If you’ve decided that you want to start training with medicine balls, the first question that you will need answered is “what weight medicine ball should I buy?”. This is why you are here and we have all of the answers for you. We are going to look at what are the best medicine ball sizes for all the various training purposes that apply to medicine balls, as well as fitness levels, gender, and age.
Now, before we get into the question, let’s quickly go over what medicine balls are exactly and why they are such an effective training tool.
A medicine ball, also known as an exercise ball or a med ball, is a solid weighted ball that weighs anywhere from 1-50 pounds. They can be about as small as a softball or as large as a basketball.
As for the shell of a medicine ball, it can be made from various materials, such as nylon, vinyl, kevlar, leather, polyurethane, or dense rubber. The inner contents that give a medicine ball its weight is usually sand or gel, although smaller sizes may just be inflated with air.
In our opinion, there really aren't too many benefits between the various materials that make up medicine balls. That said, it should be noted that the kevlar med balls and dense rubber med balls are likely more durable, rubber medicine balls do have some bounce to them when slammed, rubber medicine balls roll better (i.e. when doing plank exercises), and medicine balls with a tacky, grippier surface ensure a good grip when your palms start to get sweaty.
Now, medicine balls are not to be confused with inflatable stability balls, nor the more similar wall ball or slam ball (albeit slam balls are quite similar and can be used in many of the same ways - medicine ball vs slam ball, what’s the difference?)
While the medicine ball has become very popular over the last couple decades, it actually has a very long history, with the popularity in the modern age being more of a resurgence.
The modern medicine ball dates back to the mid-1800s and the term “medicine ball” was first recorded in 1876 (American Gymnasia and Academic Record, by Robert Jenkins Roberts, Jr.).
That said, the concept of an exercise ball dates way back to the Age of Pericles (approx. 400 BC), where the famous Greek physician Hippocrates was said to have stuffed animal skins for patients to throw around for medicinal purposes. This potentially makes the medicine ball the oldest kind of exercise equipment ever.
During the end of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th century, the use of medicine balls was widespread. From gyms and sports teams to armed services and even the White House (President Hoover - hence the game Hoover Ball), medicine balls were the norm. However, when bodybuilding really took off in the 1950s, the medicine ball faded from the scene.
It wasn’t until the early 2000s that medicine balls came back in a strong way, thanks to the functional fitness movement. Nowadays, you will see medicine balls in every gym and athletic training center. Rightfully so too, as the medicine ball is a highly effective training tool…
Medicine balls are very effective for rehabilitation, core and rotational training, and ballistic training. The name “medicine” ball makes perfect sense too, as they play an important role in sports medicine for improving strength and neuromuscular coordination. It’s a very functional, dynamic and athletic building tool.
With medicine balls, you can do full body fat burning workouts for toning, core workouts, ballistic workouts for explosive power, rotational workouts for sports like baseball, golf, and boxing, and much more.
The main use of medicine balls involves throwing and catching drills. This improves explosiveness and the ability to absorb and redirect force - very important for athletes.
At gyms, you will find most people use medicine balls for core workouts and HIIT style training for burning fat as well. While some medicine balls bounce when slammed, they can and often are used for slams.
All in all, a medicine ball is a functional training tool made to enhance performance and athletic ability, rather than build big muscles like dumbbells or barbells. If you want to build muscles, a medicine ball isn’t the best choice, but if you want to improve athleticism (core strength, rotational power, coordination, etc.), a medicine ball is one of the best training tools there is.
Now, while we mentioned medicine ball sizes range from 1-50 pounds, it should be noted that a 50 pound medicine ball is far from typical. So, let’s discuss medicine ball sizes, as this will lead us into the purpose of this post - what size medicine ball is right for you.
The smallest medicine ball you will find is a 1lb medicine ball, although the vast majority of sellers start at 2lbs. From there, sellers increase their medicine balls in increments of 2 pounds.
As such, you can easily find medicine balls in the following sizes (with KGs for our European fam):
2lb (or 1kg)
4lb (or 2kg)
6lb (or 3kg)
8lb (or 4kg)
10lb (or 5kg)
12lb (or 6kg)
15lb (or 7kg)
20lb (or 8-10kg)
You may see larger jumps in sizes from some sellers, and other sizes in-between, but overall, you won’t have trouble finding sizes ranging from 2-20lbs (sometimes 25lbs) on Amazon. Simply type in the search bar the size you want (i.e. 16lb medicine ball).
Earlier we mentioned that medicine balls go up as heavy as 50lbs. While this is true, these heavier weighted balls are in fact slam balls (sort of semantics, but the two are different in their uses). Once you go up past 20lbs, you are not likely using the exercise ball in a typical “medicine ball” way, unless you are very strong. The heavier balls are used for slamming, squatting, and other explosive strength exercises, rather than core exercise, rotational training, throwing to a partner, rehabilitation, etc., as medicine balls are intended.
On that note, we are going to look at what size medicine ball (or slam ball) to buy from all angles, which will include the heavier sizes, as again, you may be asking this question with the term medicine ball, but you actually need a heavy slam ball type medicine ball. Getting confused, don’t worry, read on and the answers will be clear.
What weight medicine ball for you will depend on a variety of factors, such as your age, gender, experience level, strength level and what you intend to use the medicine ball for. Below we will answer the question “what size medicine ball should I use?” based on all of the above. We are about to get very specific so that you can make an informed purchase.
Let’s start by going over the most versatile sizes for beginners, men, women, seniors, kids, and gyms.
We will be assuming that you want to use the medicine ball for all of its various primary uses: core training, throwing, ballistics, rotational work, and good old fat-burning muscle-toning workout sessions.
Assuming you have no prior experience to medicine ball training, the best weights to start with are 4, 6, and 8 pounds.
In fact, these sizes will be useful for both beginners and experts alike.
For experts, it’s not as much about the weight of a medicine ball as it is about how it is utilized. After all, if you know how to workout properly, you don’t even need any equipment. Your bodyweight alone is enough to train for core strength, athletic ability, hypertrophy and strength. So, a medicine ball will only enhance your training.
For beginners, determine your strength level. If you are new to fitness and you are relatively “weak” then go for a 4lb or 6lb medicine ball. If you are workout regularly but are new to medicine ball training, opt for an 8lb or even 10lb medicine ball.
No matter which size you choose, you will be able to get a great medicine ball workout in. When in doubt go lighter or hit the middle of the beginner weight range we listed above.
We recommend that women buy a 4-8 pound medicine ball. Go for the lower end if you are relatively new to fitness and the higher end if you are pretty fit and strong. These options will offer enough resistance to cover the widest range of exercises for most women.
Men should start with a 6-12 pound medicine ball. A 6-8 pound med ball is good for men who are new to medicine ball training and fitness in general (go for 6 if the latter is true). This will allow you to do the broadest range of exercises. A 10 or 12 pound medicine ball is good for men who have some fitness experience and are looking for the most versatile size medicine ball.
For seniors, a 4-8 pound medicine ball is a good place to start. This should allow you to do all the various exercises. Once you are comfortable with the starting weight you chose, you can opt for a larger size.
Children should start with 1-2 pound medicine balls and young teenagers can opt for a 4-6 pound medicine ball. This should allow them to get a good workout in while also drilling in on good form and technique.
A lot of young kids use medicine balls when training for sports.
Remember, most medicine ball training is not about going “heavy”, so even adults will be using a relatively light weight when comparing to other training equipment like barbells and dumbbells.
Note: medicine balls do feel a bit heavier than the poundage would suggest as the grip is displaced throughout the entire ball rather than a straight easy to hold handle like a dumbbell.
Gyms will need a variety of medicine ball sizes. We recommend that gyms have at least have a 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 pound medicine ball (with the 12 pounder be optional).
Rubberized medicine balls are the most typical for gyms, but having a variety of medicine balls made from different materials is great, as some people may want to do slamming exercises or throws on their own and with rubberized medicine balls, they will bounce around. Also, having a couple medicine balls with handles is nice for those who want to do core training, although this is not particularly necessary.
Now, let’s talk about medicine balls for different types of training. We will be looking at both the best sizes and materials that make up the medicine ball.
If you want to use medicine balls to increase speed, force, and reaction time, which is not just great for acceleration but deceleration as well, you will want a lighter medicine ball relative to your strength. Most of this kind of training involves athletic movements (i.e. shuffles and twists) and passes/throws.
The medicine ball should be heavy enough to noticeably slow down the motion a bit, but not heavy that you will lose control, accuracy and range of motion. The goal is to be quick and explosive.
For this kind of training, we recommend 4-8 pound medicine balls. The stronger and more experience you are, the more challenging the weight needs to be, so this could mean a slightly heavier medicine ball.
When it doubt, start light. With speed training, the intensity of effort is increased first by raising the intent to perform reputations with max acceleration and speed, rather than intensity of the load itself. So, even when progressing, a heavier ball is not necessary for quite some time.
If you want to work on explosive power exercises that use large muscle movements, such as squats, power cleans, throws, and slams, a heavy medicine ball is needed (relative to your strength).
What size medicine ball is right for you is really going to depend on your strength and power level. This could be anywhere from 10 or 12 pounds to 30 pounds or more. You need to determine this for yourself. If you have experience lifting heavy weights, you can go for the higher end of the spectrum. However, when in doubt, go a little lighter than your ego suggests.
As for the material of the medicine ball, a kevlar, vinyl, or leather medicine ball is best for power training. Slam balls are also great as they come in heavier sizes and they are made for this kind of abuse. They won’t bounce or damage.
For core training, such as v-ups and Russian twists, a 8-12 pound medicine ball is perfect for most intermediate to advanced trainees. For those who haven’t done much core training, a 4-8 pound medicine ball will be good, as you won’t need much weight, considering your bodyweight alone is enough to get a good core workout in.
As for what kind of medicine ball, it doesn’t really matter, but you may find the medicine balls with handles to be the best option. That said, they won’t roll as easy for things like plank pass throughs or push up passovers.
There are so many different kinds of slams you can do - slam straight down in front of you, to the sides, behind you, and so on. You can get really creative with slams and they are brutal, especially if you have the right weight. For medicine ball slams, you’ll want a ball that is heavy relative to your strength, but not too heavy. For females, a 10-25 pound medicine ball is usually good, and for males, a 20-40 pound medicine ball is good. If you are really strong, you can opt for a heavier medicine ball, but the goal should be to slam for reps and with good form, so consider that.
Can I slam a medicine ball?
Medicine balls are durable enough to slam. The only issue with the rubber medicine balls is they tend to bounce, and with that, you may have to chase your medicine ball around with each slam (obviously that is not ideal). Slamming in the dirt or sand will take away this issue. You can also just opt for a slam ball. Slam balls, as the name suggest, are made to slam. So, they won’t bounce.
Here is one of our favorite slam balls from TRX:
Medicine balls are great for getting toned. So, assuming you want to use a medicine ball for a full body workout that burns fat, go for a 4-10lb medicine ball. You’ll have to use your own judgement on the size that is right for you. What we can say is it is better to choose a weight that allows you to perform the exercises correctly. Moreover, you want a weight that allows you to do high volume in a short amount of time. A good medicine ball workout can be 20 minutes, but in that 20 minutes, you are doing a lot of work. If the ball is too heavy, you won’t be able to keep an adequate pace for toning, and there are better training tools if you want to do a muscle building workout.
That said, if you have other equipment and you are trying to build muscle, getting a heavy exercise ball for things like squats is great. It’s a good way to switch up your routine. Deadlifts and squats with a heavy medicine ball is a totally different beast than dumbbells and barbells (a 50 pound dumbbell or kettlebell goblet squat is much easier than a 50 pound exercise ball squat).
Medicine balls are one of the best tools for rotational power sports like baseball, boxing, tennis, golf, cricket and so on. So, for this kind of training, which includes various types of throws and slams, you will want a 4-12 pound medicine ball. Ideally, you’d get a lighter one like 6lb and a heavier one like 10-12 pounds, as that will allow you to do all the various throws and slams with an appropriate weight. You really won’t need anything heavier than a 12 pound medicine ball. When slamming, you aren't just working on power, you are working on explosive speed and the ability to maintain it over a period of time. Moreover, a lot of the slams and throws in this kind of training involve dynamic rotations and twists, so you want to avoid injury by using a weight that won’t put too much stress on your spine and joints.
We mentioned that medicine balls are not the best for building muscle, but throwing heavy medicine balls into a strength and hypertrophy workout proves to be very effective, as it changes up the dynamics of lifts like squats and deadlifts. With a heavy medicine ball, squats and other lower body “grinds” are much more difficult than with dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells. All in all, you need to consider you strength level. If you do squats with two 40lb dumbbells (one in each hand) regularly, then go for a heavy 40-50lb medicine ball so you can add that into the mix on leg days. If you use lighter dumbbells like a 20lb dumbbell in each hand for squats, then go for a 20-30lb medicine ball. Use your best judgement. However, when in doubt, go light, as it is better to do more reps and focus on tension and range of motion than to have a medicine ball that is too heavy to use properly.
Crossfit boxes will want a range of medicine balls. You will have beginners to advance crossfitters at your gym, so it best to have medicine balls (and slam balls and wall balls) from 4 to 40-50 pounds. Once you get to the heavier sizes, increments of 10 pounds is perfectly fine, that way you don’t have to spend loads of money. However, if money is of no concern, use 5lb increments so people can progressive overload at a more reasonable rate.
Overall, you need to choose a weight that is going to allow you to have full control, accuracy, and range of motion, no matter what form of training you will be doing with your medicine ball. Good form and technique will always trump weight. And remember, you will not be doing just one rep, so you need to consider your ability to sustain the weight of the medicine ball over the course of a workout.
So, think about your strength and fitness level, as well as the type of training you will be doing with your medicine ball(s). Then use your best judgement when making your first purchase.
Heavy medicine balls are for power-explosiveness, and light medicine balls are for speed-explosiveness, but with both, you want full control no matter what kind of training you are doing.
When in doubt, start lighter.
It’s a lot better to focus on good form and to actually be able to use the medicine ball you bought than let your ego take control when making a purchase. A lighter medicine ball can be used for everything, whereas a heavy medicine ball is more limited, especially if it’s too heavy to even use for power exercises.
The same principle of progressive overload for strength and hypertrophy training applies to medicine ball training. Before you increase intensity by going heavier, focus on adding more reps, creating more tension, decreasing rest time, and increasing volume. Then move up in weight once the medicine ball is noticeably easier.
If you have the funds, feel free to purchase a heavier medicine ball whenever you are ready or want to test yourself or try new exercises where a heavier medicine ball makes sense. You’ll find use in various sizes of medicine balls no matter what level you are, so even the lighter one you start with will still get put to work for certain exercises and training as you progress.
This really depends on the exercises you plan to do. If you are doing slams, a leather or vinyl medicine ball is best (or a slam ball), but if you want to roll the medicine ball (such as for plank pass throughs and switching hand push ups on the ball), then a rubber medicine ball is best. A slam ball will allow you to do both, but they generally come in heavier sizes. So, it really depends. All in all, think about the ways you will use the medicine ball the most and go for the best option for that. In the end, you can pretty much do all the same stuff with leather medicine balls that you can with rubber medicine balls.
If you have the wherewithal, then get a couple sizes. For example, for men, get a lighter medicine ball like 8lbs and a heavier slam ball around 20-30lbs. That will allow you to do both power and speed training.
The ideal range would be light, medium and heavy, so three sizes…i.e. 4-10lbs, 10-20lbs, and 20-30+ lbs.
If you have any concern about medicine ball training, be sure to consult with your doctor.
Ask yourself questions like, do you feel pain in your chest when exercises, do you have any injuries or joint problems, do you ever get dizzy when working out?
If you answer yes to any of those questions or related kinds of questions, then we recommend seeing a doctor.
If you answered no to all of the questions, then it’s safe to say you can begin your medicine ball training!
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