The Medicine Ball and its Place in Functional Fitness

Perhaps the most iconic ‘old school’ piece of functional fitness equipment is the medicine ball. Heavy, sand-filled, leather and bursting at the seams. You know …the one collecting dust in the walled off back part of your gym that no one uses.

Today, the workouts developed around this iconic equipment are definitely different than your grandpa’s. Let’s learn a bit more about it, highlight some main benefits and get some ideas on how to structure a workout with the medicine ball.

Today, the medicine ball or weighted ball has evolved into a few main forms. The form or type of med ball you use may depend on the type of workout you are looking to do. Let’s talk about each type and weigh their pros and cons. 

Soft Medicine Ball

A soft medicine ball, like this Dynamax ball from Rouge, is great for throws with a partner and the cross-fit famous “wall ball”.

Soft medicine balls are especially great in-home gyms as they are the least likely to break something around the house. That is, of course, until your kids think it’s one of their regular balls and tries to play soccer with your wife’s vases as goals…

Hard Medicine Balls

Next, we have hard medicine balls like the Xerball from SRI. The hard medicine ball is perfect for lighting up your abs with V-ups and Russian Twists. This type of med ball challenges the conventional with medicine ball pushups.

Hard medicine balls, as well, can easily be mistaken for a basketball or toy ball, therefore it’s best to keep these out of reach for the kiddos. Some of them bounce more than they should too, so its best NOT to attempt “med ball slams” with these as they will likely come back up and hit you in the face. To prove we’re not kidding…

Hybrid Medicine Ball

A newer style of the medicine ball, is the hybrid style, like Rouge’s slamball. Hybrid medicine balls aren’t as hard as the Xerball but have a bit more structure and utility than the Dynamax ball. It’s soft enough as they’re typically made out of rubber and even slightly squishy (kinda like heavy sand is in it), but tough enough that when you slam it on the ground, it won’t bounce much if at all. 

The hybrid med ball is a better option for all varieties of slams and tosses compared to the hard weighted ball. The soft ball will bounce more than the hybrid, which can be good depending on the specific exercise you are trying to do.

The difference between the soft and the hybrid though is the hybrid med ball could be used on practically any surface without damage. The soft ball will need to be on turf, carpet or some other surface that won’t ruin or puncture it.

Ballistic Medicine Ball

The newest style of medicine ball we’ve come across is the ballistic medicine ball, like this one from Onnit. The coolest thing about the ballistic medicine ball is that it’s a mix of all 3 medicine ball types we’ve just described. It’s soft enough for throwing and slamming, hard enough to put your weight on it and do pushups, and durable enough to where it could be thrown or slammed anywhere. 

The ballistic medicine ball is made out of tough ballistic-grade material with a tacky surface that’s engineered to take abuse. If you are debating buying more than one type of medicine ball we’ve mentioned here, this would be a better place to start as you may be pleasantly surprised at how the ballistic medicine ball can do the same things as the other types of med balls. We challenge you to find a weighted ball exercise that the ballistic ball can’t handle, let us know in the comments if you do!

Weighted Ball Exercise

Now that we know our options for weighted balls, let’s talk about some of the benefits these workouts provide. With each minute of the day being hyper-important, our time in the gym needs to be hyper-effective. The true benefit of the medicine ball and other functional fitness equipment is versatility. You are literally only limited by your own creativity. 

Other than being highly versatile, we love the med balls for the slam exercises. Seriously. There is something to be said about physically picking up a weighted ball and slamming it repeatedly on the ground or wall as hard as you can. It’s therapeutic. It feels amazing after a long day by giving you an outlet to let out your aggression and frustration on, instead of your boss’s face like you really want to.

Other than an outlet, weighted ball exercise is touted for its ability to build core strength and explosive power. sprinters, football players, basketball players, and the like know the value of being explosive, which has helped to fuel the popularity of weighted ball exercises.

Weight Ball Workouts

Need a grueling total body workout? Do timed rounds of medicine ball thrusters and aim to beat your count every round.



Needs to really blow off some steam? Add a squat to it!

It doesn’t end there. Add a medicine ball carry to your inclined treadmill exercise and really kick up the intensity. 

There is also an incredible variety of partner-based medicine ball workouts, so grab a buddy or a spouse and give them a try.

New to the medicine ball? Tell us how you are using it and your results! We’d also love to hear the type of ball enjoy using. 

Are you a medicine ball pro? Share your workout in the comment section!