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Medicine Balls

Medicine balls are one of those old school exercise tools that often seem synonymous with boxing, but in reality this exercise tool is much older. Records clearly indicate the use of padded balls stuffed with sand in use in the gyms of ancient Greece, and a version of the medicine ball might even have been use in the ancient Near East as much as 3,000 years ago. In the modern context, the use of medicine balls to improve core strength and explosiveness has caught on in a number of sports and gym training programs, but in boxing the medicine ball is used for more than that. Boxers also train with medicine balls to toughen the abdomen, and one little-known drill serves as a peculiar substitute for working with the punch mitts.

Medicine Ball Exercises for Boxing Training

A variety of medicine ball exercises exist for general resistance training, and here are just a handful of examples:

  • Big Circles: Hold the medicine ball above your head with your arms fully extended. Then rotate the ball clockwise, twisting to your left as you reach the 3 o’clock position and keeping your arms straight. Go on to 6 o’clock, and then twist to 9 o’clock before returning to 12.
  • Sit-Ups: Use the medicine ball as a weight when you do sit-ups or crunches by holding it against your chest.
  • Rockies: Sit up straight with your legs extended and hold the medicine ball a few inches out from the center of your chest, elbows bent. Twist your trunk to the left and extend your arms to put the ball behind you, then twist to the right and extend the ball to the rear again.
  • Toe Touches: Lay on the floor with your legs extended straight up, which is the same position used for normal toe touches. Hold the medicine ball out from your head with your arms straight, allowing the ball to touch the ground. Lift your arms and torso to touch the ball against your toes in such a way that your arms remain straight and the ball follows a curved arc.

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Medicine Ball Exercises for Explosiveness

In addition to general purpose resistance training to strengthen the arms and the core, a number of medicine ball routines train the muscles to release energy explosively (and find more medicine ball exercises for boxing when you’re done with this list!):

  • Woodcutters: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and the medicine ball held above your head, arms out straight. Bend forward at the waist and tuck the ball between your legs as if you were going to throw it with great force, but do not release the ball. Return back to the start position like a spring.
  • Standing Twists: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart or a little wider, and hold the ball straight out from your chest. Twist to the left at the hips, pivoting on the ball of your right foot using the same basic motion used in a right cross. Return to the start position, and then repeat going to the right.
  • Punch Throws: These exercises require a partner to catch the ball. The basic idea is to use the same motions used to throw punches, but to use them to launch the medicine ball. Jabs and straight punches are the easiest punches to practice with this drill, but it can be used with hooks and overhand punches as well. Punch throws with a medicine ball cannot be used for uppercuts.

Toughen the Abdomen with Medicine Ball Training

How the medicine ball can be used to take abdominal exercises up a notch has already been described, but having stomach muscles made of iron does not condition your innards for taking blows. A different sort of medicine ball exercise is needed for that. I’ve seen this done in one of two ways. One is for the boxer to lay on the floor while his partner drops the medicine ball on his belly. The boxer flexes his abs, absorbs the blow, and throws the ball back. The other way is to do the same thing from a standing position. The latter exercise means taking less of a hit to the abdomen, but means you can work on explosiveness by throwing the ball back using a variant of the aforementioned Standing Twist exercise.

Punch Drilling with the Medicine Ball

A trainer I worked with in Washington, DC introduced me to a way to use the medicine ball that I have never seen used in any other gym, before or since. He was a 220 lbs man and held the medicine ball against the middle of his chest, locked in with one arm over the ball and one arm under it. The drill consisted of following him around the ring and hitting the ball with as many blows as possible, blazing away at what was essentially a mobile 230 lbs heavy bag for a full three minutes. Even with a smaller, lighter partner, this drill will probably become one of the most exhausting exercises in your gym repertoire.

Hopefully you can begin putting all of these medicine ball exercises for boxing training to good use. Remember, medicine balls have been a staple of boxing gyms for as long as they’ve been around, so don’t skip out on including them in your own workouts, too.