When it comes to strength training exercises, most of us opt for dumbbells, barbells or resistance bands. But you may be overlooking one of the most effective pieces of equipment out there: medicine balls. That’s right; this simple, easy-to-use piece of equipment can do just about everything that dumbbells and resistance bands can, and more.
Based on the number of different exercises you can do with them, they can help with everything from improving functional movement and whole-body strengthening, to developing endurance, building muscle and increasing flexibility. The bottom line is you should definitely be using this versatile exercise tool for your next workout.
But before you start your next sweat session, here are a few things you should know about medicine balls:
They’ve been around for a very long time: While their spike in popularity is recent, their history extends as far back as 400 BC, when Hippocrates used sand-filled animal skins for medicinal purposes (hence the name medicine ball).
They come in all sizes and weights: Medicine balls come in a variety of sizes, from the size of a tennis ball to larger than a basketball, and from 1 to 50 pounds and up. But all of these options can make it tough to decide which weight is best for you. For instance, one that feels comfortable when you hold it against your chest may be too heavy for exercises done at an arm’s length away from your body.
Finding your perfect fit: To choose a ball that’s heavy enough to challenge you, but not so heavy that you can’t maintain proper form, pick one that slows down the speed at which you do the exercise (versus the speed of doing it without any weight). Don’t forget: you should be able to maintain form through 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Get started with these simple moves: There’s no shortage of options when it comes to exercises and moves to do with a medicine ball (you can even do buddy exercises), but here are a few of the basics:
· Lunge with a Twist (whole-body): With your right foot, step out and lower yourself into a comfortable position. Keep your back straight and your feet pointing straight ahead, and make sure your forward knee doesn’t go past your toes. Once you’re comfortable in your lunge, and your forward thigh is parallel to the floor, extend the medicine ball out arms-length and twist to the right. Repeat the same step with your left foot and twist left.
· Medicine Ball Glute Bridge (legs and glutes): There are many variations of this move, but this is a great option for beginners. Start by lying down on your back and bending your knees (with your feet flat on the floor). Next, place the medicine ball in between your knees, making sure the ball stays in place. Then, with your arms lying on either side (with your palms facing up), squeeze your knees and glutes, lifting your hips off of the ground (making a bridge). Return to start position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
· Medicine ball V-up (core): Lie on your back with legs straight and extend your arms over your head, flat on the floor, with hands holding the medicine ball. Simultaneously raise your legs and your arms, aiming to touch the ball to your feet (your upper body and your legs lift to form a V shape at the top of the movement). Return to start position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
As you get more comfortable with medicine ball exercises, you can increase your weight, try different moves or incorporate buddy workouts. For additional ideas and expert advice, you can count on the experts at GMC’s Ellis Fitness & Performance Center. Whether you’re looking for a new exercise routine tailored to you, or you want an expert to evaluate your running and/or lifting form, GMC offers the services you want for all of your fitness needs.