Kettlebell and medicine ball exercises

This isn’t fitness advice, it’s a web log post about what I’ve done. I have no education in exercise or health, and no idea what might be good for the reader. Don’t take health advice from random guys on the internet. Ask your doctor about exercising.

Medicine ball

Someone left a medicine ball at the gym a few months ago. It’s kind of girly looking – made by Danskins of blue and white swirly plastic, eight pounds. But what the heck; heavy is heavy, and it turns out eight pounds is plenty for a good workout.

As an American man of a certain age, there are three things I can legitimately do with a ball: throw it; hit it with a stick; or grab it and run. Suppose I grab the medicine ball and run for the door:

“Where’s the medicine ball?”

“Dunno; Marcel grabbed it and ran out the door.”


Wouldn’t do to appear eccentric, nor is there much training effect in that. If I were outside, wailing on the medicine ball with a stick might be a workout, but it’s still kind of weird. So in the gym I’ve been throwing around the medicine ball for a couple of months. The exercises I’ve seen on the web emphasize waving the medicine ball around. Unless it’s training for rhythmic gymnastics, I don’t really see the point. If I want to wave something around, I’ll use a kettlebell, as below. With a medicine ball, this is my typical workout:

Thoroughly warm up before starting. Then, hold the ball at chin level and shoot it up against a wall with both hands, kind of like volleyball. I might do 20 to 50 of these. Next, hold the ball at waist level, twist, and slam it against the wall, catching it on the rebound, maybe 8 to 12 times each side. Next shoot it up high against the wall like a basketball; throw it with both hands from behind the head; throw it overhand; throw it with both hands from the chest. Some of these are listed at the always-informative under other plyometrics. This pdf from the MF Athletic Company has more ideas for using medicine balls. I throw as hard as possible with good technique, being careful not to strain a shoulder, which seems especially easy to do throwing overhand.

Three cycles like this can be a short upper-body workout, or the throws can be combined with other exercises like squats or deadlifts, or with some kind of cardio intervals like jumping rope or using an exercise machine. I’ve found I have to limit plyometric exercises (throwing hard, jumping, hitting the heavy bag) to once a week to get adequate recovery, and to take a week off every two or three to avoid hurting myself.

Initially I was throwing against an interior cinder-block wall. That was thoughtless. Sensing someone behind me, I paused and found the facility manager, who had noticed the noise and vibration from the other side of the wall. He asked me instead to throw against the reinforced concrete pilasters, or against a foundation wall, this gym being in the basement. Most of these throws work better with a partner, if there’s overhead clearance and someone else is interested. I can’t say it’s really caught on yet. Maybe we need a black leather Everlast instead of a swirly-blue Danskins.


About a month ago a kettlebell appeared at the gym. Stuff seems to be accumulating and it’s getting crowded in there, but I’m glad to have the kettlebell. It looks like a cannonball with a handle, and weighs 35 pounds. I would have thought it’s about like a dumbbell, but the kettlebell has a different feel and is very satisfying to use. Here are some kettlebell exercises listed and helpfully illustrated. The one-arm and two-arm swings and the basic press are what I’ve started with. For the swings, I have to warm up thoroughly, stretch my legs and back, and concentrate on correct technique. These are demanding exercises.

Kettlebell presses integrate well into a weight workout. I’ve been doing these instead of dumbbell presses. At the end of the workout I do some kettlebell swings, typically a set of 8-12 two-handed, then two sets of 8 one-handed, with sit-ups or something between sets. On the third set I often pause to recover after one side. Kettlebell swings are a heavy cardio workout. I feel the swings most in my legs and lower back. To avoid over-stretching my lower back it’s important to keep control on the down-swing. Since I’m swinging around a 35 pound iron ball, I make sure the area is safe and use some chalk for a good grip, and think about where the kettlebell would go worst case. I’d hate to launch it through a window or wall, or into someone else.

As summer approaches I’ll lift less and do more stuff outside. The kettlebell and medicine ball should integrate well with that.


5 Replies to “Kettlebell and medicine ball exercises”

  1. I know you mentioned it with the kettlebell, but all I could picture with the medicine ball was a lot of ricocheting and knocking people out. That’s what would happen if I were throwing things against a wall as an exercise routine, in any case.

    1. That would be the Acme Medicine Ball. The Danskins has almost no bounce, but the way things are going someone will leave a mini-tramp in the corner next week.

  2. Running with the ball might work okay. You could do repeats of 1) Pick up the ball 2) Run up the stairs 3) Throw the ball against the wall 4) Run down the stairs 5) Throw the ball against the wall. You would still look eccentric though.

  3. I am a gymnastics coach and we use the medicine balls for our core training in our athletes. It is a great way for our girls to have fun and get a good conditioning workout at the same time. They love it when we break out the medicine balls, and we love it at as coaches because we don’t have to ride their butts to do the workout. It’s a win, win situation for us. Of course, this is done in a group setting where we can throw to each other, etc. I don’t think my gym could handle the stress of a 15lb medicine ball being thrown at it. Yikes!

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