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Lose weight and improve performance with ‘explosive exercise'

Friday - 9/20/2013, 7:15am  ET

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Medicine balls are great tools to improve athletic performance and speed fat loss. (Courtesy Troy Cellmer, Active Life DC)

Josef Brandenburg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - "Explosive exercise" is one the few things that everyone should do once in a while, regardless of individual fitness goals. This type of rigorous activity can help accelerate fat loss, enhance athletic performance and improve balance.

And one way to engage in "explosive exercise" is through the use of medicine balls.

Fat loss: If you want to lose fat, "explosive exercise" will help you tap into your high-threshold muscle fibers, which have the biggest impact on your metabolism. These muscle fibers need you to do something very fast or lift something very heavy to wake up. Otherwise, they're dormant.

Balance: If you want to age more gracefully, it's important to remember that no one falls down slowly. Falling is fast, and if you can react and regain your balance quickly, then you're much more likely to stay on your feet or fall with less impact.

Keeling with medicine ball. (Courtesy Troy Cellmer, Active Life DC)

Athletic performance: There's no such thing as an athlete who is too explosive or too powerful. Even endurance athletes have the goal to cross the finish line in less time, which requires strength and power.

So how can you engage in "explosive exercise?" Medicine balls are great tools to begin power training. They are very easy to learn how to use (throw this ball as hard as you can at the wall or the floor), and they are safe, compared to other options, such as Olympic weightlifting.

Here's why medicine balls work: In addition to the power you need to throw the ball forward, your hips and core must also act as the brakes, which can cause your body to jerk backward. For you to maintain your balance, your body must reflexively counter that backwards force.

Medicine ball at wall. (Courtesy Troy Cellmer, Active Life DC)

How to use a medicine ball: To start training with a medicine ball, throw the ball forward from the chest at a concrete wall -- especially from a kneeling position.

Kneeling keeps your body from using the wrong muscles. It forces you to find stability and power in your hips and core, instead of your knees and calf muscles.

For a forward chest throw, use a relatively soft ball, such as the balls with a leather-like covering. These balls won't jam a finger or hit you in the face.

If you don't have a concrete or cinderblock wall at which you can throw the ball, try throwing the medicine ball at the floor.

I like to pair medicine ball work with a core exercise early in the workout when your body and muscles are fresh. Try doing some sort of plank, then 15 chest throws, rest for a little bit and repeat.

Editor's Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book "Results Fitness." In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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