Best Medicine Balls

Updated October 2020
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Buying guide for best medicine balls

Despite the name, you won’t find medicine balls in your bathroom cabinet. These weighted exercise balls have become standard equipment at health clubs, home gyms, and trendy exercise studios everywhere. While it might seem as though medicine balls are new to the fitness scene, in actuality the use of a weighted ball to improve health and muscle strength dates back to ancient times (although back in the days of Hippocrates, you would have tossed a ball made of a stuffed animal skin).

If you’re thinking of purchasing a medicine ball, there are several types available and a variety of materials from which to choose. It can be a little intimidating for those just starting to exercise with these fitness essentials. That’s why BestReviews is here to simplify the process for you.

We’ve provided this helpful, unbiased, and accurate guide to choosing and using the best medicine ball for your needs. When you’re ready to buy, check out our top product picks.

Medicine balls are excellent tools for improving not only muscle tone and strength but also agility and balance.

Medicine ball benefits

Medicine balls may resemble soccer balls or basketballs, but these balls aren’t used in team sports. Instead, the weighted balls are used in exercise classes – they are especially popular at CrossFit studios – in home gyms, and for personal training to develop muscle strength and tone, as well as agility.

Unlike the balls used for sports, medicine balls aren’t intended to be kicked or dribbled, but they are often tossed, either to the ground, to a partner, or against a wall. These heavy balls can also take the place of dumbbells in most exercise routines that call for weights. However, one of the major differences between using a dumbbell and using a medicine ball is that with the latter, you can perform rapid and explosive exercises, also called plyometrics.

Plyometric exercises

In plyometrics, you use a sudden burst of energy to perform a movement or series of movements, all while keeping your body under control. An example of a simple plyometric exercise is squatting and then leaping straight up as high as you can. Sprinting and kicking are other simple plyometric moves. These types of exercises maximize muscle power and speed.

  • Plyometrics and medicine balls

Two of the most common plyometric exercises performed with medicine balls are floor slams in which the exerciser lifts the ball overhead, and slams it to the floor with as much force as possible – or wall slams, which are similar but the ball is slammed against a wall, either straight on or from a slightly twisted angle. Weighted balls are ideal for these exercises because you don’t want the ball to come bouncing back toward your face at full speed.

Other benefits of medicine balls include the following:

Tremendous versatility

You can use a medicine ball to intensify sit-ups, side bends, squats, or arm curls. They’re useful for balancing and agility exercises, fun for tossing back and forth with a partner, and handy for any exercise that calls for an easily held weight.

Added resistance

Hold a weighted medicine ball while performing crunches, squats, or calf lifts and you’re adding some extra resistance. That’s an easy way to increase your exertion without any need for complicated equipment.

Improved hand-eye coordination

Tossing, slamming, and catching a medicine ball, whether on your own or with a partner, are all easy ways to improve your hand-eye coordination.

Better balance

Instead of regular push-ups, perform them with one hand on a medicine ball, then switch to the other hand. This is just one example of how to use a medicine ball to help improve your balance while getting fit.

Added fun

Let’s face it – basic exercise routines can get a little boring and repetitive. The addition of a medicine ball is an easy and inexpensive way to liven things up while boosting your workout benefits.

 

Types of medicine balls

While there are lots of different types of medicine balls available, most break down into one of the following four categories.

Slam balls

  • Typically filled with sand or similar dense material

  • Do not bounce when dropped

  • Often covered with real or faux leather

  • Used for explosive exercises (wall or floor slams)

  • Come in many different weights (usually 10 to 50 pounds)
     

Rubber balls

  • Bouncier than slam balls (not intended for slam exercises)

  • Extremely versatile for beginner or fitness buff

  • Added resistance for calisthenics

  • Used for tossing or bouncing to a partner

  • Used as balance tool

  • Come in wide range of weights (usually 4 to 20 pounds)
     

Medicine balls with handles

  • Easy to hold during crunches, push-ups, side bends, planks, and other basic exercises

  • Come in similar range of weights as slam balls
     

Rope balls

  • Include permanently attached or removable rope

  • Intended for more experienced exercisers

  • Used to strengthen abdominal, arm, chest, and shoulder muscles

  • Come in lighter weights than other medicine balls (usually 6 to 15 pounds)

Medicine ball prices

The cost of medicine balls generally increases with the weight. You’ll also pay more for a leather ball or one with elaborate stitching. For the average home gym, however, you should expect to spend between $20 and $40 for a good-quality ten-pound ball.

Tips

  • Warm up first. Before using your medicine ball, gently stretch and move around to warm up your muscles. Then start your routine with small movements. As your muscles warm up, you can increase the range of motion.

  • Start light. The most common mistake beginners make is starting with a ball that’s too heavy, which can lead to overexertion or injury. It’s better to start with a ball that’s a bit too light. You should be able to perform at least ten reps with the ball before muscle fatigue sets in. If you can’t, the ball is too heavy.

  • Make eye contact. If you’re using a medicine ball with a partner, make eye contact before tossing the ball. It’s best to work out with a partner who closely matches you in strength and size.

  • Protect your medicine ball. Store your medicine ball away from intense heat or moisture to keep the rubber from becoming brittle or cracking.
Mix up your exercise routine periodically to keep things interesting. Try different moves, focus on different muscle groups, or enlist a partner to liven up your session.

FAQ

Q. What’s the best weight for a medicine ball?

A. There is no one best weight. The right weight for you depends on your current state of fitness, your goals, and the way you intend to use the ball. However, as a general rule, men who are just starting to get in shape will find a ball that’s no more than ten pounds to be a good starting point; for women, a medicine ball that’s no more than six pounds is best. As your strength and endurance increase, you can slowly graduate to heavier balls to continue receiving the benefits.

Q. I see medicine balls with many different types of covers. Which should I choose?

A. Leather, synthetic leather, and rubber are the most common medicine ball covers. Leather or a synthetic are mostly used on slam balls, but some exercisers like the feel of a leather ball for bouncing as well. Rubber is by far the most common material. On some medicine balls, the rubber is smooth and “sticky,” on others, it’s heavily textured and nubby, and still others fall somewhere in between. Your personal preference is most important here, but remember that you’ll likely sweat quite a bit during your workout, so you need a medicine ball that’s easy to hold on to even when your hands are wet.

Q. What about the size of my medicine ball? Is that important?

A. There are medicine balls not much larger than a softball and others slightly larger than a basketball, along with everything in between. Smaller balls are useful for arm curls, but the most versatile size is about the same diameter as a volleyball or slightly smaller. This size gives you plenty of area for a secure grip, which is especially important if you plan on slamming the ball, but it isn’t so large that it’s unwieldy.

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