(The first in a three-part series)
If you have not had the opportunity to train with medicine balls, now is the time to add this fitness tool to your tool box. Medicine balls are portable, come in different sizes, weight increments and material, and add intensity and variety to any fitness program. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Medicine Ball Fundamentals
Size – There are small medicine balls which are meant for single-hand training exercises enabling the user to work with one ball in the palm of the hand or one ball in each hand and traditional or non-traditional sized balls used for dozens of two-handed applications.
Weight Increments – Medicine balls may be available in two to 50 pounds and above, and the weight increment is often the determining factor in what exercises are appropriate. For example, a lighter ball may work well for higher repetition training and a heavy ball may be selected for carrying-type exercises where the ball is simply held to increase load or pressed slowly in multiple directions increasing intensity.
Materials – Medicine balls are available in many different types of materials and the materials used will also determine what can be safely performed with the ball. Small, soft, pliable balls are ideal for holding or passing from hand to hand quickly, larger pliable balls may be constructed specifically for slamming/throwing/rebounding, others are meant to be bounced and tossed and there are also balls made of soft shell construction to enable the user to “grip” the ball.
Design – There are balls that have handles, a great option for exercises which require the user to hold the ball continuously through various ranges of motion. Handles, however, would not be appropriate for throwing, bouncing or passing/tossing skills. There are straps that attach to some versions which enable the user to work on rotational, slamming actions against a wall to improve power and core strength.
If you do not have the budget to purchase a variety of weight increments, materials and designs, then choosing a traditional medicine ball without handles in a moderate weight increment will provide several exercise options and not break the bank. The balls are priced based on weight and construction. The heavier the ball, or the more unique, the more it costs.
Most of my clients purchase eight- to ten-pound traditional balls, and this provides them with the versatility to use the ball for total body and core-specific training as well. However, you should choose a ball that will address your specific needs. Consult with your fitness professional prior to purchasing, and spend some time with your trainer learning how to safely and effectively train with medicine balls to emphasize results-oriented training.
Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC opening in Granby in mid-June 2014. She may be reached at her website at www.MTNLifeFitness.com.