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  • Writer's pictureJason St Clair Newman

The 1 piece of equipment I always recommend to Youth Athletes - The Medicine Ball

Updated: Jan 18


Medicine Ball
Medicine Balls - The Ultimate Exercise Equipment

Introduction

Often I will be asked by parents and youth athletes what equipment they should buy to help start them out on their journey of athletic development.

Besides recommending their body weight which I am a big believer in mastering for all athletes.

The medicine ball is one piece I use every session myself and will integrate into sessions and programmes is the medicine ball.



The Humble Medicine Ball - A Brief History

The medicine ball has long been a tool for exercise going back as far as ancient Greece and Rome, often used according to historians for conditioning the body it was popularised in the late 1800s by RJ Roberts and continued with varying popularity throughout the early 20th century. It's one of those pieces of equipment that is either used by the knowledgeable coach to effectively train their athletes or sits gathering dust in a corner of the gym.

Different varieties now grace our gym floors and outside training areas, balls that bounce, dead balls that stop when they hit the ground, balls with handles (not really a favourite of mine), slam balls designed to be thrown in tot he ground hard, and they often come in leather or rubber versions filled with different substances, sand, weighted material, rubber encased weights and water.

Depending on what you want there's a ball out there for you.



Why do I recommend them?

The versatility of the ball is unique in that it fits every person tall, short, strong-weak, high level - beginner, Inside - outside, it’s easily portable, and it can be used to build strength, strength endurance, conditioning or explosiveness, used as part of the warm-up or the main part of the session… the list goes on.

And the great thing depending on where you are you can get light or heavy balls, dead balls that don’t bounce and those that do.

In the end, I find using them comes down to creativeness versus just some specific exercises.

What about dumbbells?

Now you could argue dumbbells are equally versatile and while you can, throwing dumbbells outside and catching them isn’t high on my list of injury prevention exercises and

throwing them against a wall in your gym might lead to some funny looks, a bill for the damages and being thrown out the door yourself.

(For the record dumbbells are normally second on my list after medicine balls - because they are fairly versatile but that’s another post)

My favourite exercises for beginners ….

I like to start with using the ball as a form of resistance for the athlete, this can be used with the traditional style of exercises like squat, hinging and lunging variations to

Overhead pressing, adding complexity to push-ups, multiple directional abdominal and lower back exercises and arm work … here is an example of a medicine ball warm-up that I use regularly, that incorporates some different movements.



but


most of all my favourite is throwing them, overhead, rotationally, for distance for height catching and throwing, chest passing you name it well find a way to throw it.

The great thing is throwing leads you to movements that may not be the same every time so your body has to continually adjust and be challenged from rep to rep - a principle called repetition without repetition which can lead to not an only greater variety of learning but also a bigger pool of movement to call from when the body demands warrant it.

Whether you are a beginner or for that matter an Olympic-level athlete throwing medicine balls are

  1. Hell of a lot of fun

  2. Great for developing coordinative movement

  3. Explosive in nature

  4. Can be used at any level just change the weight of the ball and all athletes can use them

  5. Give immediate feedback on your effort and technique - nail it and it will go further get it wrong and it won’t

When you think about it, it’s hard to come up with a piece of exercise equipment as versatile as this.


What weight should I get?

That’s a great question and also dependent on what you are using it for.

A 10kg ball might be great for using for squats but for a youth athlete to throw and throw well … most probably not (there will always be some outlier)

For youth athletes, I like a range running from 1 or 2 kg up to a maximum of 4kg.

If I had to pick only two it would be a 2kg and 3kg

Light enough for beginners and heavy enough for stronger athletes to throw well.


If the athlete is using a lot of throwing exercises I would suggest younger and less developed athletes start with a 1 or 2kg ball and stronger more developed athletes with a 3-4kg

However, they would need to be able to demonstrate the ability to use good technique with the 3kg ball first before earning the right to move up in weight.


Medicine balls
A wide range of weights are available and cost effective no matter where your level


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