If the last time you picked up a medicine ball was in high school gym class, it's time to take another look at this viable training tool. Medicine balls today are a departure from the worn, leather balls of the past. They're high-tech, colorful and made with an easy-to-grip rubberized surface.
"Modern balls are eons ahead of the old leather ones," explains Roland Strong, a personal trainer and the Health and Wellness Coordinator for the Municipality of West Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. But do they measure up to traditional weight machines and dumbbells? Absolutely.
With balls ranging from one to 50 pounds, you can work just as hard. In fact, points out Strong, the medicine ball surpasses many other forms of resistance equipment. "Medicine balls fill a void that traditional weights can't because they allow you to successfully train using dynamic and random movements." That's because today's medicine balls also bounce. "Obviously," says Strong, "you can't safely bounce or toss dumbbells."
By Amanda Vogel, MA
There's no end to the benefits of medicine ball training. "You can use them for developing all major muscles groups in various environments," says Strong. Here are five reasons to use a weighted ball during your next workout.
1) Improves Sports Performance
Training with a medicine ball simulates real sports situations and improves hand-eye coordination because you can throw, catch and bounce it. Tossing or moving with the ball also develops power for sport-specific actions like golf swings, tennis serves and swimming strokes. And medicine balls are well-suited for plyometric exercises because they're safer than traditional dumbbells.
2) Challenges Your Core
Tossing and catching a medicine ball improves core strength and stabilization, which decreases the risk of injury and enhances performance. Training with the ball also facilitates functional movement, especially in the torso, so everyday activities are easier and safer. For instance, doing spinal rotations with the ball mimics lifting grocery bags from the shopping cart to the trunk of your car.
3) Encourages Socialization
Exercising with a medicine ball may help you make friends because so many ball exercises work best with two or more people. "You can work in pairs or small groups doing things like tossing the ball to one another," explains Strong. And since this type of training is especially effective for sports conditioning, teammates can train together.
4) Adds Variety
Using a new piece of equipment does wonders for reviving a run-of-the-mill
fitness program. Since medicine balls are so versatile, the exercises
you can do with them are limitless. And they're not just for elite
athletes either. People of all fitness levels and ages benefit from
this type of exercise.
5) Lets You Revisit Your Youth
In addition to the physical advantages of medicine ball training, there is a psychological one: it can lift your spirits. Medicine balls have a playful quality, so they're enjoyable to use. "Working with medicine balls is fun," notes Strong. "They're one of the few fitness tools that make you feel like a kid again."
By Amanda Vogel, MA