The Case for Medicine Balls
I’m often approached by people who want to build a home gym and where they should start. I should clarify: they want to know the best treadmill to buy and my response is usually something like this:
“You know, you don’t have to buy a treadmill to get in shape. In fact, it’s the last thing I would ever buy. You could buy a few medicine balls for one-twentieth the price of a treadmill and you’ll get way more use out of them.”
That statement is met with a brief stare and then I see person avoid me like I’m a grown man dressed up like Batman in broad daylight. But the fact is the medicine ball has been one of the most effective tools in the strength coaches toolshed. Medicine ball workouts can be used to increase strength, fat loss, conditioning, and of course training for sports performance.
Here’s the cool thing about medicine balls: they allow you to accelerate a weight through a full range of motion (1). Anyone who has tried to lift a heavy weight knows the feeling: certain parts of the movement can be pretty sticky (that’s a pun….if you’re a weightlifter or powerlifter you’re familiar with the term sticking point). In fact, those who have set world records in the deadlift find that it can take nearly 8 seconds to lift the weight off the floor. Not exactly a great way to make you fast, but medicine balls can fix that issue. If you’re feeling really salty, you can make a contrasting set – meaning you pair a heavy move with a lighter move (1). For example, you could combine an overhead press with medicine ball slams.
You want to know another thing cool about medicine balls? You could use some unconventional movements. Training with barbells and dumbbells is great, but it can be quite near impossible to introduce a rotary component with them (think throwing something). However, medicine balls cam allow you to train with rotation, making athletes who throw punches or throw heavy things better athletes (2).
The medicine ball is a staple here at UEFP – client’s use them in their conditioning programs. The learning curve is relatively easy and the moves are simple: those looking to lose body fat perform high rep throws and slams with medicine balls and not really have to worry about getting injured during a bout of fatigue. They may do something like this:
Med Ball Wall Toss x 15
Med Ball Chest Pass x 15
Med Ball Slam x 15
At the end of the day, the use for medicine balls are relatively endless. Plus they’ll last you a lifetime. Are you still looking at that treadmill?
1. Baker, Daniel. Newton, Robert U. “Methods to Increase the Effectiveness of Maximal Power Training for the Upper Body” (2005) Strength and Conditioning Journal 27;6, 24-32
2. Earp. J.E. “Medicine Ball Training Implications for Rotational Power Sports” (2010) Strength and Conditioning Journal 32;4, 20-25