Medicine balls have been around for years, and for good reason. This weighted ball is a bit more versatile than your standard set of hand weights. Read on to learn all about the use of medicine balls and how you can get started with a medicine ball full body workout today.
Why Use A Medicine Ball?
A medicine ball is so versatile. Because it’s weighted, it can be used like a set of hand weights. Because it’s a ball, it can be thrown, caught, and used in numerous poses.
Medicine balls are also soft to hold – usually made of rubber or leather – so they don’t tend to hurt sensitive hands the way weights can. In fact, the medicine ball is even used in some elementary school fitness programs.1
Medicine balls can be effective for building power, flexibility, endurance and, perhaps most importantly, functional strength and stability. Functional strength is your ability to carry out daily tasks like climbing stairs, housework, shopping, standing, and sitting.2
It’s essential to build this kind of core strength and balance as you age, as it can help to minimize falls. Falls are one of the leading causes of significant injury in those aged 65 and above.3
How To Select The Right Medicine Ball Weight
Medicine balls come in multiple weights and sizes – most between one and 30 pounds. A larger ball doesn’t always mean a heavier ball, as some smaller balls are actually more dense.
The general guidance is that a lighter medicine ball should be used for speed training, while heavier balls should be used for strength and power training. Just like hand weights, the ball needs to be heavy enough to make a motion challenging, but it shouldn’t be so heavy that the control of that range of motion becomes hindered.4
The Ultimate Total-Body Medicine Ball Workout
Once you’ve selected a ball that feels comfortable yet challenging, you’ll have an effective piece of equipment that you can take anywhere – the park, the beach, the office, even on a road trip.
A medicine ball is also a wonderful workout tool for those who like to keep fit in the comfort of their own home. It’s a great way to combat gym excuses. If the equipment is right there, without you leaving home, you can fit in a little exercise at any time.
As Tony Horton says, “…it’s never too late to reverse the effects of aging. If you wake up every day committed to doing something to counter and prevent such ailments, you can create a happy, healthy, youthful life, no matter what your age.”
Using a medicine ball may be the perfect tool to do just this.
Of course, you’ll need to get your doctor’s approval before beginning any new exercise regimen. Once, you’re given the “O.K.”, the following exercises can be used to create a full body workout.
Medicine ball exercises tend to involve full body movements, incorporating many of your major muscle groups, and they are generally viewed as a safe form of resistance training for all ages.5
Medicine Ball Slam
This is a classic medicine ball movement that you definitely can’t do with a set of weights. You are going to – as advertised – slam your medicine ball into the ground. Seems simple, right? It’s not so easy with a weighted ball.
You may want to use a traditional slam ball here – one made of leather instead of rubber – so there’s no bounce back.
- Make sure you have enough space so that you won’t hit anyone (or anything).
- Stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart, knees and hips slightly bent. Engage your core and stand with good posture.
- Squat slightly, so that you have some power behind you. Then, rise up on the balls of your feet in a full extension, with arms and ball straight overhead.
- Keep your core tight, and then slam the medicine ball into the ground between your feet as hard as you can. Bend your knees for more power.
- Always squat to pick up the ball from the floor (to protect your back).
- Move into your next slam immediately by coming up on the balls of your feet and repeating.
- Try for 3 sets of 6 slams to begin with, resting in between the sets. You can always increase these numbers as you get stronger.
Pushup With Medicine Ball
Why use a medicine ball to do push ups? Well, the offset pushup position (one hand on the ball and one on the ground) may help to improve stability and balance – especially in the upper body and core.
- Get into your classic push up position (either on your feet or on your knees), but rest your right hand on the medicine ball instead of the ground. Your left hand will be on the ground as usual.
- Pressing the shoulder blades together, lower your chest to about an inch from the floor, until your chest touches the ball. Then push back up.
- From your “up” position, roll the ball over to the other hand and now place that hand on top of the ball. Your opposite hand will now be on the floor. There’s no need to rush this switch. Take care to keep it controlled. However, as an extra challenge, once you’ve mastered the basics, you can speed this movement up.
- Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps. If you find the switch too difficult, work one side for 5 reps, then switch and do 5 on the other side.
High Knee With Medicine Ball
This exercise really brings the cardio – and keeping your knees high targets that core.
- Hold the medicine ball at chest height but slightly away from your chest.
- Focus on keeping your core tight and check that you’re standing tall, with your upper back straight.
- Now you’re going to do a slow jog on the spot where you focus entirely on getting your knees as high as you can. They should touch the medicine ball each time.
- Perform this routine for 30- 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. Try for 3-4 sets.
Russian Twist With Medicine Ball
The Russian twist is a famed abdominal exercise. In many ways, using a medicine ball can make the movement smoother, as it gives you something to “move” from side to side.
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet in the air so that your lower legs are parallel to the ground – as if they’re resting on a table top.
- Hold the medicine ball in front of your chest, but not touching your chest.
- Slowly lean your torso back to a 45-degree angle to the floor. Brace your core and, gripping the medicine ball, rotate to the left as far as is comfortable.
- Then, twist back to the right as far as is comfortable.
- Set a timer for 30 seconds, and do as many as you can in this time. Then, try for two more sets like this, resting in between each.
Lunge With Medicine Ball Pass
Make those legs burn by incorporating a lunge into your total body medicine ball workout.
- Stand in a wide lunge position – your front foot flat on the ground and your back foot resting on its toes. When you lunge, both your front and back knee will make a 90-degree angle with the floor
- Hold the medicine ball in front of your chest – but not touching your chest.
- Bend into a lunge, and pass the ball under your front leg – from the inside of your leg to the outside, and from one hand to the other.
- As you straighten back up, the ball comes back up to your chest. Then, you lunge and pass again.
- Once you find your rhythm, this will become a smooth, swift cycle.
- Set a timer for 30 seconds, and do as many as you can in this time. Then, switch sides and do the same. Try for three sets on each leg, resting for around 15 seconds in between each.
Knee Drive With Medicine Ball
A whole body movement with a great hit of cardio, the knee drive can be performed slow and steady or revved up with some speed.
- Your start position will see your right leg firmly balanced on the ground and your left leg out behind you, toes balancing on the ground.
- While holding the medicine ball, reach your arms out and up at a 45-degree angle in front of you. This should form a diagonal straight line with your back leg.
- Now, drive your left knee (the back leg) forward in a running motion and, at the same time, bring the medicine ball down to meet it (it will meet your knee.)
- Repeat for 30 seconds, completing as many as you can in this time. Then, switch legs and do the same. Try for three sets on each leg, resting for around 15 seconds in between each.
Front Raise With Medicine Ball
This exercise works the deltoids at the front of your shoulders really well. Slow and steady is the theme here. Take your time, and make each front raise count.
- Start with your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Hold the medicine ball relaxed in front of you, around your pelvis level.
- Now, raise your arms straight up to shoulder level with a slight bend in the elbows. Make sure to activate your core and keep your shoulder pressed back.
- Slowly lower your arms back down to the starting position.
- Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps. Rest for 15 seconds between each.
Plank With Medicine Ball
- Get into a high plank position – but rather than placing your hands on the ground, place your forearms on the ground so they form a 90-degree angle with your shoulders. Keep your legs straight out behind you and your feet hip width apart.
- Place the medicine ball just in front of your hands. Now, while keeping your body as still as possible (and your core engaged) tap the ball with your left hand. Return it back to the starting position, and then tap the ball with your right hand.
- Repeat for 30 seconds, completing as many taps as you can in this time. Try for three sets, resting for around 15 seconds in between each.
Work Your Entire Body With A Single Weighted Ball
The medicine ball truly is a take-anywhere instant workout. It’s great for all ages, and it can make your exercise routine both fun and simple. You can add it to almost any exercise you already do for extra weight and resistance.
Medicine balls can easily be bought online, and are much cheaper than many other types of workout equipment.
Again, just be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program to ensure that it’s right for you.