Sometimes when you’re at the gym, you pick up a piece of fitness equipment only to realize that, not only do you not know how to use it, but that you have no idea how to integrate it into a beneficial workout routine. For example, does the fact that a medicine ball has handles make it different than the ones you remember from school? Do the different sizes of the balls make them useful for different workouts? Is using a medicine ball going to actually improve my workout?
The reality is that medicine balls work your body in realistic motions. You are not fixed to a single plane of movement and you can add throwing, swinging, and rotational movements whenever possible. This is a great way to improve your flexibility, explosive strength and strengthen the supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons reducing your susceptability to injuries to your joints.
Yes, a medicine ball can really dynamicize and improve your workouts. Therefore, satisfy your curiosity and learn how and when to use one as well as why these balls have been being beneficial for centuries. The efficacy of its simplicity may surprise you.
History of the Medicine Ball
Medicine balls are no longer what you remember from gym class in grade school. Today, they are weighted balls of varying varieties that are useful for building strength, balance, stability, and coordination as well as increasing the efficiency and efficacy of your un-weighted workouts. Plus, they also serve as a valuable way to help athletes recover from injuries.
Medicine balls are nothing new. In fact, the earliest documented medicine balls date back thousands of years to the Persians, whose wrestlers used sand-filled pig bladders as training gear. During this period, and not too far to the west, Greek physician Hippocrates, also began incorporating sand-stuffed animal skins into his rehabilitation therapy.
For the next several centuries, medicine balls halted their advancement and remained relegated to the sidelines as a supplement to medical prescriptions until Herbert Hoover helped popularize it as an everyday exercise device. Thanks to an American president, medicine balls went from an ancient training method to one of the “4 Horsemen of Fitness,” marking the introduction of the modern medicine ball.
Picking the Perfect Ball
Today you can purchase a vast variety of medicine balls depending on your specific needs. Balls come in a variety of materials including leather, nylon, vinyl, rubber, and polyurethane. They also come in a range of weights from 2 lb to 25 lb, and different giving you a wide choice of options.
The standard medicine ball is like a heavy basketball and made to bounce for resistance training. The slam ball is made to be thrown hard at walls and floors to improve your explosive power, while the dead-weight ball is sand-filled and does not bounce, designed to engage supporting muscles when exercising.
This variation in training makes using a medicine ball an excellent resource to evenly train and strengthen your body with activities that replicate how you move in the real world.
How Do I Use A Medicine Ball?
The first step in using a medicine ball is ensuring that you select the right size and weight for your workout. You want a ball that is heavy enough to slow your motion and make it feel a bit like you’re swimming through the air, but you do not want one that is so heavy that you lose your control, accuracy, or range of motion.
Once you have selected a ball, it can be used for both aerobic and anaerobic training as well as incorporated as a strength-training tool.
When exercising with a ball, you have the choice of working out alone or with a partner. The beauty of using these balls is that each exercise you do with them can be designed to target specific muscles and movements. Plus, because many of the exercises require a partner, they can be a great team-building exercise.
Not sure what exercises to try? Common ones include:
- Oblique Twists
- Reverse crunch
- Wall Toss
- Sit-up Passes
- Russian Twists
So while they may be some of the oldest workout equipment available, medicine balls continue to remain a consistently effective choice for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Knowing how to properly select and use one can help you take your workouts from average to one for the ages.
Therefore, take some time to carefully select your equipment and practice your exercises. You won’t regret the results.