A medicine ball (also known as an exercise ball, a med ball, or a fitness ball) is a weighted ball, roughly the diameter of the shoulders (approx. 14 inches). Often used for rehabilitation and strength training, it serves an important role in the field of sports medicine. It should not be confused with the larger, inflated Swiss ball.
Medicine balls are usually sold as 2–25 lb. balls and are used effectively in plyometric weight training to increase explosive power in athletes in all sports. Some medicine balls are in the form of weighted basketballs. It is possible to play basketball with a medicine ball, but it can be difficult, and has the potential to cause injury and property damage.
Medicine ball training is one of the oldest forms of strength and conditioning training – the first reference to wrestlers training with sand filled bladders appears in Persia nearly 3000 years ago. In ancient Greece the physician Hippocrates had them sewn out of animal skins and stuffed with sand. His patients threw them back and forth for injury prevention and rehabilitation.
In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the words "health" and "medicine" were synonymous. The so-called "Four Horseman of Fitness" were the dumbell, the Indian club, the wand and the medicine ball. This is where the beginnings of the modern medicine ball originate.
Medicine balls are used by boxing professionals to improve the strength of abdominal muscles. This is done by dropping the ball onto the abdomen of the boxer, simulating a punch coming from an opponent. Other athletes use medicine balls to increase their core strength. One common activity is to have athletes hold the ball against their chest and thrust it at another athlete, who catches it against their chest. This strengthens arm, chest, and leg muscles.
They are also extensively used by secondary schools as a fitness aid. Example exercises include: lifting the ball or performing different exercises (such as sit-ups and leg raises) with the ball in order to increase the stress on a particular muscle.
A medicine ball is also commonly used by athletes who have sustained an injury and seek rehabilitation.
Medicine balls are generally constructed of a leather or vinyl covered nylon cloth, and filled with impact absorbing materials to give them weight. The materials can vary depending on the desired weight and density.
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