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12 Best Medicine Ball Exercises for a Total-Body Workout

If you’re looking to ditch the gym and outfit your home with versatile exercise equipment for the best total-body workouts, you can’t go wrong with a couple of medicine balls. Medicine balls can be used for all sorts of strengthening, cardiovascular, and mobility exercises, ranging from everything from explosive plyometric exercises to slow and controlled core work. Medicine ball workouts can be as challenging as any hard dumbbell workout and can add variety to stimulate your muscles to promote gains in strength while also preventing boredom.

couple doing medicine ball workout together.
andrey_braynsk / Pixabay

Medicine balls provide resistance like dumbbells or kettlebells, so they can almost always be used in place of one of these more common weighted implements as long as you can modify the grip to accommodate holding the medicine ball in both hands. Moreover, unlike other weights, resistance bands, or barbells, medicine balls can be thrown and dropped, opening up a whole array of dynamic, powerful, metabolic conditioning exercises. You can put together many fun, engaging, effective medicine ball workouts with this multi-functional training tool. Below, we share some of the medicine ball exercises to get you started.

Medicine Ball Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are a great warm-up exercise because you’ll get a quick cardio boost while simultaneously working your abs, glutes, legs, and shoulders. By reducing your base of support from a standard push-up position to a narrow grip on top of the medicine ball, this variation really challenges your core and gets your shoulders quaking. Be sure to maintain good form with your hips in line with your body.

  1. Get into a push-up position with your core and glutes engaged and your hands placed on either side of the top of the medicine ball, which should be centered under your chest.
  2. Pressing your weight into your hands, alternate bending each knee and bringing the leg up under your chest between your arms and then returning it to the starting position.
  3. Move as fast and hard as you can for 60 seconds—it’s longer than you think!

Medicine Ball Forward Lunge with Rotation

This exercise strengthens your quads, hips, glutes, hamstrings, and core. Be sure to bend fully into each lunch, flexing your knees to 90 degrees.

  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the medicine ball parallel to the floor with your arms fully extended straight in front of your body.
  2. Step your right foot forward and drop into a lunge, bending each knee 90 degrees while simultaneously rotating your trunk and arms to the right by engaging your obliques. Be sure to keep your arms straight the whole time and your front knee should hover just above the ground without touching it.
  3. Step back into an upright position while rotating the medicine ball back to the starting position, and then switch legs.
  4. Continue alternating legs, completing 15 reps per side.

Medicine Ball Burpees

Make the already-difficult burpees even harder with a medicine ball. You’ll have added weight for the plyometric aspect of the exercise and the push-up component becomes significantly more challenging as well.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding the medicine ball at chest height.
  2. Lower your body into a squat by bending your knees, sitting your hips all the way back, and pressing the medicine ball out straight from your chest until your arms are fully extended parallel to the floor.
  3. Keeping your back straight and your chest up, drop your hands holding the medicine ball to the ground in front of your body. Your hands should now be draped over the top and down both sides.
  4. Shift your weight to your palms on the medicine ball and jump your feet back behind you so that you’re in a diamond push-up position with your weight on your hands and toes. Your body should be in a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.
  5. Perform one complete push-up with your hands atop the medicine ball. Use good form and bring your chest to the ball.
  6. Press through your palms and jump your feet forward towards your hands, back to their starting position, so that your body is in a tuck position.
  7. Push through your hands and feet to stand up, lifting the medicine ball up until it is straight overhead.
  8. Jump up vertically as high as you can, pressing the medicine ball straight up toward the ceiling.
  9. As soon as you land from the jump, bend your knees into a full squat to begin the cycle again.
  10. Complete 15 reps.

Medicine Ball Squat and Press

This exercise will keep your heart elevated after burpees and get your quads burning and shaking.

  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged, back straight, and holding the medicine ball tucked into your chest.
  2. Bend your knees and sit your hips back into a full squat while simultaneously pushing the medicine ball out in front of you by straightening your arms.
  3. Remain in the squat position while you press the medicine ball in from your chest and out five times, then press through your heels to return to standing. This counts as one rep.
  4. Complete 10-12 reps.

Medicine Ball Slams

Medicine balls.

You’ll get to work out some aggression in this fun move. Be sure to use a medicine ball that does not bounce, or be prepared to catch it (and protect your face!) if you use one that does.

  1. Stand upright with good posture, holding a medicine ball straight up overhead.
  2. Hinge forward slightly at your hips while keeping your knees straight and back straight.
  3. Forcefully drive the medicine ball down into the ground, releasing it and slamming it down to the floor directly in front of you.
  4. Use good form to squat back down to pick up the ball.
  5. Reset your position and begin again.
  6. Complete 20 reps.

Russian Twist

The Russian Twist is a classic oblique exercise and a great one to do with a medicine ball.

  1. Sit on an exercise mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor holding a medicine ball at chest height over your lap.
  2. Engage your abs, leaning your torso back into a V-sit position and lifting your feet off the ground. You can keep your knees bent in the tuck position, or straighten your legs and lift your feet up into the air into a full v-sit for a more difficult progression.
  3. Twist your upper body towards one side, bringing the medicine ball to the outside of the thigh on that side so that it hovers just over the floor.
  4. Use your obliques to rotate to the other side, bringing the medicine ball across your body to the outside of that thigh.
  5. Keep rotating your torso back and forth to switch sides.
  6. Complete 15 reps per side.

Medicine V-Ups

V-ups work your upper and lower abs, and by adding the medicine ball, you’ll also engage your shoulders and rhomboids.

  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you and your arms extended straight back above your head holding the medicine ball.
  2. Keeping your knees straight, engage your abs to simultaneously lift your entire lower body and your entire upper body to meet upright in a folded “V” position. Your knees should be straight and your arms should remain straight, holding the medicine ball above your head.
  3. Lower your body back down, using control by engaging your abs and shoulders.
  4. Do not allow your feet or upper body to come to a full rest on the floor; rather, hover just above the floor in the extended position and then lift back up into a “V.”
  5. Complete 15 reps.

Medicine Ball Chops

The key to success in this exercise is keeping your core as tight as possible so that you really engage your obliques. Also, keep your arms straight throughout.

  1. Stand upright with good posture with your arms straight out in front of you holding the medicine ball parallel to the ground at chest height.
  2. Keeping your arms straight and glutes and abs tight, bright the medicine ball down to the lower left and then straight up to the upper right, as if vigorously chopping a straight line across your body.
  3. Complete 12 chops and then switch to chop from the lower right to the upper left.

Weighted Superman

medicine ball in hands.

This exercise works your back extensors, hamstrings, glutes, and shoulders. Adding the medicine ball increases the activation of your rhomboids, shoulders, and traps. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended straight overhead holding on to a medicine ball.

  1. Engage your glutes and engage your back muscles to squeeze your shoulder blades together while lifting your upper body, head, and chest along with your lower body. Keep your arms straight when you pick up and lift the medicine ball.
  2. Squeeze and hold this position, hovering above the floor for several seconds and then lie all the way down flat again.
  3. Complete 15 reps.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Single-leg Romanian deadlifts are excellent for strengthening the entire posterior chain. It can be tricky to master single-leg Romanian deadlifts, especially if you tend to struggle with balance and coordination, but if you focus on engaging your glutes, you’ll gain more stability and control.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, chest up and proud, arms straight out in front of you at chest height, holding a medicine ball.
  2. Engage your core and glutes, and then bend your left knee (the one on your standing/support leg) about 20 degrees to activate your hamstrings and glutes while you lift your right leg off the ground.
  3. Contract your glutes and hinge from your hips to bring your torso towards the floor, keeping your gaze on the floor to prevent hyperextending your neck. Simultaneously, press the medicine ball down towards your left foot until you feel enough of a stretch in the hamstrings of your supporting leg. Your right leg should extend behind you as a counterbalance.
  4. Engage your core and glutes to stand back up, extending your hips until they are fully locked out.
  5. Complete 12 reps per side per set.

Side Lunges With Ball Weaves

You’ll work your hips, quads, glutes, and adductors in this exercise. Weaving a heavy medicine ball around your legs will challenge your obliques and abs as well.

  1. Stand upright holding a medicine ball at chest height.
  2. Step your right leg out to the side, shifting your weight towards that side as you bend the right knee. Keep your left knee straight.
  3. As you shift your weight into that right leg, circle the medicine ball around your right leg in a full clockwise circle and then in a counterclockwise circle.
  4. Engage your glutes to press back up into a standing position.
  5. Switch sides.
  6. Complete 12-15 reps per side.

Medicine Ball Push-Ups

By staggering your hands in this push-up variation you’ll engage your core and triceps more intensely. This exercise is a great way to start progressing towards being able to complete a single-arm push-up.

  1. Get into a standard push-up position but place your right hand on top of a medicine ball instead of the floor.
  2. Complete one push-up, bending both elbows and lowering your chest as close to the floor as possible.
  3. Press back up.
  4. After you are back in the starting position, roll the medicine ball to the left hand and place the left hand on top of the ball.
  5. Complete another push-up and then roll the medicine ball back to the right side.
  6. Continue alternating sides between each rep until you have completed 15 push-ups per side.
Amber Sayer
Former Digital Trends Contributor

Amber Sayer is a fitness, nutrition, and wellness writer and editor, and was previously a Fitness Editor at Byrdie. She contributes to Women's Running and freelances for various fitness blogs. As a certified personal trainer for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

Send all editorial inquiries HERE.

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