balls: how & why to use them
Medicine balls are "in."
They are enjoying greater popularity today than ever before, being used by
young and old, fit and less fit, athletes and reluctant recruits alike.
It's easy to understand why. You want to develop
strength and power? To condition your body? Gain flexibility,
endurance, and balance? Rotation and explosive power? Medicine
balls excel at each.
You'd expect professional and amateur athletes to
champion this type of workout - and they do. What you might not
expect is for physical therapists and conditioning coaches to rave about
the balls' benefits for rehab and for injury prevention. However,
this is also true.
What draws both athletes and rehab specialists to the
medicine ball is its ability to strengthen the body's
"core." By targeting the torso - abdominals and back -
medicine ball training develops rotation and explosive power. At the
same time it lessens the likelihood of injury, which often results from
weakness in the torso.
Exercise balls are wonderfully effective and
versatile. They are also a great value, being simple to use,
inexpensive, durable, and portable. If you're fed up with high
priced, sophisticated gadgetry that breaks down or defies comprehension, give
this straightforward fitness tool a look.
Training with the Medicine Ball
Exercise routines often focus on working
individual parts of the body in order to build up isolated muscles.
Functional training is the opposite of this. It is concerned with
integrated movements, the kind that occur naturally. Climbing
stairs, carrying a golf bag, and swinging a bat are examples of such
Training with a medicine ball is dynamic, calling upon
you to blend physical skills - such as strength, coordination, balance,
accuracy, and flexibility - and to respond to unpredictable or varied
stimuli. Movements involve your whole-body working in multiple
This is what functional fitness
is all about -
working the body as a unit and emphasizing movements, not
Training with the Medicine Ball
Medicine balls are adaptable. Using
them, you can easily match exercises to the movement
patterns found in a favorite sport. Basketball, volleyball, baseball,
golf, bowling - the medicine ball can approximate the athletic moves
involved in each.
Want to simulate swinging a golf club, pitching a
baseball, or doing tennis serves or backhands? All it takes is
a medicine ball and a wall. Medicine ball work allows
you to train almost anywhere and any time. So you need not lose
conditioning "off season."
Medicine ball workouts can be performed
either alone or with a partner. Do abdominal crunches, jump-squats
or partner sit-ups using the medicine ball as a resistance. Pass,
handle and catch the ball.
In medicine ball terminology, a throw is
performed with the ball above the head while a pass has the ball
below the head. A swing is a movement begun by torso
When exercising using a medicine ball, be
Proper technique is important to prevent
injury when training with the medicine ball.
- Warm up thoroughly.
- Start with easier, less dynamic exercises, then
progress to more challenging.
- Select exercises that match sports-specific patterns
- Allow plenty of space and ceiling height for desired
- Emphasize quality of movement over number of sets or
When picking up the medicine ball
- Bend your knees and keep your back straight.
When throwing the medicine ball
- Plant your feet securely before
beginning to throw the ball (if standing).
- Do not take
the ball too far back behind your head.
- Always maintain control - don't sacrifice technique
- Fully extend arm(s) to complete a throw.
When catching the medicine ball
- Prepare to catch by (1) keeping eyes on the ball,
(2) extending arms, (3) keeping hands together, and (4) reaching out toward the
- Do not attempt to catch wildly thrown balls.
When lying on your back to exercise
- Keep your lower
back in contact with the floor.
And whatever the medicine ball
exercise, perform it in the correct sequence, using a full range of