Medicine and Slam Balls – Fantastic Fitness Tools! (The first in a three-part series)


If you have not had the opportunity to train with medicine/slam balls, now is the time to add these fitness tools to your toolbox.  Medicine/slam balls are portable, come in different sizes, weight increments and material and add intensity and variety to any fitness program.  This week, specific information regarding medicine balls will be featured and the following two weeks, specific exercises will be detailed so that you may include medicine/slam ball training into your program.  As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

MEDICINE/SLAM BALL FUNDAMENTALS – Remember, that traditional medicine balls are not meant for slamming—the materials are generally not strong enough to manage that force and the balls will “bounce” which is not the same as slamming a ball which does not tend to bounce upward, it tends to “die” on the floor.  Therefore, possess a thorough understanding of what drills/skills are for each type of ball as you do not want to get hit in the face.

SIZE – There are small medicine/slam balls which are meant for single hand training exercises enabling the user to work with one ball in the palm of the hand or one ball in each hand and traditional or non-traditional sized balls used for dozens of two-handed applications.

WEIGHT INCREMENTS – Medicine/slam balls may be available in two to fifty pounds and above, and the weight increment is often the determining factor in what exercises are appropriate.  For example, a lighter ball may work well for higher repetition training and a heavy ball may be selected for carrying-type exercises where the ball is simply held to increase load or pressed slowly in multiple directions increasing intensity or to slam and then be required to go down to the floor to retrieve the ball.

MATERIALS – Medicine/slam balls are available in many different types of materials and the materials used will also determine what can be safely performed with the ball.  Small, soft, pliable balls are ideal for holding or passing from hand to hand quickly, larger pliable balls may be constructed specifically for slamming/throwing/rebounding (i.e., slam balls), others are meant to be bounced and tossed and there are also balls made of soft-shell construction to enable the user to “grip” the ball.

DESIGN – As mentioned above in “materials” there are many different types of medicine/slam balls available and the design of the ball also should be factored in when choosing a ball.  There are balls that have handles and this is a great option for exercises which require the user to hold the ball continuously through various ranges of motion.  Handles, however, would not be appropriate for throwing, bouncing, or passing/tossing/slamming skills.  There are straps that attach to some versions which enable the user to work on rotational, slamming actions against a wall to improve power and core strength.

With all of these options available, which medicine ball would be right for you?  If you do not have the budget to purchase a variety of weight increments, materials and designs, then choosing a traditional medicine ball without handles in a moderate weight increment, would provide you with several exercise options and not break the bank.  The balls are priced based upon the weight and construction.  Therefore, the heavier the ball, or the more unique, the more it cost.

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