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How to Make Medicine Balls

[back to budget body equipment]

The medicine ball is an older product that has made its way back into favor recently.  With new technology the ball has become more versatile for use by health professionals.  Unfortunately, for those that are under a tight budget, medicine balls can range in price from $20 to $60 depending on the size and quality of the ball. 

The quality of the ball that you want is going to depend on your intended use.  Medicine balls are excellent for improving dynamic flexibility.  The weight of the ball can help improve the functional range over which force must be resisted and applied.  Medicine balls are also a great tool for learning to throw. Because of the weight of the ball, there is a need to properly shift weight from the rear leg to the front.  This pattern is similar to swinging activities also.  Due to the impact on the ball, throwing exercises will require a more durable ball then lifting exercises.

I did some research on the internet and found 3 methods of creating medicine balls that I decided to try out.  You'll need to have some patience since both the SandBall and WaterBall methods require a good 1/2 hour or so to fill up and the SLAMMER SandBall is a good 2 1/2 hours.  The steps for creating them are listed below:

The "waterball" method:

I found this method of making a medicine ball inexpensive and satisfactory for non-throwing exercises.  Basically, you'll want to get a standard playground ball and a air pump with a ball needle.  I found both the ball and the pump at Walmart for under $3.50 each.  It is important to make sure that the pump is able to be submerged in water.

Step 1:  Put the needle tip in the ball to let all the air out.

Step 2
:  Put the needle tip on the pump (while it's in the ball)

Step 3: 
Submerge the pump in a wide sink or large bucket so that you can pump water rather than air.

Step 4:
 Start pumping!  It takes a while to squeeze all that water through that little needle tip... but it does work.  (Although I didn't try it, I was told to mix a teaspoon of chlorine bleach in with the water to prevent it from getting stale.)

Step 5
:  Although you probably thought you did a good job of squeezing the air out of the ball first, you probably still have quite a bit of air in it.  Remove the needle tip from the pump side and let some more air escape from the ball.  Once the water starts coming out, put the tip back on the pump and fill it up the rest of the way.

That's it.  The 8" playground ball that I have pictured below ended up weighing 12 pounds when I was done.  It cost me about $3.45 for the ball and about $3.50 for the pump.  $7.00 is not bad compared to the $50 one that I was looking at purchasing.  We'll see how long it lasts before the needle seal breaks.


The "SandBall" method:

This method requires a few more tools, but the finished product feels a lot more authentic and doesn't make your stomach gurgle from all the water sloshing around in the previous method.  You will need a basketball (good or bad one, doesn't matter), a bag of sand, a funnel, a carpenters knife and some duct tape.  I saw shoe glue and rubber patches used on some of the articles that I found, but have not tried that yet.  I have also seen some postings mention the use of cloth, lead shot, pea gravel, foam, water, rice, and a combination of different contents. 

Step 1:  Cut a small opening in the basketball using the carpenter's knife.  I found that making a "V" with cuts of about 1/2" to 3/4" will do the trick without creating a gaping hole that will need to be patched.

Step 2
:  Put the funnel in the hole and pour the sand in.  At this point, depending on your choice of contents, you might be stuffing in cloth or other weight items in the hole.

Step 3: 
Try to fill your ball completely to the top.  This apparently adds to the longevity of your ball.  It is best to bang the ball on the table or floor to help pack the sand down and allow you to fill it further.

Step 4:
 Now you will want to fasten that hole flap back in place.  I used some crazy glue around the "V" and then some nice strong duct tape over the top.

That's it.  The regulation size cheap basketball that I have pictured below ended up weighing 25 pounds when I was done.  It cost me about $4 for the ball and about $2.00 for the sand.  I like the size and feel of this rubberized ball and have also made a 10, 15, and 20 pound ball.  A small rubberized basketball filled to the top will give you the 10 pounder.  The 15 and 20 pound balls take a little more trial and error while you mess around with the different amounts of cloth, rice, etc...

The "SLAMMER Sand Ball" method:

As far as a finished product goes, I was VERY pleased with the SLAMMER SandBall method.  However, not everyone is too keen on putting 2.5 - 3 hours into making a medicine ball!  The great thing about this design is that it lets you fill the ball with sand as with the above method, but then you can add air to the ball again to retain the shape, rather than putting in extra cloth and stuff for the lighter balls.  The air provides a nice consistency that allows the ball to retain some bounce. 

For this method I'd recommend at least an "outdoor" basketball (~$7+) which is a little more thick and sturdy than the cheap indoor basketballs (~$4).  I'd also recommend the finest sand that you can buy since you will be pouring it through a much narrower funnel... I used paver patio jointing sand (~$12 / 50 pound bag).  You'll also need a radial tire plug kit which can be used over and over again... some "Shoe Goo" rubber cement... and last but not least, a very small funnel.  I cut the bottom off of a 3-in-1 plastic oil can as was recommended in the plans.

The steps to complete this design are simple enough, but VERY time consuming. 

  1. Using the tire plug rasp/auger, punch two holes into the ball and move it back and forth to make it as clean as possible.  One of the holes will be used to let the air escape, while the other will be used for the funnel and sand.

  2. Jam the funnel into one of the holes

  3. Start pouring in the sand.  If you're using a 50 lb. bag, I would recommend measuring out a desired weight in a bucket so that you don't have to keep weighing the ball as I did!  I made the 15 pounder pictured below.  Then you can scoop the sand out of the bucket with a cup and pour it into the funnel.

  4. Weigh your ball to ensure that you've achieved the desired weight (after unclogging your funnel a number of times not doubt).  Many bathroom scales might not register some of the lighter weights.  I used a basketball net with one end tied shut (used for my tornado ball plan) and then a hanging fishing scale to measure the weight.

  5. Follow the directions on the tire plug kit which typically involve taking a patch, threading the plug tool with it, coating it with rubber cement, and jamming it into the hole.  Patch both holes in this manner.

  6. Cut off the excess plugs from both holes.  I also like to light them on fire to burn them closer to the rubber and then smear them as flat as possible with a putty knife.

  7. Take the Shoe Goo and cover the patch hole and a little more.  I also smeared this stuff so that it was flat.  The Shoe Goo does a good job ensuring that the patch is air tight and sealed.

  8. Wait over night for the glue to completely dry, and then put your desired amount of air into it.

  9. Start Slamming!

YouTube Video


There are some great exercises to be done with medicine balls (wood chops, medicine ball squats, medicine ball lunges, etc..) and I will be adding some to my site in the near future.  So if the cost of the ball is your reason for hesitation, try one of these inexpensive techniques and put them to good use!





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