Core-Building Medicine Ball Workout

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A medicine ball is a heavy, weighted ball that is used to strengthen the arms, legs and core muscles. Medicine balls vary in weight from a couple of pounds to as much as 25 pounds. Medicine balls differ from hand weights that are raised and lowered. Incorporating a medicine ball into your workout routine will involve twisting, bending, turning and tossing the ball. Exercises using a medicine ball can involve the full body and a wide range of muscles. As your core strength, arms and leg strength increases, move up to a heavier ball. 
An easy medicine ball exercise is the figure eight. Stand up straight with your legs slightly apart no wider than your shoulder width. Keep your feet flat on the floor and point your toes forward. Hold a medicine ball with both hands and extend the ball out in front of your abdomen. Move the ball in a figure eight, down, up and around to the right 5 times. Repeat the figure eight motion 5 times toward the left. Increase the number of repetitions or move up to a heavier ball when you can complete 10 repetitions without your arms feeling tired. 
Twists will strengthen your entire upper body, including your back and core muscles. Stand up straight with your feet apart. Hold a medicine ball with both hands with your elbows slightly bent toward your body. Swing the ball up to the right and twist your torso to the right with the momentum of the ball. Swing the ball back to the left turning your torso with the ball. Keep your feet planted on the floor and try to keep your heels from lifting up. Keep your abs tight during this exercise. Repeat this exercise 5 times in each direction. 

You can work your oblique muscles using a medicine ball. Lie down on your back and raise your knees toward your chest. Place a medicine ball between your knees and squeeze your knees to hold the ball. Place your hands palms down on each side of your body for stability. Keep your upper back on the floor during this exercise. Rotate your knees to the left as far as you can and then return to the center position. Rotate your knees to the right and return to center. Do 5 repetitions on each side. 

Fun Exercise Ball Workout

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An exercise ball, also called a balance ball, is a great piece of equipment to develop balance and muscle strength. The exercise ball comes in a variety of sizes so that almost everyone can find a size that fits their body type and the intensity of their workout. The balance ball works large and small muscle groups as well as stimulating proprioceptors for a total body workout. Proprioceptors are sensors in the body that tell us where our body is in space and in relation to other objects. Proprioceptors let us know where a part of our body is in relation to the rest of our body. We can tell without looking if our knees are bent or if our hand is raised. Working out on an exercise ball can help sharpen proprioceptors for improved balance. 
Squats on an exercise ball help develop your core muscles, including your abdominal muscles and glutes. Stand up straight with an exercise ball between your lower back and a wall. Lean against the ball and hold your hands at your sides with your hands on your hips. Point your toes forward and slide your feet about hip-width apart. Try to keep your feet flat on the floor, squeeze your abdominal muscles and slowly lower your body toward the floor as if you are going to sit down on a chair. Stop when the top of your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are bent at a 90 degree angle. If you can’t go all the way to a “sitting” position, go as low as you can without pain and hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds. Exhale and push your body back to standing position. Repeat this exercise for 5 to 10 repetitions.
Stretches and bridges are good way to strengthen your abdomen, back, neck, arms and leg muscles. Get on the floor on your hands and knees and place the exercise ball under your belly. Lift and extend your right arm and your left leg. Stretch your arm and leg away from the center of your body out to to the sides. Hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds and return to the start position. Repeat this exercises with your left arm and your right leg. Breathe in and tighten your abs when stretching and then exhale when returning to the start position.  

Place the exercise ball on the floor and position it underneath your belly. Place your palms flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart with your fingers pointed forward. Keep your head, neck and spine in a straight line. Extend your legs in a straight line with your spine and slowly walk your body forward on  your hands. Keep your belly balanced on the ball and allow the ball to roll beneath your body. Go as far forward as you can. Beginners may want to stop when the ball is underneath their thighs. As you get stronger and your balance improves, walk forward until the ball is underneath your ankles. Walk back until the ball is back underneath your belly. 

Get Fit & Save Money

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Health club dues, gym memberships and exercise class fees can be expensive. Exercise equipment, such as treadmills, step machines and exercise bikes can costs hundreds of dollars. Getting fit doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many ways to get fit and save some money on exercise equipment and membership fees.  
Shop at discount stores and large department stores for quality exercise equipment that won’t break the bank. Buying used exercise equipment is another option. Some exercise and sporting goods stores offer reconditioned, refurbished and used exercise equipment at discounts. Shop online and compare prices. When shopping online for any product, make sure to check out the seller for reliability and trustworthiness. There will probably be some shipping costs involved for online purchases, so take shipping into account when comparing costs.
If you can’t afford a full set of free weights and a weight bench, opt for a set of adjustable dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells are less expensive than a full set of free weights and you can add or subtract the amount of weight depending on your strength, endurance and the kind of exercise you want to do. A cheap way to make your own hand weights is to recycle milk jugs and juice containers. Fill them with water and lift them using the handle on the jug. 
Save money on exercise classes by using DVDs at home. Many movie rental store carry a wide variety of exercise DVDs including dance aerobics, yoga, tai chi and strength training exercises. You can buy exercise DVDs almost anywhere movies are available for sale. Your local library may also lend exercise DVDs. Check with your library’s media center for titles. You can also invite a friend or two to split the cost of a set of exercise DVDs and share or work out together. Community centers and organizations like the YMCA offer low cost programs and memberships. Dance classes are an excellent way to get in shape. Check with your local community center for programs and costs. The YMCA has a wide variety of fitness programs and many YMCA centers provide an indoor swimming pool, basketball courts, ping pong and weight rooms. The cost is less than a gym membership and family plans are often available. 
The best exercise will cost you no money. Walking, bicycling, jogging and exercising at home doing push-ups, sit-ups, crunches and lunges will help you get in shape without spending money.  If you need help putting together a fitness program, a personal fitness trainer can help you design your own unique workout.

Gym Exercise Equipment You Should Be Using

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There are many different types of gym equipment designed to work out everything from individual muscle groups to your whole body. If you belong to a gym, or if you are thinking about joining a gym to get in shape, make sure that there are qualified personal trainers on staff. Get a complete check up from your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. 

Cable resistance exercise machines can help you tone and strengthen upper and lower body muscle groups. Cable machines maintain a constant resistance that your legs or arms work against. Cable machines can be adjusted by resistance and the muscle group you want to work. You can perform many different types of exercises on one of these machines, including shoulder presses, abdominal crunches, lateral raises and strengthening exercises for your biceps and triceps. Start out slow on one of these machines to avoid muscle soreness. Limit your first workout to about 5 minutes every other day. Skip a day between workouts to allow your muscles to heal and soreness to abate. Slowly increase the amount of time you spend on the machine as your muscles grow stronger and your endurance increases. Resistance bands attached to the wall or to a bar also provide effective strengthening opportunities. Resistance bands provide an intense workout and can be used in virtually any position; standing, sitting or lying down. 
A step machine can give you a better workout than a regular treadmill because it simulates climbing stairs. Step machines help you burn more calories than you would using a treadmill for the same amount of time, because you lift your legs and push down with your feet. You can work your glutes, hamstrings, calf muscles and your abdominal muscles. Start out slow on a step machine and limit your first workout to 10 minutes or less. Take a day off to allow your muscles to recover before you work out on the step machine again. 

Rowing machines work almost all your major muscle groups and provides a powerful cardiovascular workout. This machine closely mimics the motion of rowing a boat and works the upper and lower body. You can burn quite a few calories in just a few minutes on a rowing machine. The machine can be adjusted to more or less resistance to accommodate beginners to experts. The key to getting a good workout on a rowing machine is a smooth, continuous rowing motion. 

Advantages of the Kettlebell Workout

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The American Council on Exercise (ACE) conducted a study in 2010 to measure the benefits of kettlebell workouts. Kettlebells are large iron balls with a handle. They vary in weight from a 2 pounds to more than 100 pounds. The kettlebells can be lifted, pressed and swung during an intense workout. The ACE study revealed that kettlebells produced a more intense workout than lifting weights alone. The participants in the study burned about 400 calories in a 20-minute workout, or about the same amount of calories as running a mile in 6 minutes. Beginners should work with a personal fitness trainer to learn to use kettlebells safely and effectively. Start with a light-weight, 2-pound, kettlebell and gradually work up to a heavier weight. Increase the amount of weight under the supervision and instruction of a fitness trainer. Some exercises using kettlebells includes the deadlift, the shoulder press and the arm swing.
Kettlebell deadlifts will primarily work your  glutes, quads, hamstrings and back muscles. Begin the exercise by standing with your feet flat on the floor with a kettlebell beside each foot. Spread your legs about hip-width apart and squeeze your abdominal muscles tight. Drop your shoulders slightly and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Breathe in deeply and lower your upper body straight down toward the floor. When your hands reach the kettlebells, grasp each handle overhand with your palms pointed toward your body. Keep your body straight and breathe out and then lift the kettlebells as you stand up straight in a smooth motion. Repeat the deadlift exercise 5 times and increase the repetitions as you get stronger. 
The arm swing will exercise your glutes, quads, hamstrings, core and back muscles. Stand with your feet apart about hip-width and put one kettlebell between your legs. Brace your upper body by squeezing your abdominal muscles, lowering your shoulders slightly and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Inhale, quat down and grasp the handle of the kettlebell in an overhand position with your palm down. Exhale and swing the kettlebell upward as you simultaneously return to a standing position. Swing the kettlebell until your arm is parallel with the floor, or straight out from your body. Keep your arm straight from your shoulder to your wrist. Do a 3 to 5 repetitions with each arm. 

The kettlebell shoulder press will work your shoulder and triceps muscles. Prepare for this exercise in the same position as before, standing, feet apart and shoulders back. Hold a kettlebell in one hand. Your palm facing  your body. Raise the kettlebell to your shoulder. The weight should be on the outside of your arm resting against your wrist and forearm. Push the kettlebell upward until your arm is extended straight up. Breathe out and return your arm to the start position. 

For more information and kettlebell exercises, see:

ACE Fitness, Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time?,Chad Schnettler, et al., 2010