These spheres, bigger and squishier than other medicine balls, aren’t a new idea ($74-$136,
). Dynamax introduced them in the 1980s, and you’ll find them lying around at most fitness centers. But the manufacturer realized that they’re typically viewed just as weights that happen to be balls, so Dynamax Director of Education Jeremy Shore is trying to teach smarter training techniques.
One key point: “Size matters.” The 14-inch diameter means you can hold the ball in front of you without having to hunch your shoulders in. But weight is not a big factor. Although Dynamax sells balls up to 30 pounds, and there are moves specifically designed for heavier ones, Shore recommends using a four- to eight-pound ball for most exercises. “If you can’t control it, it’s dangerous,” he says.
That’s especially true when you’re hurling the ball at someone, which is what Shore says they’re meant for. The real benefit comes from being able to accelerate through the movement and let go.
Sample move: Try “sit-up throws.” The client lies down holding the ball with arms extended, and then sits up while tossing the ball to the trainer. The trainer passes it back, and the move repeats.
“There isn’t a sport here that doesn’t use them to train,” says the University of Virginia’s strength and conditioning coach Ed Nordenschild, who’s worked with Dynamax balls for nearly 20 years. One of his favorite drills is knee kicks. That’s kicking a ball up with your knee, which is something you can’t do with a hard medicine ball (unless you want monster bruises). He also appreciates that his athletes are able to throw them — and miss their targets
— and not cause much damage.
TRX Rip Trainer
The Rip Trainer ($189.95, www.trxtraining.com), a lightweight bar connected on one end to a resistance band, targets your core. You secure the band to a fixed point — it comes with a door anchor — then grab the bar. Even just standing still, you can feel your middle tighten to resist the pull of the band, and you’ll feel it more once you start mimicking movements such as hockey slap shots. Make it harder by standing farther from the anchor point, which can be moved up and down to alter an exercise.
Inventor Pete Holman was on the U.S. national taekwondo team before becoming a physical therapist, so he’d always been looking for ways to up his power. Playing around with a curtain rod, Holman developed this setup that allows users to work on generating force while rotating their body, which is how we often move in life. TRX bought the concept and gussied it up a bit. A key feature is the safety strap that’ll keep the bar from flying across the room if you fling it and accidentally let go. (It’ll also prevent you from switching sides quickly.)