Medicine Ball Clean – CrossFit Exercise Guide with Photos

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Overview: The medicine ball clean is a foundational Crossfit exercise that is extremely effective for building size and strength and it’s a very popular movement to add to any WOD (workout of the day). It’s a great total body exercise that hits several major muscle groups. It also provides a cardiovascular workout which is perfect when adding it to certain CrossFit circuits. It allows you to develop the stamina and strength your body needs in order to function at its highest level. With all of these great benefits, it is no wonder that the medicine ball clean is classified as a foundational CrossFit movement.

Muscles Targeted: This exercise targets several large muscle groups and it specifically engages the back and legs which are activated during the “clean” portion of the movement along with the squatting stage. It also works the muscles of the arms, shoulders, and even the abdominal muscles. It’s excellent for engaging the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, calves, lower back, upper traps, biceps and forearms. The first part of the medicine ball clean is very similar to a deadlift and really targets the back muscles very well.



Exercise Instructions:

1. Position your body like you are about to execute a deadlift, but be sure to widen your stance since you will need to leave enough room for the medicine ball to be properly aligned between your feet.

2. Place your hands on both sides of the medicine ball, positioning your fingers so that they are pointing downwards toward the floor. Your grip should be very firm on the medicine to make sure it’s completely secure before starting the movement.

3. Make sure that your hips are above your knees and your weight is positioned in the heels of your feet. This provides you with a strong, stable foundation from which to begin a proper execution of this exercise.

4. Set up for the “clean” portion of the movement by lining your shoulders up with the medicine ball while keeping your back flat, chest out and your shoulders back. Raise the medicine ball off the floor and bring it upwards as you extend your legs.

5. Extend your hips quickly and execute a shoulder shrug using the medicine ball. Position the medicine ball at about chin level as you lower your body into a deep squat position at the bottom of the exercise. Make sure to keep your feet placed flat on the ground as you squat down as low as you can comfortably go. From the squat position, explode upwards into a standing position while holding the medicine ball in the same position (chin level). To complete a full repetition of the medicine ball clean, slowly return the ball back down to the ground.

6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Things To Avoid:

  • Do not place your feet too far apart. They should be positioned about shoulder width apart. If you take too wide of a stance, this will lead to an ineffective squat and defeats the purpose of the exercise.
  • Keep a secure grip on the ball. The last thing you want to do is drop a heavy medicine ball on your feet so make sure to squeeze the ball firmly between your palms. Keep this firm tension on the ball throughout the entire range of motion.
  • Do not use a medicine ball that is too heavy. If the medicine ball is too heavy, you will not be able to properly execute the exercise and it could cause an injury. Choose a weight that is comfortable yet challenging in order to get the most out of this excellent exercise.
  • Do not curl the medicine ball. When you bring the ball up to your chin, make sure not to curl it up. The medicine ball should travel on a completely straight path, from the floor to your chin. Use your large back muscles to “clean” the medicine ball and move it into position.

Reps and Sets: For beginners, it’s important to ask for guidance from a CrossFit instructor to make sure you get your technique down correctly. Start by performing just a few proper repetitions before moving into a higher repetition workout. Once you are more advanced, you can include 20-30 reps of this exercise into your overall CrossFit WOD.

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