What Is a Medicine Ball?

How to Use a Medicine Ball for Fitness

Woman with a med Ball
Getty Images/Kevin Kozick

A medicine ball is a small, grippable, heavy ball that you can use for many different fitness activities. Like a stability ball or exercise ball, medicine balls are an excellent way to work every part of your body. You can use them for strength training, balance, or rehab exercises.

Medicine balls have come a long way and now come in a variety of weights and textures. Some have handles and some don't, some bounce and some don't. Using a medicine ball adds a whole new dimension to your training by taking you through all planes of motions (unlike traditional weight training). This type of training translates well into how we really move out in the real world.

Maybe you remember using an old-timey medicine ball in gym class, or you have one sitting in the corner gathering cobwebs. Time to dust it off and put it to good use.

Medicine Ball Benefits

The contemporary version of the medicine ball is an excellent tool for building strength, balance, stability, and coordination. Medicine balls offer:

  • Customization: They come in one-pound increments, giving you tons of options for different exercises.
  • Versatility: They can be used for almost every exercise and movement you can imagine: Seated, standing, lying down, static movements and dynamic movements.
  • Low risk: They don't damage floors if you drop them the way dumbbells can, and they have a low risk of injury.
  • Fun: They're fun to throw back and forth with a workout buddy.
  • Low impact: They allow you to work on action and power that doesn't stress your joints at the end of the movement because the ball is released.

Choosing a Medicine Ball

If possible, invest in a variety of medicine balls. The average weight you'll want to use will probably be between 2 and 10 pounds, but it's nice to have increments. Start with a set of three balls (4, 6, and 8 pounds) to start because some exercises require more weight than others. For example:

  • Valeo's 4-pound medicine ball is high quality and has great texture so you don't drop it. It bounces, so you can use it for exercises like the squat, dribble and toss.
  • Spri's 6-pound Xerball is very high quality and has a great bounce.
  • ZoN's 8-pound soft medicine ball is soft, so it doesn't bounce. It works well for push-ups.

Using a medicine ball requires a lot of work from your abs and back, so choose a weight you can handle. Most movements begin at the core and without strong muscles, you risk injury. Using a medicine ball can help you train those trunk muscles the way they work during daily activities, not just at the gym.

How to Use a Medicine Ball

Medicine ball training can be aerobic/anaerobic (tossing the ball back and forth) or you can use it as a strength training tool (as in medicine ball crunches or push-ups). Because of its versatility, there are many ways you can use a medicine ball in your training.

Strength Training

Build up your muscles by incorporating a medicine ball into your strength training workouts. Whether it's in high-intensity interval workouts or simple medicine ball slams, the added resistance will give you an elevated workout.

Rehabilitation

As a way to rehabilitate from and prevent future injury, use a medicine ball to build up strength. Add in low-impact medicine ball moves that'll help to ease you back into a strength-building workout.

Balance

Improve your balance and stability by using a medicine ball in your workouts. Standing on one leg, hold the medicine ball in front of you and rotate your core from left to right. Repeat on your other leg.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is inside medicine balls?

    A medicine ball for workouts is usually filled with sand or gel. The amount of filling determines how heavy the medicine ball is.

  • What's the difference between a medicine ball and slam ball?

    Because slam balls are designed to be thrown, they have a thicker coating than a medicine ball.

By Paige Waehner
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."