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Larger medicine balls can come in bigger sizes than toning balls.
With the variety of exercise equipment spilling out of the health club weight room, some pieces might seem redundant. You may wonder why it's necessary to have both a toning ball and a medicine ball at your disposal. Though they're both types of fitness balls, they're made differently and have distinctly different uses. There are instances, however, when you can substitute a toning ball for a medicine ball.
Medicine balls are one of those old-school pieces of equipment that have been used in fitness for years, while toning balls are relatively new on the fitness scene. Toning balls were developed for a type of Pilates program; they are used in a manner similar to that of the hand weights used in Pilates toning exercises. Medicine balls are mostly used for plyometric-type training to improve speed and muscle strength.
The sizes of the two types of balls can overlap, but toning balls tend to be smaller in general than medicine balls. Both can be as light as 1 pound, but the toning balls typically top out around 4 or 5 pounds and are small enough to be held in a single hand. Medicine balls, on the other hand, typically come in weights up to 50 pounds and can be larger than a basketball. The American College of Sports Medicine says that athletes who are training for power can find even heavier medicine balls if they need to more than 50 pounds.
Soft and pliable, medicine balls are typically made of rubber or leather and filled with sand, saw dust or other material to make them heavy. Toning balls, however, have a PVC shell, so they are hard and not at all supple. An iron sand filling is what gives toning balls their weight.
Toning balls are specifically used for exercises such as butterflies, side-lying arm circles and arms pulling straps, in which you hold a toning ball between your ankles to employ your adductors while your arms work the ropes on a reformer. They can also be used for typical medicine ball exercises like windmills, rotational crunches and wood choppers, but don't try to substitute a toning ball for a medicine ball when you perform a ball slam, as the toning ball won't bounce like a medicine ball does, and it could crack or break.