Medicine balls great for workouts

Sep. 17, 2013 @ 11:15 AM

Do you ever use medicine balls in your workouts? Medicine balls look like small basketballs, until you pick one up. You then notice they are much heavier, ranging in different weights up to 20 pounds or more. They are commonly used as extra weight to do resistance exercises, such as holding one at arm’s length as you do abdominal curls.
Also, medicine balls are great for throwing to a partner, such as underhanded, over your head, out from your chest, or throwing from the side of your body. These variations of tossing the medicine ball will use different muscles.
I use them quite a bit in my workouts, using a wall to throw against when I do not have a partner. I even collect them, especially old ones. My favorite is an old leather medicine ball that was used in Card Gym at Duke for many years. I came across it one day on my way to a weight training class I was teaching, and the poor thing was sitting outside in a hall looking rather lonely. After asking around, nobody seemed to want it, so home it went with me. In fact, I have a bunch of old exercise equipment that I have collected over the years, such as some wooden dumbbells, some Indian Clubs, and an old rowing machine made of wood.  
Let’s look at some medicine ball exercises you can add to your routine. This first one you can do by yourself.  Put one hand on top of a medicine ball and the other hand on the floor in a pushup position. Do one pushup, then roll the ball sideways toward your other hand.  Stop it by placing that hand on top of the ball and do another pushup.  Switch back and forth for a number of repetitions.
Here are two more medicine ball pushup variations. Place both hands on top of one medicine ball and do pushups. This will really stress your core muscles. For the next one, get into the same starting position. Release your hands and let them fall to the floor to the sides of the ball while lowering your chest to the ball. Now push yourself up in a powerful motion so that your hands land back on top of the ball.  This is an exercise that will develop power and strength, and one that may be more suitable to more experienced exercisers or athletes. Be careful with this one.
Here is a good one to work your chest, especially, along with other core muscles. Sit on a stability ball about ten feet or so from a partner, who is doing the same. Toss a medicine ball out from your chest toward your partner’s chest. Keep the elbows about the same height as your shoulders to really stress the chest. Do this like you would a basketball chest pass. Do this against a wall if you are by yourself.
To really work your oblique muscles (side of waist), stand several feet from a partner facing the same way with your side to each other. Toss the medicine ball in front of your partner so that he or she catches it in front of their body. After catching the ball, twist your upper body in the other direction while keeping the feet still, then reverse and twist back toward your partner and throw the ball in front of them. This catch and throw combination will cause you to perform quite a bit of trunk rotation, thus stressing your obliques. Be sure to keep the feet stationary.
Let me know if you would like to know more exercises you can do with medicine balls. This type of training can really be fun, but can yield very good results at the same time.
Lewis Bowling  teaches at N.C. Central University and Duke University. He is the author of several books on fitness and sports. His website is He can be reached at 919-530-6224 and at