You can make a homemade medicine ball out of an old basketball, some sand, and strong duct tape. On this page are some videos and tips on how to make one using these materials. This works. I have made medicine balls using methods similar to these and I use them all the time. These homemade balls, of course, will not bounce, which is a useful function of a medicine ball as well so if you want bouncy ones you will need to buy them. But no need to wait. If you have an old basketball or any other balls of various sizes lying around then it’s fairly simple.
Small Hole or Big Hole?
Some medicine ball do-it-yourself instructions involve making a small hole or just a slit and inserting a funnel to pour sand into. The second video, which is a very good video and has other examples of homemade equipment in it, uses this method.
While this works it is very slow and tedious. Sand, sugar, or any other granular material does not flow that well through a funnel. It can be very frustrating. The biggest drawback, however, is that it is difficult, if not impossible to completely fill the ball. The ball needs to be PACKED with material…really almost overfilled.
Another big drawback of this method is achieving your desired weights. You need to be able to pack in lighter material along with the sand (or gravel) to achieve the weights you want. Otherwise, each weight will have to be a different size ball. And while you may want larger and smaller size balls you don’t want to have to be stuck with the weight you end up with.
In the second video, he suggests partially filling the ball and then stuffing rags in to fill it up the rest of the way. This will work but depending on how many rags you put in you can end up with an unbalanced ball and it will feel funny and awkward.
So the methods that are best involve making a somewhat larger hole and leaving a FLAP, as in the first video. The hole in this video is a bit larger than I would prefer, so use the videos for reference only. Likely your first ball won’t be perfect but it’s CHEAP. So you can afford to perfect your method.
The larger hole with a flap will allow you to put in sand, or pea gravel (whatever you are using) so that it fills the ball all the way up against the flap when it is closed. You will need to shake the ball often to make sure that every centimeter is filled and packed tight. Otherwise, you will develop a loosey-goosey ball.
The reason people want a small hole or slit is that they are paranoid that the sand will leak out. This is where Gorilla tape or any good strong duct (or duck) tape comes in. Duct tape, people, depend on it. The Mythbusters made a boat and a cannon out of the stuff…not to mention holding up a car. I think it will handle the sand in your medicine ball.
No, you do not really need fancy glue or tire patch kits. Just lots of very sticky strong tape. As the first video show, if the Gorilla tape is too slippery you can cover over the tape with a sports tape or a rougher duct tape. Some Gorilla glue, Krazy Glue, or Super Glue along the flap closure wouldn’t hurt either. If you use Gorilla glue, which is extremely strong, keep in mind that it expands a lot, so do not use too much.
To further ensure against leaks you can cut a couple of round pieces of paper which are a few inches larger than the opening in the ball. After you have filled the ball carefully insert two or three pieces (for thickness) over the sand and under the edges of the opening so that the edges of the paper “underlaps” the edges of the ball opening. Then close the flap and tape (or glue and then tape). Of course, it doesn’t have to be paper. You probably have better ideas than I do already…
Having the larger opening will allow you to pack the lighter material in amongst the sand to lighten the ball. Don’t mix the material with the sand in advance because then it would be very difficult to change the ratio of the mix!
I’d recommend using pieces of leftover foam peanuts for filler, or any type of foam. Pieces of newspaper or rags will work also, of course. Another good idea is tubular foam known as Caulk Backer or Caulk Saver. These are long foam tubes which come in 3/4, 5/8 and 1-inch widths and are used to fill large cracks and spaces before caulking..such as around windows. You can find this at Home Depot or wherever when you get your Gorilla tape.
I like this because it’s easy to tear off small pieces of the foam without any mess. As you’re filling the ball you periodically put in pieces of foam and weigh as you go to determine if you need to put more or less in. The idea is not to get everything even and perfect as it doesn’t need to be. You just don’t want half the ball to be foam. Try to get it somewhat dispersed.
Medicine Ball Uses
Medicine balls are very useful. What you have to realize about them is that it is pointless to use a medicine ball as just another weight, which is how many people instruct. Medicine balls are for throwing or for switching from hand to hand quickly or to otherwise use when a hard weight plate, dumbbell, or kettlebell would be unsafe. Just using a medicine ball for Russian twists or front-loaded squats when you could just as easily use a weight plate…that’s silly.
These homemade medicine balls are great to use with a partner for any type of throwing drills or dropping drills.
If you are alone you can use them for medicine ball swing throughs (throw the ball up on the ascent), bench press throws, and core work on a slant board. Be creative.
Again, keep in mind that a bouncy medicine ball opens up a lot of other very good exercises so you still may want to consider getting some of those.