A Decade to Remember, and Another to Envision

It’s December 2019 and we’re on the cusp of the next decade.  There’s a lot that’s happened in the 10 years of my life that has put me in my position today.

If I think back to the beginning of 2010, that was right around the time when I was starting to take my fitness and strength training routine a little more seriously.

It was also right around the time I started taking school a little more seriously, doing my best to get through my undergrad by the end of that year and onto the “figuring-out-what-I’m-going-to-do-for-the-rest-of-my-life stage”.

But if I look back on it now, there’s several key moments that happened that ultimately led me to where I’m at today.

I also have the benefit of being more in 1988, which is closer to the end/start of a decade.  Therefore, each new decade represents the next 10-year chunks of my life.  The 2000’s represented my teens, the 2010’s represented my young adulthood, and now the 2020’s will represent my 30’s.

I can look back on the decades and separate them out by my own 10-year age groups.

So, as we enter in the new decade, I ask what are some of the big moments of the last 10 years that really stood out for you?  What do you remember about the last 10 years?  Your heartaches?  Your accomplishments?

There’s a list that I have to look back on:

  • I graduated with my undergrad from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a Bachelor’s in Physics w/Biomedical Concentrations and basically a class away from a minor in German and Math
  • I went back to school, through independent study, taking graduate classes through the Physical Therapy and Biomedical curriculum
  • Started a hard rock band and played our first how on 11/11/11 at The Warehouse here in La Crosse, WI and opened for a band that I was a HUGE fan of (These Hearts) – to say I was gushing at the opportunity is an understatement
  • I became certified as a personal trainer and then started my job as a personal trainer at a local gym here in La Crosse (which I took as my first “big boy” job) on November 30th, 2011
  • Started dating my girlfriend, Mandy
  • Got my first dog, an English Bulldog named Maximus Decimus Meridius
  • Became ordained and married one of my best friends to his wife
  • I started my own gym, Unity Fitness, in late June 2015
  • Married another couple, the son of a co-worker from the first gym I worked at ?
  • Got a French Bulldog to give Max some company, and we named her Millicent Mae Meridius
  • Bought a house with Mandy
  • Got my dream car (a Jeep Wrangler)
  • Got another Frenchie, Montana Dustin Meridius
  • Several certifications, thousands of hours of continuing education hours, helping hundred and hundreds of people, we’re here approaching year 5 of opening our doors
From left to right: Millicent, Max, and Montana

There’s been plenty of positives, but that comes with the negatives along the way.  I lost my grandfather, my hero, earlier this decade.  There’s a lot of him that lives through me.  Some of it’s with intention, some of it now, but I’m unbelievably proud and honored to say it either way.

All these points bring me to my main point: what is in store for your next decade?  What are you planning for?  When we reach 2030, what do you want to look back on?

If you would have talked to me 10 years ago, I knew I wanted to own a gym someday.  It doesn’t look quite like Unity (mostly because we’re not quite there in our planning…yet ? ), but it was super similar in values and philosophy.

There some stuff that has happened that I have deliberately and intently planned for.  There are other things that haven’t.

The big thing is I am right where I am supposed to be, just like you are right where you are supposed to be.

We can look back on a lot of choices we made through the last 10 years and wonder what could have been.  Or, you can start taking more ownership right now and getting to where you want to be in the next 10 years (assuming you’re not there yet, of course).

Through all of this, my fitness routine really drove me into the transition of the last 10 years and what we were able to accomplish.  And to think it all started in an apartment floor during the summer of 2010 with one of my best friends as we took on and completed P90X.

My buddy Scott and I still talk about that summer.  It lives with me because I think that lit a fire to where I am now.  Obviously, fitness has been a major part of my life, otherwise why in the world would I start a gym?  But fitness has helped me gain confidence, stay positive and happy, and gives me a refreshing look at life each time I am challenged through a movement and/or goal.

This is an opportunity for you to look ahead to 2020 and beyond.  Take a look at your current vision, next-year vision, and 5-year vision and beyond.

What skills do you need in your life to succeed?  Who do you need to talk to?  Who do you need to hire?  What do you need to change?

The time is now.  The new decade is here.  And it’s pretty darn exciting!

Tried and True Meal Prep Tips

I have been meal prepping for years. I remember having college roommates who didn’t totally understand why my space in the fridge would be jam-packed with food, and I’m sure there were times that I annoyed them when I took up a few spaces too many. But it was worth it. While I love having a fresh meal, leaving early in the morning and getting home late at night doesn’t always make that possible. It’s been years of trial and error, but I’ve complied the best of my meal prep tips and tricks to have a successful meal prep and stay on track with your health and fitness goals!

Now, these aren’t going to focus much on food choices, but I want to add in my thoughts before I get into it. Following generally healthy eating is going to be crucial to any health and fitness goal. When we build our diet to be made up of 80% whole, nutrient dense, minimally processed foods, we’re able to then add in those more fun foods the other 20% of the time. When I meal prep, it’s nearly ALWAYS within the 80%. I save the 20% for meals out with friends or family, fun new recipes that I may find for the weekends, and baking. (I love baking almost as much as I love cooking and, if I’m baking, there’s not many healthy swaps there!) With that being said, let’s get into the tips.

1. Plan, plan, plan.

When I played soccer in high school, our coach used to tell us “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” It was true in soccer, but also in meal prep. When we take time to plan,

Pick proteins first. For me, protein is the trickiest macronutrient. It’s tough to “grab-and-go” and many of our on the go options are shakes and bars. Personally, I try to keep these to a minimum and get as much of my protein from whole food sources as possible. So, with that, protein gets picked and prepped first. My meals are built based on the protein source. Some of my favorites are: chicken breast or boneless, skinless thigh, lean ground beef, venison, ground turkey and pork tenderloin.

Make a shopping list in the order of the grocery store. This is one of my favorite ways to reduce your time spent in the store, make sure you don’t forget anything, and avoid buying unnecessary items. If you have a go-to store, you likely know the order. If you don’t, this might take some practice. While you’re planning your meals, simply list the items in order of your walk through the store. I suggest lapping the perimeter, where the fruits, veggies, meat, and dairy is located. Then, only go down the aisles of things on your list. This way, it’s so easy to avoid accidentally going down that pesky chips, snacks, and cookies aisle!

2. It’s all about the seasoning.

These days, I usually eat the same thing. Seriously, when it comes to meal prep, don’t over complicate it. My meals consist of three things: a protein, a starchy carb, and veggies. However, they’re rarely seasoned the same. Let’s take a sample week of my two prepped meals: one was Teriyaki Bowls and the other was Buffalo Chicken Bowls. (What can I say? I like things in bowls.) But when I break it down, each is made of three foods from each group.

Teriyaki Bowls: Lean ground beef, quinoa, and peppers, onions, and sugar snap peas

Buffalo Chicken Bowls: Chicken breast, sweet potatoes, and broccoli and carrots

It’s foods from the three same categories and I simply change seasonings. Often, when we meal prep, we get caught up in searching for all new recipes when we really only need a new seasoning or sauce.

My favorite flavor combinations:

BBQ Rub Chicken Thigh: Boneless, skinless chicken thigh sprinkled with BBQ rub seasoning and cooked in a hot pan on the stovetop. Spray the pan so it doesn’t stick and start on med-low to cook through and finish with high heat to form a crust on the outside.

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken: Chicken breast, Frank’s Buffalo Sauce to cover, garlic, and black pepper in the crockpot on high for 4-5 hours (longer time if frozen). Shred and serve.

Teriyaki Ground Turkey: Lean ground turkey can be dry, so cooking it with some kind of liquid is crucial. Add turkey to a pan on the stove with some coconut aminos (or other low sodium soy sauce), a SMALL drizzle of honey, 1-2 of minced garlic, and ground ginger to taste. Cook turkey, breaking it into small pieces.

As you use different sauces and seasonings, make sure you’re watching the calories! With thick sauces, such as BBQ sauce, salad dressings, and other sweetened sauces, they can pack on the calories before you know it! Swap in rubs and dry seasonings when possible, or use lower calorie sauces such as mustard, salsa, and DIY marinades.

3. Changing cooking methods makes a whole new meal.

In addition to changing the seasoning, swapping out cooking methods creates an entirely new meal. Did you know that food manufactures put hundreds of thousands of dollars into research on the texture of their foods? Personally, I hate eating food that’s all the same texture – I need some variety! This is where different cooking methods come into the mix. We’re able to keep the same food while creating an entirely new meal experience. Let’s use a sweet potato as our example.

Bake it. Baked potatoes are great! While it takes some time to cook, we can cut them open and fill them with things. Pick a protein, some beans, sautéed peppers, a small sprinkle of cheese and you have a loaded sweet potato!

Sautee it. Shred it and lightly spray the pan with a cooking spray. Sautee and cook as “hash browns” to add to a breakfast bowl with sautéed veggies and eggs.

Roast it. Perhaps my go-to way of cooking, cutting sweet potatoes into squares and roasting them in the oven is a great way to prep potatoes in bulk for meals throughout the week.

Use a kitchen appliance. Using an air fryer, pressure cooker, crockpot, etc. is another way to prep in bulk and cook while not having to stand over a pan and constantly monitor!

4. Prep in bulk and combine into meals when you eat.

I used to prep all of my meals in meal containers. Single serving, grab and go, type meals. Just heat and eat, simple as that. However, lately, I’ve been keeping my food in bulk. For example, I’ll cook two proteins, two carb sources, and a few vegetable options. When I cook, I’ll keep them fairly plain on the seasoning, and add seasoning as I combine into meals later. This allows me to have different meals throughout the week by only making a variety of combinations.

This can also be used in family style meals! Kids won’t need the same amount of food as the adults and may not enjoy the same seasonings. Or maybe you’re in a challenge at Unity where we encourage dinner to be made of a lean protein and veggies, while your partner would like some more carbohydrate in their evening meal. When we have them prepped separately, they can be combined individually, and we’re not locked in to specific meals every single day or even the same meals for each person!

Here’s an example week of food and different meals.

For the week:

My proteins are ground turkey and chicken breast. My carbohydrates are potatoes and quinoa. My veggies are broccoli, peppers, and carrots.

Meal Idea 1: Ground turkey, quinoa, peppers, black beans, and salsa.

Meal Idea 2: Chicken breast, potatoes, and broccoli with a homemade teriyaki sauce

Meal Idea 3: Ground turkey, potatoes, and carrots with a BBQ sauce

Meal Idea 4: Chicken breast, quinoa, and peppers with taco sauce

5. Multitasking is key.

This goes hand in hand with planning, but multitasking is the true key to meal prep success. When we can get a handle on what we’re cooking and times for each, we’re able to greatly reduce the time we spend in the kitchen each week. This takes time, as well as trial and error.

When you’re planning meals, note the cooking time of each. For example, potatoes need to be roasted for a longer time than broccoli. Dice and season the potatoes first and put them in the oven to start cooking. Then, prep and season the broccoli and put it in after the potatoes have been cooking for some time. When you pull them out, they should be done close to the same time instead of cooking broccoli first and having it finish cooking before the potatoes!

Sometimes, I also split up meal prep into two sessions. I’ll wash and chop veggies right when I get them from the store. Then, when I have time to cook 1-2 days later, I only have to toss in the seasoning and combine. This is great, especially if you enjoy some raw veggies to snack on in the fridge! Before they’re cooked, you can snack on a few or save some to purposely snack on while you cook.

6. Sometimes it pays to pay for convenience.

My final meal prep tip is something that we see in the store, but we don’t often think about incorporating due to cost. The grocery store is filled with pre-prepped or easy to prep foods. They’re often sold at a premium compared to their un-prepped counterparts, so, if you’re like me, you leave them on the shelf and opt to do the prepping, chopping, and cutting yourself.

However, with the holidays approaching, chances are, we’re going to be busier than usual. It’s almost inevitable. These busy times are when pre-prepped foods can come in handy. When we’re short on time, spending a few extra dollars may be worth it to stay on track with your fitness goals. I often use these when I’m gone for the weekend. I’ll pick up just enough food to have for a day or two until I can get back to meal prep normally for the rest of the week. This way, I can stay on track and not be tempted to swing through a drive through on the way home from work.

My favorite products when I pick up pre-prepped food:

Protein first. What is your protein? Just as with regular meal prep, I plan everything around protein. I may plan to incorporate a shake for breakfast because I can keep fruit frozen and add in protein powder. Festival has a deli with pre-cooked chicken breast and salmon filets that I can use for salads or to heat up in a different meal.

Add in your veggies. The best place I’ve bought pre-cut and prepped veggies is Festival. They have rows of pre-cut, ready to cook vegetables that you can take and cook without the prep time! Heck, you can pick up a veggie tray and grab some hummus for a snack. Pre-cut and prepped foods that I’ve seen include potatoes, onions, a variety of veggies, etc. If you don’t even have time to cook, you can toss these into a salad with some lean protein!

Finish with a carbohydrate. One of my favorites, easy things to buy ahead of time and have on hand is microwave rice packets. These can be tricky; they’re packed with sodium. However, I’ve found some great options in the freezer section. They have frozen, partially cooked rice at nearly every grocery store. You can toss it in the microwave and have rice for meals in no time!

There you have it: my six tried and true meal prep tips. I’ve tested and used these over the years to have healthy food to grab and go at a moment’s notice. But at the end of the day, my final tip for your meal prep is to keep it simple. Eat 80% whole, minimally processed foods, focusing on lots of veggies and leaner protein. Cook what you enjoy eating and change your meals with seasonings, sauces, cooking methods, etc. Don’t over think it.

Do you have any meal prep tips? What are some of your favorite go-to meals? Send me an email, I’d love to chat!

Written by Emily O’Connor, NSCA-CPT, Pn1, SFG1 . You can contact Emily through email at emily@unityfitnesspro.com or follow her on Instagram @coachemilymeyer.

Stress Management: Overlooked and (Often) Under Appreciated

At Unity, we always work toward our goals in a multi-faceted approach. Getting into the gym and training, making sure our nutrition is in check, and sleeping and taking rest days from the gym are all easily noticeable to others around us as we make changes to our lifestyle. However, arguably the most important change comes from within. In general terms, it is our mindset. Mindset, as it relates to fitness goals, includes a multitude of areas. EXOS defines mindset as “approaching a situation or working toward a goal with a full understanding of what it requires to accomplish.” When we our mindset is dialed in, with our first priority goal at the top of mind, we truly enhance our experience on path toward our goals.

Kids, finances, body image, family, friends, moving, chronic illness, public speaking, working long hours, working at a job you don’t enjoy, taking care of an elderly family member, traumatic events… this list goes on and on. Have you discovered what these all have in common yet? These are included in the top causes of stress.

In the body, stress is represented by the hormone cortisol. Whether we’re encountering a perceived threat or training hard in the gym, the body interprets stress very similarly. That is to say, cortisol isn’t the enemy. However, chronically high levels of cortisol can be. When we have constant stressors, the body doesn’t leave its “fight-or-flight” response. It disrupts many processes in relation to fitness goals and may result in: digestive issues, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment.

At the end of the day, thankfully, no one is immune to stress.

“Back up, did she just say thankfully?” Yes, yes, I did. There is a moderate level of stress that is good in our lives. This may take the form of training sessions, deadlines, and even taking care of kids. Some positive responses to stress include being inspired, energized, motivated, focused, and alert. Following the stress of a workout, we recover, and stress signals our body to adapt and get stronger. However, too much stress can leave us feeling weak, worried, distracted, scattered, and disrupt hormones related to blood sugar regulation, immunity, metabolism, and sleep. At the same time, too little stress can leave us bored, unfocused, directionless, and lethargic. Each person will encounter stress, but we will all handle it in different ways. We need to find our personal sweet spot.

One of the first priorities is creating a positive mindset, especially when we encounter stress. This allows us to maximize these positive responses and decrease the negative responses. Stress is inevitable, but how we react to it can either make or break. To begin to change our reaction, we can use three easy steps: Identify. Pause. Reframe.

Identify the stressor. During this step, we acknowledge the cause of a particular stressor. These can take the form of either physiological or psychological. Physiological responses can include changes in breathing, racing heat, and physical pain or discomfort. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about losing our stripes, but these physical reactions can still be quite a burden! Psychological responses include thoughts or emotions that arise (anxiety, negativity, frustration, and anger).

Pause. Once we recognize that we’re stressed, take time to interpret the situation. Slow down before you react. Return to that “why” that caused you to begin to make the change in the first place. For example, a family party is scheduled last minute Sunday afternoon, right in the middle of your planned meal prep time. Knowing your “why”, and bringing it back to top of mind, will help with the next step.

Reframe and make a choice. Look at this stressor as something you can control. Locate the strategy and decide on the plan of action. Face the challenge directly and mindfully. Back to our family party. We can’t decide when the party is, but our meal prep has to happen. Perhaps finding another time that weekend and letting the party take the place of our Saturday night off. That way we’re able to fully enjoy time with family while still staying true to our goals. Shifting some tasks around may stray from a typical routine, but it allows us to keep practicing our core habits. This consistency over the long term is where we will find success in our fitness goals!

This three-step process is just one way to approach a particular stressor. We can also work to reduce overall stress in a variety of ways. One of my favorites is practicing daily gratitude. This started as a Christmas gift from my mom. We each got a journal to write three things we’re grateful for daily. From there, I kept going. I moved it to a word document. And it grew even further. On days when I have more time, I’ll go beyond simply listing what I’m grateful for and consider why. I’ll list as many reasons why I’m grateful for that listed item as I can come up with. Then, when I’m faced with that inevitable stress, I can think about those things for which I’m grateful for and decrease some of that initial stress response.

Other stress management techniques include: time away from technology, coloring, meditation, spending time outdoors, reading, the list goes on and on! Mindset, beginning with stress management, should be just as important as meal prepping, scheduling training sessions, and sleeping. As I said earlier in the article, everyone has stressors in their lives, but everyone also manages it differently. Those who take time to reflect and create a positive mindset, despite their stress, are those who will crush their fitness goals. I challenge you to stop overlooking it and appreciate the small amount of stress this coming week. Take the time to identify, pause, and reframe or try any of the other stress management techniques listed.

Written By: Emily O’Connor, NSCA-CPT, SFG1, Pn1

The Importance of Hand Care with Increased Training Intensity or Volume

Ever been sore after a new workout?  We all have, right?  When we change or increase load on different areas of our body, it lets us know.  In turn, we tend to give our body special attention during our recovery and movement prep work during those times.  We may come in early to get in a little extra soft tissue work with foam rolling, head in for a massage, or give a little extra attention to stretching and warming up before our workout.

Well, the same can be said for our hands.  This is especially true when you increase training volume with pull-up and kettlebell work.  Ringing any bells, TSC participants?!

When your program involves high volume work with kettlebell swings, snatches, cleans, pull-ups or any of the like, prioritizing your hand care is as important to your program as any aspect of your workout or recovery process. 

As your hands start to adjust to the increased friction at high volumes you will quickly notice they will begin protect themselves with callouses.  That must mean callouses are our best friend, right?!  Sort of.  Well cared for callouses will give our hands the tough skin they need to get through your workout in one piece.  However, ignore your callouses and they will quickly become your worst enemy. 

Improper hand care is the enemy of a consistent training program.

When a callouses is left unchecked they will continue to build on itself (assuming you are continuing the activity that is causing this).  Thick callouses increase your odds of rips in your skin as it will allow the bar or handle of the bell to pull the skin away.  If you have never ripped a callous before, trust me when I tell you that you want to avoid this at all costs.  Especially if you are working towards an even that requires you to keep your training consistency high for success.  (Cough, Cough, TSC)

The good news is that you can stay on top of your hand care with just two easy steps!

  1. Groom/Minimize Callouses:  To do this you will want to find a pumice stone or some sort of skin file that allows you to address the callous without getting the softer skin surrounding the area.  This may require some trial and error on different tools but once you find one make sure you are staying on top this step.  Consistently make sure to file down, but not too far, which would lead to increased sensitivity. 

Pro Tip:  A great time to file you callouses down is right after a shower or dishes when your skin is softened by the water.

  • Moisturize:  Keeping hands and callouses from drying out is going to play a major roll in your overall hand health during training.  After grooming you callouses make sure to apply a high quality hand cream, paying special attention to the palms and massaging into the area around your callouses.  Moisturizers should be avoided near training time but it is a good idea to apply hand cream throughout the day and before bed.

Pro Tip:  If you are in the market for moisturizers for this purpose Corn Huskers lotion is one brand that is recommended.  In addition to using a good moisturizer for your hands you may want apply balms or salves directly to the callouses as needed.

So, what about chalk?  What role does chalk play in your training and hand care? 

Chalk can be used as a tool to help you better grip the bar or bell.  That may mean you reduce a bit of the friction on your hands and therefore at times reduce some of the wear and tear on your skin.  However, chalk should never be used as an alternative to proper hand care.  In fact, use of chalk with improperly groomed callouses can increase the risk of rips.

Regardless of how attentive you are to your hand care routine there is always a chance that you will end up with some degree of skin tear during some point of your training.  When this happens, we have a few tips to help get you through training until your hands have a chance to heal. 

First off, try to leave the torn skin on and covered for as long as possible.  This will give the fresh skin underneath a chance to grown in and get stronger with as much protection as possible.  Once the torn skin has started to dry and the skin underneath has had a couple of days to adjust it is best of cut the flap of the torn callous off clean.  You will then want to start your grooming on the ledge of the remaining callous gradually and with extreme care.  NEVER tear the skin flap away by hand.

In addition, there are a number of taping techniques that you can implement in order to protect the torn area of your hand during your workouts.  If you need tips on proper taping for kettlebell work check in with Emily or Mandy. That said, there is still a chance that you may need to take a break from certain activities for a day or two to let your body heal. 

One final tip:  Pack a “hand care” kit in your gym bag.  This kit should include athletic tape, hand files, chalk, and any moisturizers and salves you use on your hands.  While pre or post workout is not an ideal time to implement your primary hand care routine you will be grateful to have all of these items with you in case of emergency. 

For additional information on this subject check out https://www.strongfirst.com/hand-care-101/

Written By: Mandy Haugstad – SFG1

A (Medicine) Ball of Confusion

On any given day, when you walk through the doors of Unity Fitness, there will be an abundance of noise. Coaches and members greeting you, the blender drowning out all conversation within a 3-foot radius, weights and plates being racked and unloaded. But as you walk further, it’s often likely you’ll hear a rhythmic pounding coming from the large group training space. This noise is common. We often don’t acknowledge it. It blends in with the others, all part of the gym atmosphere. However, it signals the use of a medicine ball.

At Unity Fitness, I would argue that the medicine ball is one of our most highly utilized tools. And rightfully so! They’re a versatile implement that offers balance and support during a press-out squat, the ability to train power with a medicine ball slam or other exercise, among a host of other strength and power benefits.

In this blog post, we’re going to focus on the use of medicine balls in power movements. This will specifically relate to ballistic movements, such as the chest throw, slam, rotational throws, rollover slams…all of the exercises that make the loud, rhythmic slamming which we drown out amidst a busy night on the training floor.

Types of Medicine Balls

Before we go any further, let’s look at a quick review of types of medicine balls. This will specifically focus on the three we use at Unity.

First up, the Dynamax medicine ball. These are widely used in the gym from training power to press-out squats to throw-and-chase finishers. They offer a little bounce, don’t hurt if we miss a catch, and are easily to hold and handle for most people.

Second, the SPRI medicine ball is highly reactive. After we throw it, it bounces back, fast. We have to make sure we catch the ball…or get out of the way! Just kidding, the reactive quality of this ball is usually why it’s chosen. It challenges us to not only throw as hard as we can, but to also catch and control the ball through its deceleration.

Our final type in the gym is the jam ball. As we perform the exercise using a jam ball, it stops moving. There is no bounce back that we have to worry about controlling or catching. This makes it ideal for testing out a movement you’ve never done or moving faster through a movement that you’re experienced with.

What can we do with each of these types?

What is the goal?

Ultimately, when utilizing medicine balls, our goal is to develop power using movements that allow for the generation and resistance to outside forces. Secondarily, we want to decrease risk of injury by increasing our tolerance to loads at a variety of speeds, directions, and sizes. The second goal is simple – by exposing ourselves to a variety of different stimuli, we’re able to build our ability to react to it. The first, however, takes a bit more unpacking.

What is power?

Power is equivalent to force multiplied by velocity. In other words, it’s the ability to express a maximal amount of force within a short period of time. We can see this in movements such as jumping, accelerating into a sprint, and throwing a medicine ball, for example.

Let’s take a closer look. Force is the “strength” component. The amount of force we’re able to produce is proportional to how strong we are. But, with these medicine ball exercises, it’s important to note that strength is not the only factor. When we chose a ball, we have to consider how fast we’re able to throw the ball.

Take the side rotation throw for example. Typically, we see this performed with a Dynamax ball. At Unity, this offers us choices in weights ranging from six to twenty pounds. So, which do we choose? It’s like bowls of porridge; we have to find the one that’s just right.

First, I look at strength; which ball do I feel comfortable throwing? This takes the 14- and 20-pound options off the table. Left with six, eight, and ten-pound increments, I ultimately decide based on which ball I will be able to throw fast while maximizing the strength required. For me, it’s usually the eight-pound ball. The lightest ball is too easy; the heaviest ball is too slow. The middle is perfect.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about going heavier.

We have to take into consideration how fast we can throw. If we don’t we’re leaving power on the table and not utilizing the medicine ball training to its fullest extent. As with any exercise, our weight selection matters but I would also argue our form matters as well. Our form is crucial when we talk about the transfer of power into our medicine ball.

The Transfer of Power

Quick high school physics review of Newton’s First Law of Motion:

“Every object in a state of uniform motion will remain in that state of motion unless an external force acts on it.”

In other words, if the medicine ball isn’t moving, it’s not going to move unless we move it. To do this, we need a transfer of power. To do this, we utilize a concept call kinetic linking. Simply put, this is the transfer of power, typically initiated from the lower body into an object or the ground. This usually results in a kick, throw, jump, bound, etc.

Universal Medicine Ball Cues

Throw the ball through the wall or floor.

We want to throw that ball as hard as we can! If we’re not maximizing the power output, we’re not maximizing the training stimulus we could be achieving. Whatever way you choose to throw the ball, make sure it’s hard. Throw it through the wall; don’t just play catch.

Throw from a stable base.

You can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe. If you’re trying to throw something as hard as you can, which is what you should be doing with our medicine balls, we cannot have our feet be moving all over the place. Our feet are the connection to the ground. If we’re unstable at the base, it’s going to continue and leak power, instead of transferring it all into the medicine ball.

Keep your core engaged.

Just as we can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe, if the second reinforce of the cannon is made out of rubber, that cannon ball is going nowhere fast.

If we can’t take the force, generated in our lower body, and preserve it as it transfers to our arms and ultimately the ball, we’re not maximizing our power output that we’re trying to improve. 

In Summary:

  • We have a variety of different medicine balls and they’re all utilized for different exercises and to train different qualities.
  • As with everything, FORM MATTERS. When we throw from a stable base, we can transfer our power with the highest amount of efficiency and utilize our medicine ball training to the highest extent.
  • It’s not just about the weight. We have to take into consideration how fast we can move the ball. I might be able to chest throw a ten-pound medicine ball, but how fast does it go?

Written by Emily O’Connor, NSCA-CPT, Pn1, SFG1 . You can contact Emily through email at emily@unityfitnesspro.com or follow her on Instagram @coachemilymeyer.