Medicine ball exercises are strength training and plyometric weight training exercises performed using a heavy, weighted ball known as a medicine ball. Many traditional exercises can be adapted for use with a medicine ball, but it is best to begin with a trainer or exercise partner who can offer advice and help prevent injury. Medicine ball exercises are an excellent way to increase endurance and develop muscles to benefit athletes in a particular sport. They are also used for injury rehabilitation.
A medicine ball may weigh between two and 25 pounds (.9 kg to 11.3 kg). Lighter medicine balls are typically used for rehabilitation following an injury. Medicine balls in the eight pound range (3.6 kg) are the most common for exercise programs designed to increase physical fitness and overall strength. Heavier medicine balls are used by professional athletes.
Medicine ball exercises may seek to increase core strength by adding weight to exercises. The medicine ball may simply be held or lifted during traditional exercises, such as leg lifts, squats, leg curls, or sit ups. For example, during a squat, one might lift the medicine ball straight out in front of the body or over the head. During sit ups, one might hold the medicine ball up near the chest, adding weight that the abdominal muscles must lift.
A medicine ball also may be used in specific medicine ball exercises. An athlete might attempt to kick or throw the medicine ball, which will increase the strength of the muscles used for kicking and throwing, putting greater power behind his or her movements during a game. This is a simplistic definition of plyometric weight training. For this type of exercise, it is best to work with a partner who can catch the ball and throw it back. Catching the medicine ball is also a great way to work and strengthen the abdominal muscles.
In general, the medicine ball will become more difficult to hold and control the further away it is from the body. It takes more core strength to hold a medicine ball at arm's length than to hold it close to the chest. However, when first beginning medicine ball exercises, it is important to not overwork and overextend the muscles. It is best to begin with a lighter medicine ball and use smaller movements to prevent extending the muscles in the arms, legs, shoulders, or back too much.
As with any type of exercise, it is important to warm up beforehand, focus on performing the exercises with the correct technique, and perform an appropriate number of sets and repetitions. It may be helpful to watch a trainer performing the exercise first, or to watch a video. Always ensure there is enough space to perform a medicine ball workout. Many trainers recommend performing medicine ball exercises prior to any other type of strength training or aerobic exercise for the day, so that the muscles are fresh.