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Handball works both sides of the body equally, incorporating aerobic activity, muscular strength, balance and flexibility. A combination of cardiovascular exercise, weightlifting and stretching exercises provide a fitness base for competition.
Training for Sprints
Handball uses short bursts of speed for rallies and serves. Running sprints builds muscle strength and increases cardiovascular endurance, according to Dr. Len Kravitz, Ph.D., exercise researcher at the University of New Mexico's Exercise Science Department.
First, run to one side of the court as fast as possible. Stop, turn and then run back to the other side. Repeat this for 10 minutes. Take a two- to four-minute break, or till you get your wind back, and then repeat the sprint. Work up to three 10-minute sprints.
Another sprint method is using a treadmill. Run on the treadmill at the fastest pace you can maintain for 10 minutes. Then walk for two to four minutes, or until you get your wind back, and repeat. Work up to three 10-minute sprints.
Handball requires lunging to hit the ball, upper body strength to power the ball and core strength.
Lunges are done by standing with your arms at your side or on your hips. Step forward with your left leg and lower your body, flexing at the knee and hip, until your back knee is almost touching the floor. Return to the starting position. Repeat with the right leg. Do three sets of 15 repetitions on each leg.
Lateral shoulder raises with dumbbells work your shoulders, trapezius muscle and the wrists. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Holding light dumbbells in each hand, raise your arms to the side until your elbows are shoulder height. Lower the dumbbells. Repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions.
The plank is a core strengthener that begins with lying on your stomach. Raise your body onto your forearms and your toes, keeping your body straight. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, and then return to the starting position. Work up to 60-second holds. Repeat five times with 45-second breaks between exercises.
Ball drops work hand speed, but you need a partner for this exercise. Have your partner hold a ball in each hand, and stand in front of him. Have him drop a ball without giving you any notice. You have to catch the ball before it hits the floor.
Hand changes work on speed and hand-eye coordination. Bounce a ball against a wall, alternating hands with each bounce. Stand close to the wall. Do this continuously till your arms tire.
Stretch and Flex
Stretching is important in any exercise program. The hamstring stretch is good for the lower body and is done by bending at the waist, trying to touch the floor with your hands. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position.
A shoulder stretch that serves as a warm-up is done by crossing one arm horizontally over your chest, bending it at the elbow and moving your forearm behind your neck. With your other hand, use light pressure and push the elbow. Hold for 20 seconds, and repeat with the other arm.
Caroline Thompson is a professional photojournalist who has been working for print and online publications since 1999. Her work has appeared in the "Sacramento Bee," "People Magazine," "Newsweek" and other publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in photojournalism from California State University at Hayward and a personal trainer certification from the university's Health and Fitness Institute.