I love medicine balls: including a video review: Gaiam Fit Ball Workout

I love medicine balls. But once upon a time, I didn’t even know what a medicine ball was.

Two months ago, I mentioned my gradual movement away from formal gyms and exercise machines toward less technological ways to exercise. One of the “gadgets” I do use is a medicine ball.

Today, I am reviewing an intense exercise video that I started using just two years ago that involves a medicine ball, the Gaiam Fit Ball Workout with instructor Tanja Djelevic.

Photo of Gaiam Fit Ball Workout kit

I give this 55 stars and here’s why!

I’m reviewing the first workout only, for now

I am only reviewing the first workout on the DVD, the “fit ball workout”. I have never done the other two workouts, the “abs workout” and the “partner workout”. I happen not to be a fan of abs-specific workouts (a later blog post will explain why), and I have yet to ask Abby whether she is interested in trying the partner workout.

Equipment: which medicine ball?

Two years ago, I started out with the 4 pound medicine ball and to my surprise, found myself humbled by it initially (after having spent too many years not working my upper body). Eventually the 4 pound ball became too easy and I bought a 6 pound ball, which I use now. I would advise starting easy and building up, making sure that whatever weight you are using, you only use a weight that you can sustain with good form for 25 minutes.

There are no points for “showing off” and handling a heavier ball with poor form. There are also no points for going through the motions with a ball that is far too light to offer the resistance and burn you want to feel.

I’m at the point where the 6 pound ball is a bit easy for some parts of the workout and still challenging for others. So I should probably move to an 8 pound ball soon.


Tanja Djelevic is a fantastic instructor. Her instructions and suggestions and reminders on form are quite clear and enthusiastic, without being annoying. I cannot overstate how important it is, when evaluating an exercise video, to make sure the instructor is someone you can really feel reaching out to you from the TV or computer screen.

The movements: full range of motion

The “fit ball workout” is 25 minutes of nonstop intensity with a lot of different movements. I like that it works a full range of motion for many muscles.

There are reaches for the arms that I feel improved my posture and flexibility and aligned my shoulders.

There are core twists that should be done with care (I once did such twists carelessly and hurt my back).

There are lunges and plies that will have you feeling the burn in your quads, glutes, and calves.

The figure-eights and circles for the arms while holding the ball are great for shoulders and surrounding muscles.

The throws are explosive and one of the great things about using a medicine ball.

The wood chops with the medicine ball I enjoy a lot, very dynamic.

The pushups are, well, pushups, but with an interesting dimension: by rolling the ball from one side to another while doing pushups, you get to work on core stability.

The plank and other stationary poses are good for the abs.

Warmup and cooldown

The warmup and cooldown are all too brief for my taste, but are decent if extended on both ends by a longer warmup and a longer cooldown (with more stretching of all the leg muscles, especially).


Using the 25-minute medicine ball workout periodically over the past two years has not only added muscle to my entire upper body, and expanded my chest, but also improved my posture, balanced my left and right sides of my body, and generated some weight loss.

This is not a workout I would do every day or even every other day. The reason is that doing the workout as is (without modification) involves endurance levels of repetition that I find beneficial in small doses but unenjoyable and less beneficial in larger doses. I like to mix up my workouts so that I get sessions in which I move much heavier weight but with fewer reps.

I have tried out other videos by Tanja Djelevic and will review them in the future. You might want to check out her blog and subscribe to it: she likes talking about the whole picture of health of mind and body. Exercise isn’t and shouldn’t be some kind of mechanical operation treating the body as a machine. It’s something joyful that taps into our being fully alive, and you can tell from her instruction that Tanja embodies this attitude, and I appreciate it.

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