A medicine ball (med ball) is a small weighted ball that can add an extra dimension to toning exercises – particularly for the core. These days a high proportion come with handles, but traditionally medicine balls were all held in the hands, just like a sports ball.
The name medicine ball dates roughly 3000 years back to the part of the world then referred to as Persia where medicine and health were interchangeable terms. Sometimes referred to as an exercise ball or a fitness ball this simple piece of kit has multiple applications and is popular with physiotherapists for rehabilitation and personal trainers for building strength and power.
The size, weight and materials of medicine balls vary. Smaller 1KG balls can be as little as 20cm in diameter while the larger 10kg balls measure around 75cm – similar in size to a basketball. Traditionally medicine balls were made of leather but rubber, vinyl and nylon are the most common outer layers today. Those without handles tend to be textured rubber to aid a good grip.
The weight element of a medicine ball varies from model to model. Some have a heavy inner half sphere, others contain a thin rubber ‘bladder’ with a rubber outer which contains an air valve to pump up the ball to the required bounce level.
Medicine balls with handles offer the greatest variety of uses as you can do single-arm exercises. In fact, pretty much anything you can do with a kettlebell you can do with a handled medicine ball in addition to the established medicine ball exercises.
If you’ve got a buddy to train with a medicine ball is a great ingredient for a fun interactive and effective workout. Toe-to-toe sit-ups where the ball is passed over each rep are highly effective back and stomach strengtheners. Throwing and catching medicine balls is also a fantastic exercise for the arms, shoulders and chest.
What’s great about medicine balls is they're low cost, easy to store, highly versatile and genuinely effective. Because they’re free weights you do need to have good posture, control and technique to use them effectively but these days there are so many free examples and so much great advice online that a relative novice could confidently create a program that gave them real results.