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MASTER CLASS: Medicine ball doesn’t have to slam around to make an impact on fitness

by Matt Parrott | June 5, 2023 at 1:57 a.m.
CrossFit Nick Stewart demonstrates the Reverse Slam, an ironically named posture-building exercise that uses a medicine ball. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

The medicine ball has long been associated with powerful, dynamic movements. Explosive throws, jumps and lifts are all part of a typical medicine ball workout routine. They are part and parcel to the high intensity training that attracts a certain type of exerciser.

This week, I'll present a different side of medicine ball training, one that doesn't involve leaping tall buildings in a single bound. (Wink!) Plus, I have an exercise for you that fits perfectly into a controlled medicine ball workout.

It's funny how certain pieces of fitness equipment become associated with a specific type of workout. Marketing and popular fitness culture sometimes pigeonhole equipment into categories that aren't necessarily reflective of their overall versatility. This was true with free weights and group exercise classes and it's also true of the medicine ball.

I remember the medicine ball once having a strong association with boxing. For one reason or another, movies depicted boxers working with medicine balls during their pre-fight training routines. The medicine ball had a tough time coming out of that shadow and into popular fitness culture.

However, the past two decades have changed that -- to some degree. The advent of functional and high-intensity training gave the medicine ball new life in terms of mainstream popularity, but it's still largely used in an explosive kind of workout.

The medicine ball can be used for all sorts of balance training, core training and postural work. Its versatility is only limited by one's creativity around biomechanics and physiology.

Some of my favorite medicine ball exercises are performed slowly and deliberately while focusing heavily on breathing, posture and core stabilization.

The Reverse Slam is a bit of a misnomer because it's best performed in a controlled manner. When executed in that fashion, this exercise is appropriate for all fitness levels and can really help strengthen postural muscles along the lower back and spinal column.

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  • 1. Select a medicine ball and stand with your back against a wall.
  • 2. Place the medicine ball on the floor in front of you.
  • 3. Squat down and pick up the ball with both hands.
  • 4. In one motion, stand back up and raise the medicine ball over your head until it's contacting the wall behind you.
  • 5. Hold for a beat, then drop the medicine ball back on the floor.
  • 6. Take a five second break, then repeat for 10 repetitions.

I love this movement because it challenges the total body in a very functional way. Picking things up off the floor is second nature to most people, but it's rare to focus on good posture while doing so. This movement gives the exerciser an opportunity to practice this everyday task the right way, which should improve subsequent performance with similar objects. Enjoy!

Director of business development and population health solutions for Quest Diagnostics, Matt Parrott began this column Jan. 6, 2003, at Little Rock. He loves to hear from readers. Write to him at:

Print Headline: Medicine ball fits into calm, controlled workout, too


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