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12 Benefits Of Medicine Ball Workouts

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There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about exercising with a medicine ball, what benefits can you expect?

A medicine ball is a weighted ball that is made from relatively soft material and doesn’t bounce that well. This piece of fitness equipment can be used for strength and rehabilitation training. You can use it to modify regular exercises like lunges or to do specific medicine ball exercises.

Medicine balls generally come in weights that vary from 2–40 lbs (1–18 kg). The best weight for a medicine ball varies from exercise to exercise and individual to individual. If you are not sure which weight would be right for you, you can start with light or no medicine balls and slowly build up from there.

Some people question how useful this equipment can be but using a medicine ball in your existing workouts or doing the unique exercises they allow you to do can offer you some of the following amazing benefits.

Keep in mind that even though there are benefits, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight.

1. Can help you lose more weight

Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.

One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Exercising with a medicine ball can help with weight loss since doing an exercise with it generally requires more energy compared to doing the same exercise without one.

A big factor in how many calories you burn during a workout is your weight. To move around your body needs energy, measured in calories. The more weight you carry, the more energy you need to fuel movement.

For example, a 155-pound (70 kg) person doing lunges for 15 minutes burns around 110 calories.

On the other hand, a 185-pound (83 kg) person doing lunges for 15 minutes burns around 131 calories.

There will likely be a difference in how much a medicine ball increases calorie-burning vs the same weight in body fat but that just shows how a medicine ball can benefit weight loss.

Another way workouts help you lose weight is by increasing your muscle mass which in turn helps with burning more energy with everything you do. Medicine ball workouts help increase muscle mass too compared to ones without one.

Using a medicine ball or not will likely not make or break your weight loss journey but even a small improvement in your regular exercise will make a big difference over time.

Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.

Man and woman doing a medicine ball workout

2. Helps you build more muscle

Some types of exercise will help more with this but generally exercise will help you build and preserve muscle better than sitting still. Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.

Generally the more weight you have to move, the more muscle you will build with an exercise. That’s one of the reasons why people go to a gym instead of doing bodyweight exercises at home.

Therefore a medicine ball can help you increase the amount of muscle mass you build with an exercise.

What muscles you will work more with a medicine ball depends a lot on the specific workouts you do. For example, doing Russian twists with a medicine ball will help you build more core muscle than doing Russian twists without one.

You can also find plenty of medicine ball exercises for body parts like your arms, legs, shoulders, etc. If you are serious about building muscle you generally want to use a heavier medicine ball.

And even if you’re currently able to build muscle with bodyweight exercises, at some point your body weight may stop being enough resistance to build extra muscle mass. When this is the case bodyweight exercises carrying a medicine ball or strength training exercises where you use external weights like a medicine ball are the next step if you want to keep building extra muscle.

3. Improved cardiovascular health

Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.

When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.

Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. Working out with a medicine ball makes your heart beat faster and thus helps you strengthen your cardiovascular system more. This in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements without medicine balls and build up from there.

4. Can improve athletic performance

This next benefit of medicine ball doesn’t mean that you should carry one in your next sports match or competitive race. Instead, using medicine balls during your preparation training can help you improve your performance.

Getting better at a certain sport or exercise isn’t necessarily done by doing these activities more. Cross-training which is training in a different sport can be useful.

A training exercise like squats can help you increase your jump height by strengthening your leg muscles (6, 7). The same exercise done with a medicine ball instead of body weight even more so.

One study suggests that jump height in turn is related to sprint performance (8). This means that adding squats with a medicine ball to your routine can improve your performance in basically any sport that involves fast running.

Rack with medicine balls

5. Improved bone density

Exercise can help improve, and prevent degeneration of, your bone density, basically the strength of your bones (9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14).

This is helpful for avoiding broken bones. Depending on your age you may not be that worried about something like this right now. However, exercising right now can help you avoid broken bones in 40 years. The things you do today have an impact on the future.

The way many parts of your body work is that by challenging them you set in motion processes that strengthen these body parts. The same goes for your bones, by putting pressure on them you make them stronger in the long term.

Exercising with a medicine ball puts more pressure on your bones than exercising without one. This in turn will benefit your bone density in the long term.

Generally, workouts on land with a lot of jumping and strength training exercises are the best for improving bone density. Next, you have exercises that put less pressure on your bones like walking. Lastly, you have exercise in the water like swimming which will still benefit bone density but likely not as much as the other categories.

6. Relatively budget-friendly

Another potential hurdle for many workouts is the budget required.

Some exercises require inexpensive equipment starting at a jumping rope to at-home workout machines of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Even the investment required for gym subscriptions adds up after a while.

Money put into improving your health is generally a great investment but sometimes you can get the same effects with less.

Medicine balls are relatively inexpensive and you can generally use them for many years to come. This can be a great benefit depending on your personal situation.

7. Makes your workouts more time-efficient

Another benefit of working out with medicine balls is that it can help you decrease the time it takes to get in a good workout. A good exercise session isn’t necessarily about duration.

For example to build muscle you basically want to put enough strain on your muscles so muscle growth processes start. This doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time out of your day.

A more intense cardio workout can train your cardiovascular system in a shorter amount of time than one at a lower intensity.

Using a medicine ball during your workout can help with both of these things. This benefit of medicine balls is especially useful if you have trouble finding enough time throughout your day to fit in a workout.

8. Healthier lungs

To move around your body needs oxygen, the more intensely the more oxygen. Your body absorbs oxygen from the air through your lungs.

By using your lungs more you can improve how well they work (15, 16, 17, 18, 19). Working out with medicine balls can engage your lungs more than workouts without.

Improving how well your lungs function leads to benefits like improved exercise performance and getting tired slower.

9. Improves coordination and balance

Although with some exercises more than others, you will likely challenge your balance and coordination skills with medicine ball workouts. By doing this frequently you get better at it like with most skills. Many people forget to implement balance training into their workout routine but it is a helpful fitness component.

The benefits of improved coordination don’t just show up in other technical sports. Daily activities as simple as walking the stairs require coordination.

10. Compact storage

Some pieces of equipment require an entire empty garage to store them. Another benefit of medicine balls is that they are a very compact piece of workout equipment.

Even if you have a very small living space, you can store your medicine balls under your bed. When it’s time to exercise you can go outside, do your workout, and then store them back wherever you have some space left.

Man doing medicine ball exercise

11. Helps you build faster muscle

Not all muscle is the same, it can be made of different types of muscle fibers. These different types have different properties with accompanying advantages and disadvantages.

A common categorization of these muscle fibers is “type 1, slow-twitch muscle” and “type 2, fast-twitch muscle”. Your muscle groups are not made of one or the other, they are made of a certain ratio of type 1 vs type 2 fibers. The way you train can influence this ratio (20).

The type 1, slow-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for longer duration workouts like jogging, swimming at a low tempo, cycling at a low tempo,… Basically activities at intensities you can do for an extended period of time.

The type 2, fast-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for short duration, fast body movement workouts like sprints, powerlifting, javelin throwing,…Basically activities at intensities you can only do for a short period of time.

As a strength training beginner bodyweight exercises will initially help you build type 2 muscle fibers. However, once you get to a point where bodyweight exercises start being a less intensive exercise they will help you build more type 1 muscle fibers. Medicine balls can help you with building faster muscle for a longer amount of time.

12. You can use medicine balls almost anywhere

A downside of many exercises is that they need you to be in a specific location, or use specific equipment that you generally don’t have at home.

This makes it so you often have to drive, cycle, or walk somewhere for a while. Let’s say you exercise twice a week and going to your workout takes 10 minutes to get there and 10 minutes to go back. That’s 40 minutes less free time per week.

This extra transportation also makes it easier to say no to your workout. Being able to be consistent is key to a good workout plan.

While you probably don’t want to do medicine ball slams in an apartment building with thin floors, there are plenty of medicine ball exercises you can do anywhere. Both indoor and outdoor.

This makes it so you don’t have to worry about the transportation part of workouts. All you need is a few blocks of free time throughout the day and you can get in a medicine ball workout.

Conclusion

All in all, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one piece of equipment to your workout routine.

One thing you need to remember is that even though there are benefits to using medicine balls, your injury risk is generally also higher.

Especially if you are more of an exercise beginner you want to start with soft workouts without medicine balls and build up from there.

Medicine ball workouts may also require more rest between sessions than workouts without. You can for example implement 3 medicine ball sessions a week instead of every day. How many times a week you should do medicine ball workouts will vary from person to person.

Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently.

If you like medicine ball workouts, great. If not there are plenty of medicine ball alternatives and other workouts to consider that can also offer a lot of benefits.

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Matt Claes

Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.

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