If you wanted to get in shape at home, how would you do it? Dance to the oldies? Run around the house with leg warmers? Sounds like a recipe for boredom (and humiliation) to me. One thing that helps people stay on a fitness program is variety, and a medicine ball can offer you a nice range of workouts to design an exercise program.
One thing that makes medicine balls great is their design. While a few exercises can get very technical, most medicine ball movements mimic things that are already ingrained in our DNA – like scooping, slamming, and carrying. For the beginner, this means that there is a relatively small learning curve. So, you can snatch up a medicine ball and pretty much jump into your workout without having to worry about precise form or necessarily hurting yourself from improper technique.If you throw a basketball, you have the skill to handle a medicine ball.
But, you do have to be prepared to be sore. Medicine balls allow you to produce a lot of force; they take advantage of what strength coaches call the force velocity curve (1). In a nutshell, the use of medicine balls will teach your muscles how to produce a lot of power by tapping into certain muscle fibers. So yes you'll feel sore, but that soreness will make your metabolism work overtime. This is also a good thing for people wanting to increase strength and power without having to add muscle and gain weight. In fact, researchers found that a 12-week medicine ball program enhanced throwing velocity in baseball pitchers (2).
If you’re short on time, you can design a circuit to perform with a medicine ball. This will allow you to increase your ability to generate power, but also increase your conditioning and boost your metabolism. Here are some more popular, and effective, movements to do with a medicine ball.
Slam – With your feet straight, grab a medicine ball with both hands. Raise the medicine ball above your head and then dip it behind your head (you’re elbows should be pointing up the ceiling). From here, forcefully whip the ball over and slam it into the ground. Repeat for a desired number of repetitions.
Chest Pass – You’ll need a partner for this one. Once again, stand with your feet straight and a medicine ball in your hands. Bring the ball up to your chest with your elbows pointing out at your sides. Launch the medicine ball forward (try to throw it in a straight line) by extending your arms completely. Your partner catches the ball and rolls/bounces it back to you. You can do this exercise solo by lying on your back and throwing the ball straight up in the air, but you miss out on getting the stretch in your chest because of the floor. Plus you risk missing catching the ball and it landing on you. Enough embarrassing already stuff happens in gyms – so don’t add to that list.
Wall Toss – Make sure you have approval from your training studio before doing this because you’ll be smashing that medicine ball into the wall. Stand a few feet away from a wall. Carry a medicine ball so your arms are extended and the ball resides low, around your hips. The ball should be by the hip furthest from the wall. Using your whole body (not your arms) whip the ball across your body and into the wall. Make sure to do the same number of reps on each side of the body.
Squat and Toss – Grab a medicine ball in your hands and carry it so it’s level with your chest. Perform a full range squat; as you come up from the squat, launch the ball in the air above you. If you trust your athletic ability, catch the ball. If you've never been able to catch well, don’t start trying now. Simply let the ball fall to the floor (and not on you).
This is by no means a complete list of movements you can do with a medicine ball. With a medicine ball, you have a lot of versatility; you could even combine the squat with a chest pass.
You can take the four moves listed above and perform them in a circuit. Perform 10 reps of each exercise and jump rope in between each move for 30 seconds. After four rounds of the circuit, you've just completed an easy 20 minute workout that will start getting you in shape, and hopefully, reducing your stress levels from slamming that ball around!
1. Bachechle, Thomas R and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics. 2000, pp 428
2. Szymanski, D.J., Szymanski, J.M., et al. “Effect of Twelve Weeks of Medicine Ball Training on High School Baseball Players.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 21.3 (2007): 894-901