Training

Strength Training: Hard Core Abs

Want a prescription for sculpted abs? The doctor is in! Mix a medicine ball into your routine to get a sexy center!


A toned stomach looks fabulous and boosts confidence—all while making you a stronger, speedier runner. Get on the fast track to sculpted abs by taking your workout up a notch with a medicine ball. This versatile tool adds weight to almost any exercise, tightening your tummy in record time.

When training your abs, it’s important to think beyond the basics. Sit-ups and crunches only work the front of your stomach. To increase overall strength and get a solid middle from every angle, you need to perform core exercises that also target your hips, lower back and thighs.

By using a medicine ball, you can hit different sides of your center. And strictly speaking, it’s a stronger core—not abs —that will make you a better runner. In order for your arms and legs to move as efficiently as possible, every muscle in your middle must be toned to help your moving limbs work together to create fluid motion.

Perform this powerful workout three times per week to perfect your waistline and improve your race times. Using a 3- to 10-pound medicine ball, perform all reps of the first exercise. Rest for 30 seconds, and then move on to the next exercise. After you’ve completed the final exercise, start from the beginning and perform one more circuit.

This workout is strong medicine—but the results are more than worth the effort.

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V-Up

Lie flat on your back with legs straight and arms stretched overhead, holding a medicine ball with both hands. Use your core to lift your hands and feet simultaneously toward the ceiling until your body is in a “V” position. At the top of the “V,” pass the ball from your hands to your feet. Holding the ball between your feet, slowly lower your arms and legs down to the floor. Raise your body back into a “V,” pass the ball from your feet to your hands and return to the start position. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Wood Chop

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a medicine ball with both hands in front of your body. Lower into a squat, bringing the ball down toward your left knee. Rise up from the squat, and twist your hips to the right as you lift the ball over your right shoulder, keeping your arms extended. Repeat the movement 10 to 15 times, and then switch sides.

Overhead Slam

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a medicine ball with both hands. Lift the ball over your head, then bend at the hips and slam the ball on the floor in front of you. Retrieve the ball and repeat 10 to 15 times.

Straight-Leg Sit-Up

Lie flat on your back, holding a medicine ball in both hands with arms straight so that the ball is directly above your hips. Engage your core and lift your torso while raising your arms straight over your head. At the top of the motion, your body should be in an L-shape. Return to the start position with control and repeat 10 to 15 times.

Swing

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a medicine ball with both hands in front of your body. Push your hips back, lowering the medicine ball between your legs. Swing the ball in front of you while pushing hips forward until the ball is above your head. Push hips back again, lowering the ball toward the ground. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Tight Rotation

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a medicine ball in front of your body with arms straight. Quickly twist from your hips to the left, pointing the ball 1 foot toward the left corner. Then twist to the right, pointing the ball 1 foot toward the right corner, switching back and forth as quickly as possible. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Rotational Throw

Stand a few feet away from a solid wall, with the left side of your body facing the wall. Hold a medicine ball close to your hips with both hands. Draw the ball toward your right side and then fling it against the wall, while rotating your hips to the left. Catch the ball as it bounces off the wall and return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times, then switch sides.

Reaching Romanian Deadlift

Stand on your right leg, holding a medicine ball in both hands. With your right knee slightly bent, bend forward at the hips, raising your left foot straight back and your arms straight out in front of you. Keep reaching until your body forms a straight line. Return to the start position. Repeat 10 to 15 times, then switch sides.

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Bret Contreras, MS, CSCS, is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in sports science and maintains a popular fitness blog at bretcontreras.com.