The Difference Between Dumbbells & the Medicine Ball

Dumbbells are a common tool for weight training.
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Being a novice at the gym means you'll have to brush up on the various exercise tools without naively looking like you're on a fact-finding mission. Exercise machines can be complicated and difficult to use for newbies, but free weights are easier to understand. Gyms are usually equipped with dumbbells and medicine balls, each of which helps you build muscle differently.


    Dumbbells are a staple of virtually every gym, regardless of how modest, and are a key component of weight training. They come in a variety of weights and typically feature a short handle with a weight plate on each end. Some weight plates are circular and others are hexagonal. Don't confuse dumbbells with barbells. Dumbbells are short, stubby and designed for use with one hand, whereas barbells look like long, stretched-out dumbbells and require both hands.

Medicine Balls

    Medicine balls are a common weight-training tool, and as is the case with dumbbells, are available in several weights. They often appear similar to basketballs but are heavy because of sand or other substances inside their bladder. Some medicine balls are equipped with handles for ease of use, while others are perfectly spherical. Medicine balls aren't the same as stability balls, which are large and bouncy. You use stability balls to balance your body during certain exercises and stretches.

Dumbbell Use

    You can use dumbbells in a long list of exercises to build muscles in your upper body. Common dumbbell exercises include curls, which target your biceps, and extensions, which target your triceps. Some people hold light dumbbells in each hand during aerobic exercises such as jogging or taking part in a step aerobics classes. Boxers also commonly use light dumbbells during shadow boxing to build the strength in their arms.

Medicine Ball Use

    Incorporating a medicine ball into your workout is an effective way to not only build muscle, but also relieve some of the monotony that comes with traditional weight training with dumbbells. A common medicine ball exercise that builds your core muscles is the Russian twist, in which you hold the ball with both hands and pass it across your lap from hip to hip. Medicine balls are also conducive to exercises with a partner; playing catch with a medicine ball helps you build your upper-body muscles.

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