe out. Try and leave your hips and lower body locked in place, but not tense, to use as much mid- to upper back movement as possible.
Whole Spine Twist – If you want to twist through your whole spine you need to use your legs. You rotate on one leg while pivoting the other leg and foot in the direction of the ball movement. This releases pressure on the lower back, but allows for more spinal twist overall for a wider area of conditioning. With this method you get a safe and natural twist from the lower to mid to upper spine.
Take your time with these exercises. You can use a medicine ball from a gym or purchased at a sporting goods store. Or, if no ball is around, you can hold a hand weight. The actual medicine ball is best, thought. Do the movements for 30 seconds at a time, for 3 sets. If this is too hard or easy, adjust accordingly. Overall, if you take your time and protect your spine, you can develop solid core strength, mobility and a supple spine.