Tampa Bay Rays spring training (AP Photo/Nati Hamrik)
Medicine balls are essentially round free weights. They are very popular among athletes and coaches for improving functional strength, dynamic flexibility, and whole body coordination.
Medicine balls are ideal for core and upper body strengthening. Just holding a medicine ball with outstretched arms requires some level of trunk and upper body isometric strength. Varying the ball's distance from the body changes the difficulty of exercises.
Medicine balls are also excellent training tools for teaching athletes common large motor (movement) skills that are key to success in certain sports.
For the throwing events in track and field, batting, and golfing, as examples, athletes can often learn or re-pattern correct lower body movements by using a medicine ball rather than exclusively training with a shot put, bat, or golf club.
Using medicine balls of various weights helps athletes focus on learning key movement patterns. Driving from the ground first, transferring the body weight from back to front, leading with the hips, and blocking with the non-power leg are examples.
Training with medicine balls to develop skills changes the "mental set", as well as strengthens specific muscle groups in concert. But it is important to continue to practice with sport implements while training with medicine balls.
In Knoxville, most schools and training facilities use medicine balls as part of their training regimens, including D1 Sports Training at 10745 Lexington Drive. Locally, medicine balls of a variety of weights and sizes are sold at retail at Dick's Sporting Goods on North Peters Road.
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