If you’re not a regular weight-lifter, the gym can be an intimidating place filled with equipment you don’t quite know how to use. Thankfully, some of the most effective total-body toning tools are the simplest ones. Take the medicine ball: This versatile piece of equipment accomplishes cardio and strength-training at the same time.
Like a medicine ball, a slam ball is weighted (anywhere from 5-25kgs), but it’s designed to be more durable so you can slam it. By hoisting a medicine ball overhead, twisting with it, or throwing it down to the ground, you’ll fire up your muscles and spike your heart rate—thus getting a head-to-toe workout with the power to rev your metabolism.
“Using medicine balls gives you the biggest bang for your buck,” says strength and conditioning specialist Ambyr Chatzopoulos. “You can get an insane strength AND cardiovascular workout in a short amount of time. Not to mention, you can really work out some aggression and stress that has built up throughout your day.”
Personal trainer Heather Tyler even recommends swapping your free weights for a medicine ball. “I like using [one] with my clients who have stiff or sore hands and fingers because they’re easy to pick up without stressing joints like gripping a dumbbell can do,” she says.
When using a medicine ball, always keep proper form in mind so you don’t injure yourself. For most exercises, you will hold the ball in front of your body, which makes posture key, says personal trainer Julie Lohre.
“Be sure that you are not leaning too far forward and placing extra stress on your back,” she instructs. “The best way to do this is to engage your core by tightening the abdominal muscles, retracting your shoulder blades slightly to bring them together, and lifting your chest up. That position will allow you to safely move with the slam ball without compromising your back.”
Begin with a lighter ball, Lohre recommends. Once you master your moves and feel comfortable with that weight, you can use a heavier one.
Ready to put this power tool to the test? Here’s a four-move circuit from Lohre that will challenge your whole body. Warm up with 5-10 minutes of easy cardio, then do 10 repetitions of each exercise below (on each side for sided movement). To make it a workout, rest for 1-2 minutes after your first circuit, then repeat through 3-4 more times.