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Cindy Boggs Cindy Boggs

Cindy Boggs is an American Council on Exercise-certified fitness professional, corporate wellness presenter and author of the award winning book, CindySays… "You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World." Her web site is

If you have little time to devote to your fitness level but need to burn calories and strengthen your muscles, I'd like to throw out the idea of picking up a six- to eight-pound medicine ball. It's not a new tool, just one that is gaining momentum because trainers know it can be used in a variety of ways.

Medicine balls — also referred to as med balls — range from two to 25 pounds and should not be confused with the larger, inflated exercise ball that is used to facilitate balance and assist in core training.

It's actually been used to enhance sports performance for years. Its invention is placed at around 400 B.C. and was termed medicine ball because Greek physician, Hippocrates, decided to rehab his patients using animal skins filled with sand. It went from being used in a rehab setting to being a simple and effective tool in the fitness arena. 

Top 10

Currently, the med ball ranks right up there in terms of equipment trends. This is due to the fact that it's a multipurpose weight training tool used in lots of settings, including individual and group personal training. It's a mainstay in boot camps and interval workouts, and children can use it too. Not only does it increase strength, but it can also improve balance, power, speed, endurance, coordination and dynamic flexibility. This is the kind of med ball magic that's just not possible with a set of dumbbells.

Focus on power

Just because the med ball can build strength, it shouldn't be used in lieu of free weights if you decide to include it in your training. For instance, you may be able to deadlift 150 pounds, but a med ball is not just lifted and put back down. Its weight is combined with deliberate motion and explosive movement.

This is why it can be advantageous to add a six- or eight-pound med ball to your toolbox. This may not sound like much weight, but used properly and with velocity, it can effectively work many muscles at the time and provide you with some unbelievable results.

The types of plyometric exercise you will see med balls used in are ones which target fast-twitch muscle fibers—which promote speed, power and mobility. 

Calorie-burning bonus

And now it comes in more sizes, textures and some even bounce. When you exercise with a med ball, you must slam, press, toss and throw with explosive intention. This is what adds the cardio element to your workout. Because the med ball relies on powerful movement, it's a good idea to check with a fitness professional — proper technique and execution of med ball training should not be underestimated in order to avoid injury and achieve great results. If you want to challenge your core, improve strength and also give your heart a run for its money, this a great tool to infuse your workouts with variety and promote greater athletic performance.

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