Medicine Balls

Medicine balls are workout tools that fall into the weighted-resistance category. Medicine balls (also called med balls, weighted med balls, or weighted medicine balls) help improve endurance, enhance strength, and increase power. The design of medicine balls seems fairly simple, but they’re built strong to withstand lots of use as they’re tossed, swung, thrown, bounced, and slammed around during intense workout sessions. They can also be used on just about any surface, like rubber or hardwood floors, grass or artificial turf, and even concrete, indoors or out. Medicine balls come with or without handles in a variety of diameters, weights, and textures.

Q: Medicine balls come in so many different weights. How do I determine which weight I should start with?
A: Weighted balls range from 2 pounds to 30 pounds or even heavier. When choosing the weight of your new medicine ball, be sure to choose one that is heavy enough to challenge you but isn’t too heavy to handle. Beginners are advised to start with a lighter weighted ball and work their way up to heavier weighted ball as their fitness goals increase. If possible, try out a series of weighted balls at your gym or fitness center to see which ball feels best. If you find it difficult to choose between two weights, go with the lighter weight. And remember, even with a lighter ball, you’ll still see improvements in your overall conditioning, strength, and coordination.

Q: Medicine balls also come in so many different sizes. How do I know which size to choose for my own personal fitness level?
A: Although there are different sizes of medicine balls and other weighted balls—ranging in size from a few inches in diameter up to large balls that are bigger than a basketball—there are a few things to consider when choose your ball’s size. The size of the ball determines whether it can be held with one hand, with one or two hands, or with two hands in a narrow, moderate, or wide hand position. The size also determines the degree of hand-eye coordination required during toss-and-catch activities. Choosing the right medicine ball size often depends on the purpose of training and the size of the user. For instance, if you want to use a medicine ball to strengthen your pitching in softball, choose a ball that will fit into the palm of your hand, such as SPRI’s Soft Mini Xerball®. If you want to strengthen your overhead throw for basketball, choose a ball size similar to a basketball, like SPRI’s regular Xerball® or the Slam Ball. If you’re not sure which size is right for you, seek the guidance of a trainer at the gym.

Q: Why do some medicine balls have handles, and others don’t?
A: Medicine balls with no dedicated handle require a higher level of grip strength than medicine balls with handles. Most balls with handles, however, cannot be bounced, but are used for rotational abdominal exercises, cross-body patterns, and dumbbell simulation drills.

Q: Does it matter how hard or soft the weighted ball is?
A: How hard or soft the medicine ball is affects how challenging it is to hold onto the ball during workouts when tossing and catching, and when muscle fatigue sets in. Soft-shell, pliable, sand-filled balls are easier to catch and throw. Hard-surface med balls often have a textured surface for added traction, which is especially helpful if the hands are sweaty.

Q: Do weighted-ball training sessions need to be done with a partner?
A: When training with a medicine ball, it’s not necessary to have a partner, but training with a partner, coach, or instructor is usually more effective than solo training because the partner helps ensure the speed, frequency, and accuracy of each repetition. For solo training, choose a weighted ball that can be bounced against a wall, or SPRI’s Rope Xerball®.