Work Out with a Medicine Ball

Fitness can be an on-again, off-again proposition for me. I ran a marathon last fall, then suffered a debilitating injury. While I decide on surgery, I cannot run... but I've started working out at a local fitness center 2 weeks ago. Cardio exercise is great for a fast calorie burn, but when you are thinking about long-term fitness, you need to build muscle. That requires a weight-lifting exercise routine.

That's why I now work out with a medicine ball.

Though I am in my 40s, I am admittedly late to the weight routine craze. Naturally slender, I've not worried about muscle tone much, until lately. Everyone can benefit from regular toning workouts!

Skinny folks can be flabby, which is not attractive, nor healthy. By lifting weights, you not only help define your muscles, but you also build up a higher metabolism that you cannot achieve merely by aerobics, biking or running (though you should definitely keep up any kind of cardio workout, if possible!)

Work out with a Medicine Ball
Work out with a Medicine Ball

After only 2 weeks of weightlifting with a medicine ball, I feel more in shape than I have in months (I don't weigh myself, but instead look for muscle definition, strength and reduction in body fat). I love feeling my body getting stronger, and its unbelievable that its happened so quickly. An insulin-dependent diabetic, I've been able to reduce the amount of insulin required over a 24 hour period, too!

A quick disclaimer, however (I am a lawyer, after all). Be sure to check with your doctor before starting an exercise regime, or before increasing your type or intensity of workouts.

So, let's get down to it! You're probably wondering how to use a medicine ball. In fact, you may even be wondering what a medicine ball is... Read on!


Ab Exercises with a Medicine Ball

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What is a Medicine Ball?

You can find a weighted ball for your exercises in many forms and at a range of costs. For the most part, medicine balls are between 2-25 pounds and the standard ones are approximately size of a basketball. They come in different textures and even different sizes, depending on your needs.

At first, medicine balls had a more "medicinal" or therapeutic quality, used for rehabilitation or strength training. Now, athletes of all ranges, from competitive to "weekend warriors" train with medicine balls to build muscles for endurance and to build explosive power.

As described on Wikipedia:

Medicine ball training is one of the oldest forms of strength and conditioning training – the first reference to wrestlers training with sand filled bladders appears in Persia nearly 3000 years ago. In ancient Greece the physician Hippocrates had them sewn out of animal skins and stuffed with sand. His patients threw them back and forth for injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Around 100 years ago, "health" and "medicine" were synonymous terms. In fact, the "Four Horsemen of Fitness" included the dumbbell, wand, Indian club and the medicine ball.

In addition to varying weights, a medicine ball can be fitted with, or without, a handle (or two). Other variations, known as powerballs or slamballs, may have a rope running through the ball.

The two best things about a medicine ball are the low cost and its portability. You'll spend less than $80 on a ball, but you'll have it forever. Trade in your gym membership and don't worry about buying a pilates machine! Plus, this is one exercise that you can easily take on the road. If you travel a lot, there is no need for you to worry about finding a hotel with an exercise room or running route. Simply pack your medicine ball and you're good to go.

How to Work Out with a Medicine Ball

When considering how to work out with a medicine ball, the first question is probably "why?" As with most weight training exercises, the answer is likely to build muscle. For those that use a medicine ball, be prepared to work on core muscles more than anything else. And a strong core is the foundation to a healthy, strong body!

Many seasoned athletes use medicine ball exericses to develop explosive muscle power, as part of a plyometrics program.

"Plyometric movements, in which a muscle is loaded and then contracted in rapid sequence, use the strength, elasticity and innervation of muscle and surrounding tissues to jump higher, run faster, throw farther, or hit harder, depending on the desired training goal. Plyometrics is used to increase the speed or force of muscular contractions, often with the goal of increasing the height of a jump."

Remember those silly handweights that people used when walking to "build muscle?" Well, this is a much more sensible alternative on that idea. Adding use of a medicine ball to ordinary exercise activities will increase the effectiveness. From abdominal crunches to squats, you can get more out of your routine with a medicine ball.

For example, as indicated on About.com:

"When you're doing a crunch, hold the ball up over your head to add intensity. You can also squeeze a medicine ball between your knees while doing squats to add more inner thigh work."

There are a number of specific exercises you can do with a medicine ball:

Kneel to Push Ups

  1. Start in an upright position sitting on your knees.
  2. Hold ball at chest level
  3. Keep your torso erect and fall forward then press the medicine ball to a partner or a wall.
  4. Release the ball, then drop hands to the floor and complete a push-up.

Single Leg Chops

  1. Stand on right leg with your arms extended, holding the ball up and to your right.
  2. Bring the medicine ball down in a "wood chopping" motion towards your left foot.
  3. Then, switch feet so your left foot is on the ground and your right foot is in the air.

Slams

  1. Stand with feet parallel and knees slightly bent.
  2. Pull medicine ball behind head and forcefully throw it down on the ground as hard as possible.
  3. Catch the ball on the bounce from the ground and repeat.

Figure of Eights

  1. Hold medicine ball with your arms extended over your right shoulder.
  2. In one continuous motion bring the ball down in front of you like you are chopping wood, with the ball ending towards your left foot.
  3. Stand back up and raise the ball over your left shoulder and then bring the ball down towards your right foot.
  4. TetRrn to starting position and repeat.

Medicine Ball Lunge Crossovers
1. Stand with feet hip width apart. Take left leg and step back approximately 2 feet standing on the ball of the foot.
2. Start position: Feet should be positioned at a staggered stance with head and back erect and straight in a neutral position. Hold medicine ball in front of your chest.
3. Lower body by bending at hip and knee until thigh is parallel to floor. Body should follow a straight line down towards the floor. As you are lunging reach to one side of the leg with the ball.
4. Return to start position and repeat by reaching to the opposite side with the ball. Alternate or switch to other leg after prescribed reps.

Russian Twists
1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
2. Hold medicine ball with both hands and arms only slightly bent.
3. Swing ball over to the right hip and forcefully swing ball forward and around towards the left side. Reverse back in the opposite direction. Keep the stomach drawn in to maximize proper usage of muscle.

Single Leg V-Ups
1. Start position: Lie back onto floor or bench with knees bent, both hands behind head. Keep elbow back and out of sight. Head should be in a neutral position with a space between chin and chest.
2. Leading with the chin and chest towards the ceiling, contract the abdominal and raise shoulders off floor or bench. Extend arms and also raise one leg up toward ceiling.
3. Return to start position.
4. Remember to keep head and back in a neutral position. Hyperextension or flexion may cause injury. To increase resistance, hold medicine ball in hands. To decrease resistance, position hand closer towards body.

Medicine Ball Obliques

1. Starting Position: Lie on your back and raise your legs with your knees bent.

2. Holding a medicine ball between your knees rotate your legs to the side and then return to the starting position. Repeat to the other side.

Lateral Flexion w/ Stability Ball
1. Starting Position: Lie on your side over the stability ball and spread your legs for balance.
2. Hold a medicine ball over your head and curl up towards the ceiling. Lay back down across the ball and repeat the movement.
3. Repeat with the other side.

Reverse Curls
1. Start position: Lie with back on floor or bench with hips flexed at 90° and feet in air holding onto a medicine b.all. Position arms at sides with palms down on floor.
2. Leading with the heels towards the ceiling, raise glutes (butt) off floor or bench.
3. Return to start position.
4. Remember keep legs from swinging to prevent momentum throughout the exercise.

Push-ups with a medicine ball
Push-ups with a medicine ball

Work Out with a Medicine Ball

So, build some muscle and watch your body get lean and mean! Seriously, even if you have a way to go towards your ideal weight, lifting weights is a great way to get there. I am a recent convert to the idea of weight lifting. It used to be all about cardio for me. But now that I've added a medicine ball workout to my routine, I'm seeing some great results a lot faster. Oh, and I'm feeling pretty good too!

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I love to hear what has worked for others!

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Comments 12 comments

Becky Tom 7 years ago

We use medicine balls in our boxing fitness class, Steph. The instructor has us stand facing the wall and hold the ball over our head and then toss the ball against the wall for 1 to 2 minutes. It reminds me of setting a volleyball against a wall, but using a 20 pound medicine ball instead. You can add some intensity to the exercise and strengthen calf muscles by rising up on your toes each time you toss the ball to the wall.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Becky! That sounds really hard, but a great medicine ball workout. I haven't tried a class yet, but I'll bet its fun. Working out the calf muscles would be great too. They seem to get neglected otherwise. :) Steph


rlarsion 6 years ago

you don't always need the medicine ball. I do some of the same movements without it and that can be just as effective. these days I'm mostly into plyometrics - I'm doing the Insanity Workout http://www.scoreboardfitness.com/


casey kaldal profile image

casey kaldal 6 years ago

Great hub! Medicine balls can be an excellent way to work out. They're super versatile, and come in so many weights. They can benefit everyone from a raw beginner to the fitness world, to a pro and everyone in between.


kcreery profile image

kcreery 6 years ago from Whistler Canada

Nice. Medicine ball workouts are more fun than hitting the busy gyms. Keep up the good work.


anooh profile image

anooh 6 years ago

good work. Medicine ball workouts are very nice

thank you


szar 5 years ago

for a 169 pound guy at 5:7 inches.. who works out moderately hard thrice a week...

what weight would you recommend.

my max lift is 18 pounds dumbells.


thomas sabo online 5 years ago

This is my first time i visit here. I discovered so numerous interesting stuff in your weblog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I

guess I am not the only one having all of the enjoyment here! maintain up the great work.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

stephhicks68,

I just invested in two medicine balls. In the water we performs an extreme movement called the Alligator Abs - working the obliques in the water with buoyant fitness tools. I cannot always get to the swimming pool and wanted something at home.

Great video you picked - very concise and helpful.

I am dedicated to fighting middle age with exercise - swim fitness and land too! The medicine ball is also great for lunges. The longest and largest muscles in our body are in our legs. If we need to loose weight, change our metabolism, building muscle is a great way to start (diet is always the foundation to any weight loss program). Lunges and squats when done properly actually help the knees by adding muscle to protect the knees.

Love my two new medicine balls - one weight for my abs and another for my lunges and squats.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks GmaGoldie - I love the workouts I do with the medicine balls. My abs have become much more defined and my arms look great. Glad to hear that you are enjoying your work outs too! Best, Steph


Mike 5 years ago

Medicine balls are great tools for all athletic training. They are fun and come in a ton of different weights for all levels. We use them with our golfers all the time, as well as other training aids. http://www.performbettergolf.com/golf-training-aid...


Gil 4 years ago

Steph..I will be again adding the med ball to my routine after many years. I am doing boxing-style workouts and the medicine ball will be an almost natural addition. The versatlity of this tool is amazing, as one does not have to be a boxer to use it.

This piece of simple equipment is fun, challenging and easy to maintain. While I prefer the 'old school" style used by old time boxers, the selection out there has something for everyone.

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