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I'm thinking about juggling heavy balls as part of my workout routine. Could the frequent impacts of juggling balls up to 1 kg every other day hurt my muscles or tendons? Assume that I'm of average fitness and won't drop the balls on my feet.

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What would be the reason to start juggling the balls and not perform regular exercises with them? What are you working out for and how do you think juggling will benefit you? – Ivo Flipse Apr 26 '11 at 7:18
@Ivo: I guessed that it practices some muscle group, and which one was going to be my next question. The reason to juggle would be that it's fun. – user26 Apr 26 '11 at 9:30
So you don't have a specific sport in mind, you're training for? – Ivo Flipse Apr 26 '11 at 9:31
@Ivo: No, just general fitness. – user26 Apr 26 '11 at 9:36
I juggle 3 pounders daily and my arms looks great! also great core workout... thinking of upping to 5 pounders soon! – user5246 Feb 16 '13 at 7:41
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Given that you're not training to become a professional juggler, I would advise against juggling the balls.

  • Your training your muscles for a very specific motor-task, which is most likely less effective than a regular workout.
  • If the balls fall down with a significant speed, the strain on the tendons around your elbows could be quite high. Given that your muscles aren't adapted/trained for this kind of workout, you're basically looking for injuries. So don't start out with something like juggling!
  • Because the exercise is quite difficult and you're making it harder with heavy balls, chances are you won't be performing it very well. This means you'll either perform it very slow or in a way, that hardly resembles juggling. Both are probably a poor workout. Unless you consider squatting to pick them up a good alternative, again: don't juggle.

That's not to say you can't work out with heavy balls! Simply trying to move your outstretched arms in full range of motion with heavy balls is destined to make your muscles very tired, very soon. Also the weight probably allows you to either do a ton of repetitions or perform them very fast. I would suggest looking for some kettle bell exercises and try doing some of those, only with the ball in your hand instead of a kettle bell. Once you've increased your fitness, you can always switch to the real deal.

What's best about these exercises is that they also train your legs (squatting to touch the floor) and core (rotating your body against gravity). Furthermore, you use your arms in a full range of motion and in a much more natural way. So when you decide to take on something heavier, you'll be prepared!

So please, don't go juggling heavy balls unless you want to become a professional juggler.

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Thanks for the comprehensive answer. – user26 Apr 26 '11 at 10:34
Slightly weighted balls are available though for beginner jugglers to develop wrist strength and control. It minimizes the wild throws new jugglers tend to do when they just "throw things up in the air" with light balls or bean bags. – Matt Chan Apr 26 '11 at 12:15
True, but they are practicing to become jugglers @Matt Chan ;-) – Ivo Flipse Apr 26 '11 at 12:42
I think most top level professional jugglers lift weights (barbells, dumbbells etc.) in addition to their daily juggling practice. They do not use weighted balls to juggle. I think this is an indication that juggling weighted balls is less effective at improving skills and endurance. I'll try to find some references. – BKE Jan 17 '14 at 13:30

I teach juggling for fitness and always cringe when people ask about juggling with weighted balls. Yikes! Juggling is a cardio and endurance activity, just like walking or running, and medical experts recommend against using ankle or wrist weights for those activities. It places unnecessary stress on the joints. Juggling with weighted balls would be like doing biceps curls continuously, just pumping the weights up and down really fast. This could cause injury.

Also, you will probably notice your arms get tired just from juggling balls of regular weight. Keep it safe and reserve strength and resistance work for slower more controlled moves rather than integrating them into cardio exercise.

I wrote a blog post about this:

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Hi Heather, nice blog post, but could you summarize the content in your answer? That way others will know if it addresses the question. – Ivo Flipse Aug 12 '11 at 10:34
Sure, post is now updated with more info. Thanks for the tip! – Heather Aug 17 '11 at 15:15
Great work @Heather, btw you can respond to comments by using a @ in front of their name :-) – Ivo Flipse Aug 17 '11 at 15:38

I believe that juggling is not only good for cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and muscle toning (particularly forearms, biceps, and shoulders), but also reflexes, motor skills, balance, and reaction time. It also increases brain size, creative problem solving, left-right brain coordination, concentration and focus, learning abilities, peripheral vision, neural systems, and confidence. I used to juggle basketballs continuously to get a good arm workout. I'm 21 now and looking to buy some 2 lb. weighted balls to increase all of these and really develop my Jedi skills. It's also very fun and stimulating to juggle to music you enjoy!

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Gang, I've been juggling 1 pound balls for a few years now.

I'm 58 years old and I can tell you, juggling a pound is no strain at all.

(Now, I can also tell you that this changes when you move up to 1.6 or heavier balls.)

Unless you're tossing the balls 5 feet in the air, the extra weight of kinetic energy is not significant -- it's simply a gentle, flowing exercise.

So fear not -- start with the lightest heavy balls (I like the much smaller ones -- the DX Power Ball from Serious Juggling -- , the Dube ones I bought are 3" and that's pretty darn big). They're great for walking & juggling -- will fit in your pocket (ok, barely) when you get to a store.

-- Ken

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I learned to juggle 3 balls as a kid in San Diego. I moved to NYC and there was a group of people juggling on the lawn outside my office in Bryant Park, so I meet up with them and juggle from 12-1 on my lunch break. I got the heavy balls just to try them, and fell in love with them. I've never been one to work out at all. This was a fun way to get some exercise. I've been doing it over a couch each night for at least two years. It hasn't caused me any injury or discomfort. I really love doing it and love the results.

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I just turned 68 and have been doing 500 repetitions per day juggling 3# balls for the last five years. I haven't had any joint problems. To me it's just good exercise.

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