The 10 Best Medicine Balls
This wiki has been updated 38 times since it was first published in July of 2015. Sometimes the tried and tested way is as good as any, and there is nothing more old-school than exercising with a medicine ball. One of our top picks will fit perfectly into any home fitness regimen for core work, balance improvement, and overall strength training and endurance, since they come in a range of weights and sizes to fit every need. Just be sure to start slowly to prevent injury. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 12, 2020:
Adding a medicine ball to your fitness routine can help shake things up, but as with any piece of equipment from exercise bands to barbells, you'll need to use it correctly to prevent injury. This includes warming up properly before you start, using good technique, and sticking to a ball that is not too heavy for your strength level. If you're new to training with a medicine ball, a qualified fitness trainer can help you assess your needs as you get started.
Medicine balls are made from several materials, including leather (often synthetic, nowadays) and rubber. For many users, options made from the former make sense, as they tend not to have a strong smell and can be gentler on the skin in case of accidents. We've added the popular, stylish Champion Sports Leather, but note that it and other fabric choices, like the J/fit Max, won't bounce like a hard rubber model. For this action, look to the AmazonBasics Medicine, the Day 1 Fitness Ball, or the Champion Sports Rhino Elite. These boast bright colors and clear weight markings, so they're especially easy to use if you buy more than one weight. If you're having trouble with grip, you might instead consider the Spri Xerball, which has handles, or the DynaPro Durable, a dual-textured grip model. The former is a little pricey, but it can potentially make medicine ball exercise more approachable for those who have grip issues.
Power Systems Double Med Ball Tree Kit The Power Systems Double Med Ball Tree Kit is a 10-ball set with a sturdy rack for keeping your workout space uncluttered. The holder is just over 4 feet tall, and for your peace of mind, it has molded plastic feet that give it a secure feeling — but without scratching your floors. power-systems.com
Dribbleup Smart It's more of an investment than many, but that's because the DribbleUp Smart is designed for use with a virtual, on-screen trainer that can both help you with your accuracy and keep you motivated. It works with iOS and Android phones and tablets, and is compatible with Apple TV and Chromecast. dribbleup.com
TRX XD Fit If you're tired of flimsy options that can't keep up with your high-intensity training — and you're flush with cash to spend — you might consider the TRX XD Fit. Instead of low-quality materials, it boasts rugged DuPont Kevlar, so it can hold its shape over the long haul. store.trxtraining.com
A Brief History Of Medicine Balls
The word medicinal was used to highlight how these activities could be used for both healing injuries, as well as preventing them in the first place.
Due to the simplicity of the medicine ball, its full history is somewhat obscure. It is not known exactly where or when they first came about. What is known, is that it's an ancient workout tool. There are drawings depicting Persian wrestlers training with medicine balls from more than 2,000 years ago. It is believed that Hippocrates instructed some of his patients to workout with medicine balls, and that gladiators used them to help prepare from battle in the arena. These medicine balls of old were most likely made from animal bladders or skins filled with sand, though people have experimented with filling them with a combination of hair and twine, as well.
Medicine balls may have been around for more than a millennia, but the term medicine ball is more recent. It is likely a result of Renaissance era people considering the words medicine and health synonymous with each other. For example, in his book De Arte Gymnastica, the Italian physician Girolamo Mercuriale recommended that everyone, regardless of their current fitness level, could benefit from participating in medicinal gymnastics. The word medicinal was used to highlight how these activities could be used for both healing injuries, as well as preventing them in the first place.
Professor Robert Roberts is credited as being the first person to ever call these weighted balls medicine balls. According to a publication of Scientific American Supplement dating from 1889, "Roberts called it a 'medicineball' because playful exercise with it invigorates the body, promotes digestion, and restores and preserves one‘s health." Other sources cite Roberts in an 1876 publication of American Gymnasia and Academic Record where he is quoted as saying the name medicine ball is actually a reference to them looking similar to the Native American medicine bag.
Benefits Of Medicine Ball Training
Medicine balls are an excellent training tool for a number of reasons. They are an extremely versatile piece of equipment that can be used in a variety of ways, and to achieve a number of goals. The ideal exercise regimen for any individual should address four main areas: balance, cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. While medicine balls may not be able to help much with cardiovascular endurance, they can be used to target the other three areas. Unlike with many other pieces of exercise equipment, you don't have to focus on one isolated muscle group or joint when training with a medicine ball. Instead, they perfectly lend themselves to compound exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups, making them excellent full-body training tools.
While medicine balls may not be able to help much with cardiovascular endurance, they can be used to target the other three areas.
One of the greatest things about medicine ball training is that it strengthens your body in a way that reinforces natural movements. This is because it helps to strengthen the neuromuscular connections involved in coordinated movement and postural balance. In the real world there are very few body motions that use a single muscle. Most activities make use of a combination of muscles, much like training with a medicine balls does.
Performing drills with medicine balls allows you to increase your muscular strength, without adding a lot of bulk to your body or putting excessive strain on your joints. Most drills also incorporate the core muscles, which is very important as a strong core can reduce the occurrences of sustaining an injury when going about your daily activities. The majority of your power comes from your core, which includes the lower back, spine, abs, and hips. The stronger your core is, the more power you can transfer into any other activities you perform, whether they be carrying groceries, playing sports, or lifting weights in the gym.
What To Consider When Choosing A Medicine Ball
One of the first decisions you'll have to make when choosing a medicine ball is how heavy you need it to be. Medicine balls can range in weight from as little as one pound to as much as 50 pounds. Choosing the correct weight is not only critical to its effectiveness, but also to your ability to use it safely. You must take into account both your current fitness level and the exercises you plan to perform with it. For example, if performing strength training exercises, a medicine ball equal to somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of your single rep maximum weight is ideal since you generally won't be performing a high number of repetitions in each set. If you are working on increasing muscle endurance and toning, then a lower weight medicine ball will be required, as you'll be performing a high number of repetitions in succession.
A medicine ball should be light enough to handle comfortably, but heavy enough to present a challenge to your body.
When performing core exercises where the ball will be held close to the body, a heavier ball can be used. On the other hand, if performing core exercises where the weight is held away from the body, it is better to use a lighter medicine ball so that your form doesn't suffer. You'll also want to be able to gradually increase the weight of the ball you are using as your fitness level improves. Because of these reasons, it is often smart to buy multiple medicine balls of varying weights. This ensures you always have the right one for each use. A medicine ball should be light enough to handle comfortably, but heavy enough to present a challenge to your body.
Next, you'll have to decide if you want a medicine ball with a natural leather exterior, or if you prefer one with a synthetic skin. Leather medicine balls are generally good for two-person workouts as they are easy for most people to catch, and somewhat forgiving if you miss it and it bounces against your chest. On the other hand, they are more difficult to sanitize and not ideal for exercises where you slam the ball against the wall or ground, as they may eventually split. Synthetic medicine balls can be a little slippery if you have sweaty hands, but are exceptionally durable and often cost less than their leather counterparts.
Last, you'll have to decide if you want one with handles or without. Medicine balls with handles allow for more dynamic exercises since they are easier to grip. On the other hand, if performing exercises where you bounce the ball off the floor, the handles can sometimes hinder the rebound.