There must be some reason that top level athletes are lean and muscular.  Most people think that their sleek bodies come from hours and hours in the gym.  While that is partly true, it is not the entire story.

Getting that athletic body has almost as much to do with how athletes train as it does with how long they train.

Athletes train for explosive power, functional strength and stamina, often working multiple muscle groups simultaneously to optimize their performance during a game or match.  This type of training is often referred to as plyometric training.

Fortunately, there is a tool you can put to work immediately to replicate this type of plyometric training easily in the gym, or even in your own home.

What is this tool? The medicine ball.

Medicine ball exercises offer the perfect balance of speed, strength and stamina to boost your metabolism, allowing you to burn fat faster than you thought possible.

What is a medicine ball?

A medicine ball is a weighted ball that is approximately 14 inches in diameter.  They are found in various weights ranging from 2 to 25 pounds.  Because it is easy to hold, carry, throw and catch, it is an effective and popular tool for athletic training.

Training with a medicine ball is nothing new.  There are reference to Romans training with weighted balls, called paganica, in a 1600 year old mosaic in Italy, and there are drawings of  Persian wrestlers using a weighted ball that dates to nearly 1000 B.C.

While today, the medicine ball can be found in many sizes, nearly every color, made of several different materials and some that have handles, older versions medicine ball were only available in large leather.  For all intents and purposes however, the medicine ball has not changed in at least 3,000 years.

Example Medicine Ball Exercises

One of the best things about a medicine ball is that it can be thrown and caught relatively easily.  This means that there are many exercises you can do by yourself or with a partner.

One easy exercise you can do by yourself is the oblique twist.  As the name implies, this exercise will not only burn fat, but also help tone your obliques. To do this exercise grab a medicine ball.  Hold it against your body at your waist and stand with your feet about shoulder width apart.  Now, simply twist your body to the left.  Be sure to keep your feet planted and generally facing forward.  Hold your position facing left for a count and then slowly return to center.  Now repeat the exercise to the right.  Complete an equal number or reps to each side.

This exercise is very popular with baseball and tennis players alike, and can really get the heart rate pumping as you twist.

An exercise you can do with a partner to get the heart pumping and fat burning is the kneel to push-up. Start on your knees, holding the medicine ball at against your chest. Fall forward and chest pass the medicine ball to your partner.  Continue to fall forward into the push-up position, keeping your knees on the floor. Immediately do a push up and explode back up to the kneeling position, ready to catch the medicine ball from your partner.  Your partner should perform the exercise, and once back in the kneeling position,  you complete your next rep of this fast paced medicine ball exercise.

Basketball and football players use this exercise to increase the explosive power of their passes (basketball) and blocking (football).

How Do You Get Started with Medicine Ball Exercises?

It is pretty easy to get started and add medicine ball exercises to your workout.  The first thing you need to do, of course, is obtain a medicine ball.  Be sure to pick one with a diameter and a weight that you feel comfortable with in the beginning.  As you get stronger, you will be able to increase your reps and the weight of the ball for more challenging workouts.