The use of medicine balls (weighted balls) originated in Europe where they were used to improve muscular function in older rehabilitation patients. Their use in the United States became prevalent when Admiral Joel Boone, the White House physician for President Hoover, developed a game known as Hoover Ball to maintain the President's fitness. The medicine ball lost some of its popularity as interest in weight training with machine and free weights increased. In recent years, medicine ball training has made a come back in school, home, rehabilitation, and fitness center settings due to its versatility and adaptability. A countless number of exercises of varying degrees of difficulty can be performed by individuals of all ages and fitness/skill levels. Medicine balls come in different sizes (baseball to basketball) and weights (1-30 pounds). They can be "lifted" to improve strength and stability or thrown to improve power.
Benefits of Medicine Ball Training
- Develops functional fitness, muscle coordination, and core strength. To perform the exercises, your body must perform as a unit. Therefore, the effects of this type of training can be carried over to improve performance of activities of daily living.
- Increases muscular strength and endurance.
- Improves balance.
- Improves flexibility and range of motion.
- In the athletic setting, drills can be performed that mimic movements during a particular sport to help increase power and agility. For example, a drill that involves chest passes with a weighted ball can increase the force with which the athlete passes the basketball during a game.
- Exercises can be designed to be performed alone (e.g., walking lunge) or with a partner (e.g., chest pass).
- Exercises can be modified to account for functional capacity of the individual (e.g., performed seated in a chair rather than in an upright position).
For a change of pace in your workout, try these medicine ball exercises:
Walking Lunge - develops abdominal, thigh, hip, back, shoulder, and triceps muscles
Step One: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and the ball level with your navel.
Step Two: Lunge forward with your right leg while twisting your upper body to the right, bringing the ball to the right and slightly behind your right hip. Hold for a count of two. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per side.
Lateral Flexion - targets obliques and works lower back and shoulder muscles
Step One: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Hold ball above your head.
Step Two: Slightly bend at your waist to the left while keeping the ball above your head. Hold for a count of two. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per side.
Squats - works entire core, thigh and upper arm muscles
Step One: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly flexed. Your arms should be bent with the ball at chest level.
Step Two: While tightening your abdominal muscles and keeping your back straight, bend at the knees to assume a squatting position. At the same time, push the ball out in front of you. Hold for a count of two. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Russian Twist - works entire core
Step One: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Hold the ball at waist level, slightly behind your left hip.
Step Two: Swing the ball across your body to just behind your right hip. Then, swing back to the left side. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions (one full repetition includes swinging to the left and right). Your abdominal muscles should be tight throughout the exercise. Rotating your back foot will increase your range of motion.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
- Lateral flexion and russian twists can be performed in a seated position.
- Do a 5 minute warm-up prior to training with a medicine ball.
- Start with a lightweight ball. As fitness improves heavier balls can be used.
- Perform medicine ball exercises on 2-3 nonconsecutive days of the week.
- Focus on technique while performing the movements in a slow controlled manner.
ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, Vol. 12, No. 3; pp.7-12. "Medicine Ball Training For Kids: Benefits, Concerns, and Program Design Considerations," Faigenbaum, A.D. and Mediate, P.
Labels: balance, core strength, functional fitness, medicine ball training, muscular endurance and strength