Heavy balls are brilliant.

You can love them or hate them but like a barbell they have multiple uses. Only a moron would use a medicine ball just to do wallball shots.

Balls of one kind or another have been used by humans for almost as long as humans have been around.

Ball games probably started with one early man throwing a rock or pinecone at another for a laugh. After a while someone would have invented rules of play so no-one got knocked unconscious or the “ball” wasn’t thrown into the dinner to make pre-historic chef go ballistic.

At some point in history, who knows when, lifting a heavy stone became a test of strength.

Hercules did it all the time when the Greek ladies were no longer impressed with his beard and in Northern Europe lifting stones have an ancient history in Scotland and Iceland and the Basque country (Northern Spain). Rocks are not always the most practical thing to lift, throw, catch or train with. If you drop in on the floor it can make a mess and if you drop it on your foot it can make a different mess.

At some point in history ancient man or woman would have been fiddling around with the internal organs of a sheep/cow/bison or some other large real protein source like a deer. Every part of the animal needed to be used not only for food but for making clothing, weapons, providing warmth, medicine and many of other uses.

An animal bladder is basically a leak proof bag so it makes sense to use this for all kinds of container purposes. 3000 years ago the Ancient Persians used to fill animal bladders with sand for training and they were used in Ancient Rome and Greece in a similar way. Hippocrates used the old stuffed bladder with sand technique to rehabilitate his patients. He ordered them to throw the balls back and forth and it’s likely that other ancient cultures used animal skins, stuffed bags or natural rubber in some recreational way. Thus the medicine ball was “invented”

They are called medicine balls because of the association of medicine with health. This makes me giggle as I know of several doctors who are in fairly poor health and can’t really be in a position to give exercise advice, but that’s another blog topic altogether.

The modern version of the medicine ball was put together in the late 1800s. It was one of the considered one of the “4 Horsemen of Fitness” by old school Strongmen. The other 3 were the dumbell, wand and Indian Club, all of which are making a resurgence in modern fitness as people get bored of the “Glob Gym” version of gymnasiums and movements like CrossFit revolutionise how we train and rehabilitate our bodies.

One of the biggest proponents of the medicine ball was William “Iron Duke” Muldoon. A boxer, wrestler, strongman and a highly respected coach and trainer. He was even appointed to the President Roosevelt’s cabinet to oversee public health. He used large leather medicine balls filled with sand. Some say he was the modern medicine ball inventor.

I bought my first medicine ball in 1998. It was red and black leather filled with sand and weighed 8kg (17.5lbs). I used that ball for throwing, catching, twisting, crunching, sitting on, running with and even used it as a weight in a backpack for a mountaineer I was training who later climbed Everest. The ball seemed indestructable and lasted 7 years without seeing any damage until I foolishly leant it to another trainer who decided to use it for Wallball.

I curse you Wallball! I shouldn’t really blame the movement – it was the trainers fault for throwing it 10 feet high and not catching it. He did this repeatedly and after 150 throws (Karen I hate you) my poor beautiful leather medicine ball burst and bled sand all over the gym floor. It was a sad day but it does go to show you that if you look after equipment it will last a while. The ball was never the same and over the next year it got more and more covered with duct tape in a losing battle to try and keep it alive. Eventually when I left the UK bound for the USA my poor leather ball was just a lump of black and silver duct tape. More tape than ball, leaving a small pathetic trail of sand behind it, wherever it was left.

RIP Red and Black Ball.

You will never be forgotten.