Muscles Targeted: The figure 8s medicine ball exercise primarily strengthens the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and the transverse abdominis. This exercise also targets the deltoids, trapezius and the latissimus dorsi muscles as secondary groups.
Exercise Advice: Grab a medicine ball with both hands and hold it straight out away from your body. With your feet about shoulder width apart, slowly move the medicine ball in a continuous motion forming the pattern of the number 8 (figure 8). Repeat the movement for the desired amount of repetitions in one direction and then switch direction and repeat the exercise in the opposite direction.
Things To Avoid: The main risk when performing figure 8s with a medicine ball is injuring your back. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe:
- Since this is an exercise that targets your core, it’s crucial to have the abdominal muscles engaged at all times. If you don’t keep your core tight, this exercise could have the same effect on the body as lifting a weight with your back instead of your legs.
- There is also the tendency to let your head fall back and your shoulders rise up. Stay conscious of keeping your eyes focused on the medicine ball as you move it and make sure you keep your neck and head in a fixed position and move your head together with your arms as you move the ball in the direction of the movement.
- Your stance is very important. Using proper form is imperative when performing this movement. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Placing your feet too wide or too narrow might cause stability issues and could cause you to rock back and forth during the exercise, which you don’t want. Your abs should be fully engaged for the duration of the movement.
- This may seem obvious, but it’s critical that you choose a medicine ball of appropriate weight. A ball that weighs too little won’t offer enough resistance, and a ball that is too heavy can cause unnecessary strain that does more harm than good. As you get stronger, you will be able to increase the weight.
- While exercising, it’s common to unconsciously hold your breath. Remember to take deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Reps and Sets: A good place to start is 3 sets of 5-10 reps on each side for 3 total sets. Figure 8s can be performed 2-3 times a week. As you become more experienced, you can increase your sets and the number of repetitions.
Other Exercises To Use: Here are a few different variations for doing figure 8s if you’re looking for something a little more challenging:
- Use a Kettlebell – Doing figure 8s with a kettlebell will require a stance a little wider than shoulder width. Simply pass the kettlebell back and forth between your legs. Doing figure 8s with a kettlebell really targets the back muscles along with the trapezius, obliques and abdominal muscles.
- Medicine Ball Variation – While sitting on the ground with your knees bent, hold the medicine ball in front of you and lean back while lifting your feet off the floor. Bring one knee into your chest and straighten the other leg. Pass the medicine ball under your bent knee. Switch the position of your legs while straightening the bent knee and bending the straight leg and pass the ball under the bent knee again.
These two variations really target all of the core and abdominal muscles very well. If you enjoy doing figure 8s or are interested in other core workouts that utilize a medicine ball, be sure to check out Overhead Chops, Two Handed Hammer Throws and Giant Zeros for other great exercises.