Good things come in threes. In part three of my (unplanned) trilogy of articles on plyometrics (see “Battle Ropes for Muay Thai” and “Plyometric Box for Muay Thai”), let’s take a look at a very widely used training equipment for martial arts strengthening and conditioning: the medicine ball.
About the Medicine Ball
Medicine balls are solid, weighted-balls with various fitness applications. The history of medicine balls can be traced back more than 2000 years back to the time of Hippocrates in ancient Greece. They were originally animal skins filled with sand and were used for rehabilitation and strength training purposes. Along the way, medicine balls were depicted in De Arte Gymnastica (some time in 16th century), widely known as the first book on sports science. They were also reported to be used in early 18th century by Persian wrestlers. The term “medicine ball” itself was first coined by a Robert Jenkins Roberts much later in 19th century and the name has stuck since then.
Now, medicine balls come in a wide range of weights, sizes and materials. They are used in training by sports competitors from football, baseball, martial arts to strongman and many others. The range of exercises that can be performed with medicine balls is only limited to what your mind can come up with, which is why it is such a popular training equipment.
Benefits of Medicine Ball Exercise for Muay Thai
With different weights and sizes, medicine balls can be used in a diverse range of fitness applications to improve agility, speed, coordination, reflex, balance, strength, and of course, explosive power. Here are some reasons why the medicine ball is an ideal training equipment for Muay Thai:
Upper Body Explosive Power
Medicine ball slams is one of the best plyometrics exercises for building explosive punching power. Ball slams -if done with the right form and effort- require plenty of upper body strength. A recommended slam workout is to perform 4 sets of 8 repetitions. Such a workout will build muscular strength, endurance and fast twitch muscles for fast and strong punches. Oh, and slamming the balls with maximum strength into the ground is such a great stress reliever.
Improves Core Strength
For effective strikes, better clinching, more stability and better footwork, you need a strong core. We tend to think of the core as the abs but it also consists of glutes, hips, pelvis, obliques and the lower back. When done with medicine ball, exercises like sit-ups, russian twists, and v crunches will engage all muscles of the core for a very effective strengthening workout.
Trains Punch Resistance
The old skool medicine ball is perhaps most synonymous with competitive boxing and for good reason. In many professional and amateur boxing gyms, medicine balls are used not only for improving punching power, but also to condition a boxer’s mid-section to withstand punches. The gyms do this by dropping a medicine ball onto the abs of the boxer to simulate a punch from an opponent. Such core conditioning is part of a pro fighter’s daily routine so don’t attempt this without professional supervision.
Besides slams, medicine balls can be used for weighted training in a host of exercises such as push-ups, planks, crunches, squats, lunges, twists, shoulder press, superman, jumps, pass-and-catch, overhead throws and well, practically the pantheon of body weight exercises. The medicine ball adds an element of resistance to any exercise, increasing the effectiveness of any workout.
Medicine Ball Recommendations
There are several types of medicine balls available in the market. There are bounce and non-bounce balls; balls with and without hand grips; hard and soft balls; rubber, leather, vinyl and balls of other synthetic materials. So which ones should you get?
For Muay Thai training, medicine ball slam is the best plyometric training exercise, so the most important qualities are: 1) durability to withstand slams, 2) sufficient weight for effective power training, and 3) a ball that doesn’t bounce. First and most importantly, you want a ball that is durable enough to give reasonable slam mileage. Unless you are open to the hazards of having the balls bouncing off the ground and smashing your face, hard-bouncy balls are out of the question. As for weight, there is no one-fits-all solution but as a recommendation: a 20 lbs ball is a good starting weight for most men, a 30 lbs for a beast, and 13-16 lbs for women.
Based on the above criteria, here is a list of the top-rated models that I have compiled, based on market research, customer ratings and reviews:
Rep Fitness V2 Slam Balls for Crossfit and Conditioning
- STRONGER AND MORE DURABLE: Our version 2 slam balls are meant to take the abuse of modern Cross Training workouts! We made the next-generation MUCH stronger with a 50% thicker shell and reinforced air...
- BUILD STRENGTH AND POWER FASTER: The explosive, full body movement of slamming and picking up the ball quickly develops serious, functional metabolic conditioning. These are perfect for Cross Training...
- CHOOSE YOUR SIZE: We offer a full range of sizes for any training need. Get a great cardio workout with the lighter weight slam balls, and use heavier sizes for strength training. Women typically...
This is the second version of their original slam ball (hence V2) and is better than ever before. The balls are around 9-inch in diameter and goes from 5 lbs up to 70 lbs in weight.
The rubber shell is super thick and durable, with a low bounce, making them really ideal for ball slams. There is a reinforced nozzle that allows you to inflate to a pressure/bounce you are comfortable with, although not enough to bounce around.
With a full 3-year warranty for home use and 1-year warranty for commercial use, go and slam it to your heart’s delight!
D-Ball Eliminator USA-made Slam Ball
- Color: Black 14" Diameter (same size for all weights). MADE IN THE USA
- 3/8" PVC wall thickness. Soft for firm hold. Non-tacky feel. Non-bouncing.
- Raised dimple texture for sure grip. Raised rib rings for additional ease of grip.
The only slam balls made in the USA. A pioneer of the non-bounce slam balls, D-Ball makes them like no other. The shell of made with a ⅜” PVC layer, a bigger 14-inch diameter, a raised dimpled texture for added grip and comes in weights from 10 lbs all the way up to a Herculean-level 200 lbs.
The balls don’t feel squishy like some other brands due to a proprietary mixture of fill materials. The balls also come with a vent hole to adjust the pressure. Like all trustworthy brands, the slam balls come with a 2-year warranty for home use and a 1-year for institutional usage. Not the cheapest medicine balls in the market but definitely one of the best.
Dynamax Soft-Shell Medicine Ball
- All Dynamax medicine balls are 14" in diameter, impact-absorbing, moisture and scuff resistant
- Soft-shelled with a heavy duty durable vinyl construction to ensure longevity of product life
- Ergonomic design maintains neutral spine increasing stability and max power
Used, tried and tested by athletes of all levels, Dynamax is the leading brand when it comes to medicine balls. Like other non-bounce soft-shell medicine balls, even this most reputable brand do not take well to long term slamming due to the stitch construction. If you are going to slam it on hard surfaces, it won’t be long before the stitch comes apart and leaking sand all over the place.
For other medicine ball workouts such as wall throw, side throw, squat throw, twists, sit-up and throws, and more, this is the one to go for. The alternative solution to using this as a slam ball is to perform it on foam mats to lessen and absorb the impact of the slams. And voila! A perfect medicine ball for almost all your fitness needs.
Champion Sports Leather Medicine Ball
- ELEVATE YOUR ROUTINE: Champion Sports provides workout gear that makes your fitness goals as enjoyable, convenient, and achievable as possible. Our leather medicine balls are no exception - blending...
- NON-SLIP, CONTROLLED GRIP: The exterior is made of synthetic leather that lends itself to a supple texture but is still easy to hold - even when sweaty. Maintaining a steady grip is simple whether...
- UNRIVALED, LASTING DURABILITY: Using professional-grade, high-quality materials, our weighted ball will hold up to every throw, slam, or lift you put it through. Premium, reinforced stitching further...
If you want a medicine ball with a traditional leather feel, this medicine ball by Champion Sports is a good option. This popular medicine ball is actually made with synthetic leather but it is of a very high quality, and is very thick for durability.
The smooth covers are softer and more comfortable to the touch compared to the typical rubber, which makes them easier to catch from a throw. The livelier colors are a delightful sight to have around the house or gym. As a soft-shell medicine ball, it presents the same predicament as the Dynamax when it comes to ball slam workout. Similarly, slamming it on foam mats will prolong its life expectancy. At a fraction of the price of the Dynamax, this is a very good value buy for the budget conscious.
Everyone of us gets bored working the same routine over and over again. By adding alternative workouts to our routine, we will be more motivated to train and our performance are improved at the same time. By working on the different aspects of our performance, and incorporating different equipments or methods, we will also become a more well-rounded Muay Thai athlete. Do you have what it takes to become the best version of yourself? Do you have the balls for it? Maybe you should get some. Medicine balls, that is.