If the last time you sweated using a ball was when you were dodging one in elementary school PE, you’re missing out. Medicine balls are simple, effective pieces of exercise equipment you can use for strength training, cardiovascular training, high-intensity interval training and more. Check out these five reasons to train with medicine balls from personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist Tatiana Lampa.
Talk about bang for your buck. Medicine balls can help you work on several aspects of your fitness — particularly power. “Power is something that we don’t do as often,” Lampa says. “It turns on the fast-twitch muscle fibers.” This also helps you build strength. And, since exercises like slams and wall tosses get your heart pumping, working with a medicine ball can also be great cardiovascular training and boost endurance as you work to increase how long you can slam the ball before resting. Did someone say HIIT?
“If you want to maximize your time and burn as many calories as possible, you want to recruit more muscle groups,” Lampa says. A medicine ball allows you to do just that with the various multi-joint and multi-plane movements you can do. Consider wall balls: You squat down, generating power from your legs to throw to the ball. Then you use your entire upper body to throw the ball at the wall. As you catch the ball, you need core stability and strength to grab it, and again, use your upper body. So you work your power, strength, core and upper and lower body in one exercise.
Think back to being a kid at the park, Lampa says. Inevitably you or one of your friends had a ball to play with. Using medicine balls can bring back memories of playing, and exercises like chest passes and throws with a partner add another element of fun. Med balls are also less intimidating since you’re likely more comfortable with a ball compared to, say, a squat rack.
It’s important to work your body in all planes of motion so your body is balanced. Medicine balls are easy to incorporate into all three planes: Try slams (for the sagittal plane, which includes front-to-back movement), side lunges (for the frontal plane, with its side-to-side movement) and wood chops (for the transverse plane, which includes rotational movement).
Forget training your core to try to develop a six-pack. It’s not only very hard, but there’s a much more important reason to work your core. “The most important reason to train your core is to prevent injuries,” Lampa says. “If that part is weak, everything else will be unstable.” Add a med ball to basic exercises like mountain climbers (put both hands on the ball), pushups (put one hand on the ball and alternate) and thrusters, and you get the added bonus of working your core.