If you’ve ever been slightly baffled by medicine balls and what they do, you wouldn’t be alone! I think many of us at some point have seen them lying on the floor at the gym and wondered what exactly their purpose is – what do they do, how do they work, what on earth would you use one for?
However, these hefty but versatile balls have actually been around in some form or another for around 3000 years and were first used by the ancient Greeks to help patients recover from the latter stages of injury. Once you get familiarised with one of these things you come to realise they are actually the perfect accessories to help mix up your workouts and develop core strength, improve balance and tone up the body.
But when compared to the results you get from more traditional resistance training using dumbbells, barbells and even resistance bands, how does this bit of kit stack up and what are the benefits of medicine ball training?
Medicine balls come in a range of weights, shapes and sizes – typically anywhere from 1kg (2 pounds) up to 10kg (22 pounds) with some having straps or handles. They provide the user with a versatile and portable accessory to tone and carve the body and help reduce body fat. Exercises such as squat throws, ball slams, ball twists, side to side slams and wall ball are just some of the exercises you can perform and offer a playful and purposeful way to add a bit of fun to your workout and give those well-used free weights a bit of a rest for a while.
Here are a few reasons why using a medicine ball in your workout could benefit you.
Some of the benefits of medicine ball training
Build strength and explosive power
The medicine ball is a wonder when it comes to developing strength and explosive power and, as I mentioned above, there are numerous exercises you can do to achieve a well-sculpted body through explosive moves such as slams that will help to strengthen all the muscle groups. Explosive power is your ability to push out the maximum amount of force in the shortest amount of time and relies on body strength in specific areas and movements which the training impacts. Any exercises that combine medicine balls and movement such as squats and ball throws will develop these benefits.
The medicine ball still exists in commercial gyms today for a reason – because it works! Every move you undertake with a medicine ball replicates natural movements, so as well as increasing your heart rate and toning your body from all different angles, you’ll actually make daily activities easier. If you think about it, picking up heavy things off the ground, lugging your shopping home, playing catch with your kids, all require the same energy and muscle movement as moving a medicine ball around.
Balance and coordination
Many top athletes use medicine balls in their training to boost speed and accuracy of movement. Medicine balls are also often used in rehabilitation and strength training – which can have particularly beneficial results in older people, especially those prone to falling over. The older we get the more at risk we are of losing our coordination and balance, so keeping our bodies fit and strong will help prevent nasty accidents. Prevention is better than cure!
Developing core strength
Medicine balls force you to engage your core muscles more, regardless of the primary muscle group you are targeting. Because of this you get more of a full body workout which leads to higher calorie burn and an improvement in overall fitness. The weight and versatility of the ball enables you to perform multiple movements from sit ups to chest twists where you’re forced to grasp the weight which in turn provides a real body-blitzing crunch. Mixing up and varying the exercises will help you unlock even more physical capability. In addition throwing and catching – whether alone or with someone else – will improve your hand-eye coordination, balance and flexibility as you react to the movement of the ball.
Optimising fitness levels
Medicine ball workouts offer a multitude of exercise benefits including athleticism, endurance and strength. You’ll also get the added benefit of those feel good hormones ‘endorphins’ that are released when you work out to help your mood and mind. In addition, the increased calorie burn and body-toning you get from hitting your muscles from multiple angles will keep your body guessing and help to scult and firm. There are few other workouts that offer such all-round dynamic and functional benefits that increase your performance and total fitness and can be used by beginners to advanced gym goers of all fitness levels.
The right medicine for you?
As with any equipment and routine, it’s important to make it work for you, your fitness levels and individual goals. Whatever your level though, you can adapt medicine ball training to suit you and with them being economical, portable and durable, whilst taking up little space, they’re perfect for a home gym environment. Why not try easily adding them in to your workout routine to spice up your training and keep your body guessing? Take a look at my full body medicine ball workout and give it a go!
And if you’re looking to purchase a medicine ball but unsure of the type or weight to go for, check out my six top recommendations to help you decide.
Let me know if you’ve ever used medicine balls in your training and the results you’ve seen. Would you recommend them to others? If you have any questions just drop me a comment below and I’ll be more than happy to help you out!