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Your complete guide to medicine ball workouts

The best medicine ball workouts for getting stronger

Medicine balls.
MMckein/Pixabay

If you are someone who struggles with having the motivation to work out from time to time, you are not alone! One of the best ways to get past this mental block is to keep your workouts varied. From running and HIIT to rowing and the best medicine ball workouts, there are tons of ways to get your body moving and blood pumping.

Just as there are many modalities of cardio exercise, so too are there numerous strength training implements that can be used to mix up weightlifting workouts. Dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, suspension trainers, sandbags, and resistance bands are some of the most common resistance training tools you’ll encounter at a gym, along with medicine balls — a fun and versatile training tool useful for anything from explosive plyometric exercises to slow and controlled core work.

A lot of gym goers rarely pick up a medicine ball during their workouts or will routinely cycle through just a handful of medicine ball exercises, but are unsure about other good medicine ball exercises to try. Medicine ball workouts aren’t necessarily as intuitive as dumbbells, weight machines, or even kettlebells.

However, once you learn how to use a medicine ball as a strength training tool, you can start to string together numerous medicine ball exercises for a total-body workout. Keep reading for our guide to the best medicine ball workouts to prevent your exercise routine from feeling stale, boring, and ineffective.

medicine ball on a box.
Ryan De Hamer/Unsplash

What is a medicine ball?

Medicine balls are weighted balls used for power, strengthening, balance, and endurance. They can be anywhere from just a couple of pounds to 50 pounds or more. They may be soft or hard, and they come in a variety of sizes. Unlike dumbbells, medicine balls can be thrown against things like walls, the floor, workout partners, or rebounders, helping athletes develop power and functional strength. Medicine balls are also often used for plyometric exercises like weighted box jumps and burpees, along with core work, balance exercises, and rehab from injuries.

Sneaker on top of medicine ball.
Brendan Stephens / Unsplash

Benefits of medicine ball workouts and exercises

Like other strength training implements, medicine balls offer a load or form of resistance that can be used to progressively overload the muscles and build strength. They also have unique benefits because of their shape and ability to be thrown and/or bounced. Additionally, many of the best medicine ball exercises involve movements that utilize numerous planes of motion simultaneously (frontal, sagittal, and transverse plane), such as when twisting, turning, and bending the body, which translates more readily to the compound and functional movements in sports and everyday life. Although not an exhaustive list, some of the benefits of medicine ball exercises include the following:

  • Building muscular strength
  • Developing explosive power
  • Improving balance and coordination
  • Increasing speed
  • Boosting athletic power
  • Engaging multiple muscle groups at once
  • Improving throwing
  • Challenging the cardiovascular system
  • Providing a metabolic conditioning tool
  • Burning calories
  • Augmenting functional fitness
  • Rehabilitating injuries
Man exercising with medicine ball.
Austin Wilcox/Unsplash

Best medicine ball exercises

While many people focus on medicine ball exercises that just target the abs, there are plenty of total-body exercises as well as medicine ball exercises that strengthen the upper body or legs. Most of the time, a medicine ball can be used just as you would use a dumbbell or barbell — with some modifications in how you hold the weights — so the options for medicine ball exercises are actually vast. That said, certain exercises are more natural with a medicine ball, such as the ones listed below.

Cardio and total-body medicine ball exercises

  • Slams
  • Wall throws
  • High knees holding the medicine ball
  • Rebounder throws
  • Chest passes
  • Knee drive to the medicine ball
  • Mountain climbers with your hands on the ball
  • Jump squats
  • Medicine ball step-ups and press
  • Burpees holding the ball and with your hands on the ball for the pushup component

Medicine ball exercises for the upper body and back

  • Halos
  • Pushups with both hands on the ball
  • Pushups with one hand on the ball and one on the floor (staggered pushups)
  • Bent-over rows holding the medicine ball

Medicine ball exercises for the lower body

  • Single-leg bridges with one foot on the ball
  • Single-leg Romanian deadlift
  • Side lunges
  • Pistol squats holding the medicine ball
  • Forward lunge with a side twist
  • Lunge with a medicine ball pass between your legs
  • Reverse lunge
  • Squats
  • Sumo squats
  • Cossacks
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Overhead squats
  • Skaters holding the medicine ball

Medicine ball exercises for the core

  • Russian twist
  • V-ups
  • Superman
  • Plank with medicine ball taps
  • Toe touches
  • Bird dog with a small medicine ball
  • Standing circles
  • Uppercuts
  • Weighted crunches
  • Crunches with tosses to a rebounder or partner
Man tossing medicine ball.
Gordon Cowie/Unsplash

Best medicine ball workouts

As with any resistance training implement, medicine balls can be used as the sole piece of equipment in a workout or incorporated with other weights. That said, for efficiency, it’s often ideal to create a workout that uses just a medicine ball and/or your body weight because then you can rapidly transition from one exercise to the next.

For example, you can create a HIIT workout by cycling between medicine ball slams, jump squats, medicine ball mountain climbers, forward chops, transverse chops, squat thrusts, side lunges with an overhead press, and forward lunges with a side twist, all using a medicine ball with minimal rest to keep the intensity high and heart pounding.

Man holding medicine ball.
Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels

Who should do medicine ball workouts?

Nearly everyone can benefit from medicine ball workouts. However, they are perfect for anyone who wants to get in a good workout at home and spend very little money on fitness equipment. The idea of having a home gym can be quite expensive and overwhelming, and it isn’t even necessary. You can work your abdominals, upper body, and lower body with just a single medicine ball.

Whether your goal is strength or endurance, a medicine ball can help you reach either goal, since it provides resistance and can be used in any of the exercises mentioned above. It is important to keep in mind, though, that if you want to see progress with muscle gain, you will eventually need to move on to heavier medicine balls to create increased resistance.

Editors' Recommendations

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.

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