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The medicine ball workout

Like a lot of other exercise equipment, the medicine ball started out in physical therapy programs, but you needed a partner to use it. Now you don’t, if you get a new device called the Plyoback. “Today” fitness expert Kathy Kaehler explains how it works.The medicine ball is a weighted ball that has long been used to strengthen the upper body muscles and, like much of the exercise equipment
/ Source: TODAY

Like a lot of other exercise equipment, the medicine ball started out in physical therapy programs, but you needed a partner to use it. Now you don’t, if you get a new device called the Plyoback. “Today” fitness expert Kathy Kaehler explains how it works.

The medicine ball is a weighted ball that has long been used to strengthen the upper body muscles and, like much of the exercise equipment that’s currently popular, it was first used in rehabilitation and physical therapy programs. The ball comes in weights of 2, 4, 7, 11 and 15 pounds.

But using the medicine ball typically requires a partner or a trainer and that’s not always an option for everyone. So about 10 years ago, the Plyoback was developed as the perfect medicine ball partner. It’s based on plyometric exercises which means that you work as many muscles as possible at one time for total body and bone building. It’s also adjustable to different angles. Working out in this way lengthens the muscle fibers and increases the strength of each muscle. Now, the medicine ball and Plyoback have made their way into homes and health clubs.

The Plyoback operates about the same way as a pitchback in baseball. You throw the medicine ball against the Plyoback and it bounces back to you. Seems simple, but you’re working your chest muscles, shoulders, core and abs while getting resistance from the weight of the ball. If you’re looking for something a little different, this adds an element of fun to your workout. And it’s excellent training for any sport that requires strength.

You can also use the Plyoback for jogging and when you fold it down it converts to a mini trampoline that the whole family can use.

The Plyoback alone costs $378. The whole package, including a set of balls of different weights and a ball rack comes to $575. It also comes in “Babyback,” which is the same except that the angle is fixed and it doesn’t lift up or down. This one’s $345.

THE EXERCISES:

Chest pass:

Stand in front of the Plyoback, throw the ball at it and catch it on the return. In this one activity, you use your chest muscles, shoulders, core and abs.

Trunk Twist: This is the same as the chest pass, but it’s a sideways throw. Throw the ball while twisting and twist again to catch it. This is for abs, obliques, arms and back.

One-arm throw: Picking up a lighter ball, throw and catch it with one hand. This is good for shoulder strength and for rehabilitating the rotator cuff, as well as for the core.

Overhead throw: Bending on one knee with a ball in both hands, throw an overhead pass. Now you’ve added in upper body, lats, core and ab strengthening.

Ab toss: Lying on your back with the ball extended behind your head, throw the ball as you do a sit-up, and catch the ball before going back down. This is more of an intermediate exercise. It adds another challenge requiring skill and timing.

Partner twist: (No Plyoback) Partners should be back to back. Using a heavier ball, the first partner looks over her left shoulder and passes the ball to the second partner who looks over her right shoulder to accept the pass. Then the second partner moves the ball across her body, looks over her left shoulder and passes it back to the first partner. This is for the trunk and core muscles.

Jump: Place the ball between your feet, bends your knees, jump up lifting the ball in the air with your feet and catching it with your hands before landing back down. This works all your muscles at one time.

Kathy Kaehler is the fitness consultant for “Today.” Please remember that these are only recommendations for getting in shape. Always see a medical doctor for a complete physical before partaking in any type of physical fitness program.