It’s more fun to exercise if you vary your routine. Challenging your body in new ways helps it grow and change. One way to add variety is to use a medicine ball when you work out. Medicine balls are weighted balls with weights between 2 and 25 pounds. Unlike fitness balls, large balls that you lie or sit on, medicine balls are small enough to hold in your hands while you exercise yet heavy enough to challenge your muscles like dumbbells. Plus, a medicine ball allows greater versatility and range of motion because you can throw it up in the air and toss it. You wouldn’t want to do that with dumbbells or kettlebells. What are the benefits of working out with a medicine ball?
Working Out With a Medicine Ball: Build Explosive Strength
Medicine balls are ideal for building explosive strength that’s so important for sports performance. Explosive strength is the ability to exert maximal force over a short period of time. You use explosive strength for jumping, leaping off the ground, sprinting, throwing and kicking. Plyometric exercises are among the most effective for building explosive strength. Adding a medicine ball to plyometric moves increases the challenge and calorie burn and recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers, the ones important for strength and power.
How can you use a medicine ball to build explosive strength? When you’re doing squat jumps, hold a medicine ball in your hands to increase the challenge. Build up your fitness level first by doing regular squat jumps to avoid injury. When doing dynamic scissor lunges, another plyometric exercise, hold a medicine ball. As you scissor your legs back and forth raise the ball above your head with each lunge.
To develop explosive strength in your upper body, throw the ball hard against the ground repeatedly with as much force as you can. There are a number of ways to incorporate a medicine ball into plyometric exercises to build explosive strength and power.
Working Out With a Medicine Ball: Challenge Your Core
You can use a medicine ball to add resistance to core and abdominal exercises. Hold a medicine ball when doing your crunches for more resistance. Work your obliques by holding a medicine ball while doing Russian twists. Add more resistance to toe touch crunches by holding a medicine ball. To do this, lie on a mat and extend your legs straight up in the air. Hold a medicine ball while crunching up and trying to touch your toes. Hold a medicine ball when doing V-ups to work your core and abdominals even more. You’ll find a medicine ball is the perfect way to add resistance when you’re doing core and abdominal exercises.
Strengthen your legs and core by holding a medicine ball when you do squats and lunges. As you come up from each squat or lunge, raise the medicine ball above your head. A medicine ball is better for dynamic movements than dumbbells and fitness machines that limit your range of motion. You’ll find you can substitute medicine ball in place of dumbbells or kettlebells for many exercises.
Working Out With a Medicine Ball: Work on Balance
A medicine ball can help improve your balance. Add a medicine ball to your push-up routine. Place one hand on a medicine ball as you lower your body to the ground. Then switch to the other side. You can also make it more dynamic by rolling the ball from one side to the other with each push-up. Try doing Romanian deadlifts holding a medicine ball. This will really challenge your balance skills.
Working Out With a Medicine Ball: Improve Hand-Eye Coordination
Simply tossing and catching a medicine ball helps to improve hand-eye coordination. Grab a partner and toss it back and forth. How many opportunities do you get to work on coordination skills? The medicine ball makes it easy because it bounces. Dumbbells fall short in this area because you can’t toss them!
Working Out With a Medicine Ball: Add an Element of Fun
Holding a medicine ball instead of dumbbells or a kettlebell adds an element of variety and fun to a workout. The exercises you can do with them are almost limitless.
Working Out With a Medicine Ball: How to Get Started?
Medicine balls come in a variety of weights. Start with a light one, especially if you’ve never worked with one before. You can always use a heavier one as your fitness level increases.
The bottom line? See how this inexpensive piece of fitness equipment can add a new dimension to your workout. W orking out with a medicine ball has lots of potential and possibilities just waiting to be tapped into. Ready to get started?
J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Aug;21(3):894-901.
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