In the past, we’ve regaled you with tales of slosh tubes, kettlebells, sandbags, and clubbells. They are unstable, awkward to work with, and difficult to control. In a sense, they are perfectly Primal workout tools, developing functional strength and allowing us to emulate the types of movements Grok would have performed in daily life (swinging clubs and carrying asymmetrical loads). Most can be made at home with inexpensive materials – a particularly relevant characteristic, especially for the increasing numbers of penny-pinching fitness buffs.
Another piece of workout equipment with a similarly Primal profile is the medicine ball. Unlike the others, the medicine ball actually gets a lot of mainstream attention (but we won’t begrudge it for that), resulting in undeserved shunning from some of our more discerning (and naturally suspicious) peers. It’s actually a great piece of equipment with a lot of Grokkish parallels. For one, the medicine ball’s densely spherical consistency lends it an uncanny resemblance to one of Grok’s favorite tools: the rock. Toss it, heave it, shot-put it – all Primal movements.
The medicine ball has been around for millennia. Persian wrestlers trained with sand filled bladders nearly 3000 years ago, and the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates filled animal skins with sand, sewed them up, and had his patients toss them around for injury prevention and rehab. Today, boxers drop them on their stomachs to simulate punches, and athletes of all shades use them to develop explosive core strength. Medicine ball throws are even a component of the SPARQ rating, a sports-specific analysis of athleticism, core strength, total body power and coordination. Pretty solid foundation, no?
If you’re interested in incorporating the medicine ball into your workouts (as you should be), you have two options. You can either pony up the money for a professionally made medicine ball or make your own. Both options have different benefits. Buying a medicine ball can be expensive (upwards of 30 bucks for a mere ten-pounder!), but they are durable. They can also come with added benefits, like handles or rope attachments. Unless you’re especially crafty, a homemade medicine ball probably won’t have handles, meaning you’re stuck with two-handed workouts for the most part. Personally, I’m in favor of making your own. For one, you’re saving money. Two, you get to control the weight. And three, by building your own medicine ball, you have a personal connection to it for life. Some people might be more inclined to exercise if they spent big money on the equipment, but I’m the opposite – if I put time into making something, I’m definitely going to enjoy it more. It’s why I prefer a home cooked meal to one served in a restaurant.
To make your own, skip the exercise aisle and head for the basketballs. Buy either a cheap rubber one or a more durable pleather/leather ball; it’s up to you. Slice it open or poke a big hole, jam a funnel into the slit, pour sand down the funnel until the ball fills up, and stitch it up or seal the slit with a strong tape (like hockey tape). If you used a hole to fill it, plug it using a simple rubber tire repair kit. Make sure the sand is tightly packed by constantly shaking to settle – you want minimal interior shifting to preserve longevity and maximize weight. A full-sized basketball should weigh around 25 pounds. For lower weights, just buy the mini basketballs and repeat the process.
Here’s a video showing the poking method.
Okay, you’ve got a medicine ball. Now what?
You’ve probably seen the typical core workouts most medicine ball users perform. Stuff like the core twist or the medicine ball situp. These are all good exercises for the core, but why not try some workouts that you perhaps haven’t seen before?
Explode upwards from a squat jump, flinging the ball into the air with your feet.
Catch the ball with your hands and return to starting position.
My favorite is the Grok toss. Before slings, arrows, or buckshot were used to bring down airborne fowl, we had rocks. Now, I imagine Grok wasn’t using large boulders to hunt birds, but where’s the fun (and muscular development) in throwing small rocks?
Holding the medicine ball with two hands just under your chin, perform a squat.
On the way up, throw the ball as high as you can.
Be as haphazard as possible with your aim. Just concentrate on raw strength rather than accuracy; this will force you to constantly adjust and move around to catch the falling ball.
You can adjust your grip on the ball and throw it underhand granny-style or overhead soccer-style.
Got your own favorite medicine ball tips or workouts? Share them in the comment board!
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.