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How and Why You Should Use a Medicine Ball

Page last updated: 17th February 2022

Dumbbells and barbells are undeniably great pieces of equipment when it comes to building strength, but they're not the only bit of gym kit that add value to a workout. Medicine balls are one of the most underrated pieces of kit out there, and we're here to change that! Read on to find out why you should be using medicine balls in your workouts, as well as some of our favourite medicine ball exercises, and a full body workout using just a medicine ball.

What is a medicine ball?

Medicine balls have been around for a long time in one form or another. They're thought to have originated from the ancient Greek father of medicine, Hippocrates, who is said to have used stuffed animal skin balls to help his patients recover from injuries. Thankfully, the anatomy of a medicine ball has evolved since then, but the concept is still the same. Today, medicine balls come in a range of weights and can be used to build strength and endurance, as well as spice up plyometric exercises and HIIT workouts

What are medicine balls good for?

Medicine balls are designed to be thrown around without risk of injury or destruction of property, which makes them ideal for generating explosive power, speed, and endurance. With free weights, even explosive movements like kettlebell swings need to be decelerated as you reach the end of the movement. However, with medicine ball exercises, there's no need to slow down as the ball can be thrown, so you can really focus on creating as much force as possible. 

You can also use medicine balls to add weight to bodyweight exercises, swap out dumbbells and barbells to create more functional and explosive versions of your usual weightlifting exercises, and make your HIIT workouts even more intense. 

Some of the benefits of medicine ball training include:

  • Improving cardiovascular endurance

  • Creating better functional movement

  • Increasing core strength

  • Increasing athletic and sports performance

And aside from the physical benefits, it's pretty much guaranteed there will be a medicine ball available at the gym - so you can crack on with your workout without waiting for kit!

3 Medicine Ball Exercises to Try

If you fancy trying your hand at some plyometric medicine ball exercises, here are 3 to get you going.

  1. Uneven Pushups

    Standard pushups are a great boydweight exercise -- they strengthen the core, pecs, shoulders, and triceps. However, it can be difficult to build strength or power with push ups beyond a certain point. 

    There are many push up variations which make things more challenging, and explosive uneven pushups on a medicine ball are one of the best out there.

    The technique is pretty straightforward. Get into a regular pushup stance but with one hand resting on top of a medicine ball while the other rests on the floor. Lower yourself and then push up as hard and fast as you can. You'll notice that the arm which is on the ball will get a much greater workout than usual. Switch the ball to the other hand and repeat.

    If you really want to increase the challenge, try rolling the medicine ball from one hand to the other while you're still up in the air.

  2. Jump Squat Thrusters

    Explosive thrusters with a medicine ball are a true all-body exercise if there ever was one. They engage your entire lower body, your core, your shoulders and your triceps, and get your heart working heard. 

    Begin by holding the medicine ball in front of your chest and lowering yourself into a deep squat. Then burst up to a standing position as explosively as possible, jumping at the top of the motion and throwing the medicine ball up into the air over your head. Catch it as it comes down and sink straight back into the squat. Perform as many reps as you can, stopping when your speed has dramatically slowed down.

  3. Overhead Slams

    Overhead slams with a medicine ball blast your lats and core muscles. Your core plays a key part in all explosive movements, and getting these muscles used to sudden contractions makes a huge difference to your athletic performance. 

    Begin by holding the medicine ball behind your head in both hands. Then swing it overhead and hurl it towards the ground as fast as possible in one great arc, bending at the waist with the momentum.

    The key is to slam the medicine ball as hard as possible into the ground. Keep your feet a good distance apart and be careful not to throw the ball onto your toes. This exercise is best done using a medicine ball without much bounce as you don't want it flying straight back into your face.

Beginner Medicine Ball Workout

You can incorporate medicine ball exercises into your existing workouts, or you can build a whole workout around this bit of kit. PureGym Personal Trainer Courtney has created a full body medicine ball workout that builds strength and stamina in almost every muscle.

Complete 3-4 sets of each exercise, with 30-45 seconds rest between each set, for a seriously challenging, powerful workout.

  1. Thrusters - 15 reps

  2. Lunge with twist - 10 reps

  3. Squat and front press - 15 reps

  4. Plie squats - 15 reps

  5. Crunches - 16 reps

  6. Around the world ball slams - 16 reps

If you enjoy workout out with medicine balls, you'll probably like other explosive workouts. Why not try our kettlebell and HIIT workouts next?

Find your nearest PureGym here and get started today.

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