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5 Medicine Ball Exercises

They don't bounce very well. You can't throw them very far. Just what are those weighted, rubbery balls on the rack at your gym? They're medicine balls, and they've been keeping people fit for centuries. The ancient Greeks filled leather balls with sand and instructed patients to throw them around to recover from injures. Roman gladiators used them for strength training, and Persian sailors incorporated medicine balls into their exercises at sea.

Why use medicine balls?

With barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, resistance bands, weight machines and other forms of resistance training, why would anyone want to exercise with medicine balls? Part of the reason is the medicine ball's shape. A sphere is easier to grip when your grip isn't that great. An exerciser can use his or her palm, chest, knees and other body parts to control the ball, leading to a wide variety of movements and positions. And they roll, which adds another dimension to workouts. Plus, if you drop a medicine ball, it's highly unlikely to damage anything. Drop a dumbbell on a tile floor, and you might have some expensive repairs in your future. Drop a kettle bell on your foot, and you may not be able to work out for a few weeks!

Knee lift

Start by holding a 2-5 pound medicine ball overhead with both hands. Lift your right knee to waist level while bringing down the ball to touch your knee. While bringing your right leg down, raise the ball back to starting position. Then repeat the exercises with your left knee. Now do it all 10 more times. If the weight is too easy, go heavier. If it's too heavy, start without a medicine ball and work your way up.

Chest squeeze

Sit on a chair with your knees bent in front of you and both feet on the ground. Hold a 4-pound medicine ball at chest level and squeeze it between your palms to work your chest. Push the ball away from yourself in a controlled, slow movement until your elbows are nearly straight. Then bring the ball back to your chest. Repeat 10 times.


Lie on your back with your knees bent and your toes against a wall. Use your abdominal muscles to pull your chest toward your knees. Tap the medicine ball against the wall, then return to starting position. Repeat until you've reached 20 crunches.

Ball exchange

Hold a 2-5 pound medicine ball in your right hand with your right arm at your side. Circle it counter-clockwise in a big arc away from your body, like the top of your body is doing a slow jumping jack. Raise your left hand to meet the ball when it's overhead. Place the ball in your left hand, then bring your left hand in a slow arc down to your left side. Put the ball back in your right hand and repeat until you've reached 10 repetitions. Then do 10 starting with your left hand and moving the ball clockwise.

Squat and swing

Begin by standing with your feet together and the ball overhead. Step out with your left foot and squat down while lowering the ball between your legs. If this motion is tough, use less weight and perform a shallow squat. If the motion is too easy, squat deeper and use a heavier medicine ball. Raise the ball over your head while bringing your feet back together, then repeat with your right foot. Try 10 times per leg.

That's it! You've now worked your arms, legs, core, chest and back with the medicine ball. If you're ready to try other pieces of fitness equipment, find a SilverSneakers location near you.

Edison's Smart Fitness

Gym, Health Club, Fitness Center

Naples, North Naples, Estates

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