Medicine Ball Workouts

Effective Medicine Ball Workouts for Functional Strength

Medicine Ball Workouts


When you think of medicine ball workouts you may think of the heavyweight champ getting a medicine ball slammed into his abdominal region.

While this is one way to train with a medicine ball, there are many other medicine ball exercises.

You can Use Medicine Balls to achieve a Variety of Health and Fitness Goals

Medicine ball exercises can help you train for explosive power, strength, and stabilization, and they can help you balance your entire body.

Medicine balls are additionally versatile enough that you can use them by themselves for dynamic medicine ball workouts or along with other classic forms of resistance training such as free weights, body weight, or cable exercises.

Why Medicine Ball Workouts?

Medicine Balls Provide you with a Round Surface

medicine ball workouts
Click Image to Browse Medicine Balls

Since a medicine ball provides a round surface, you can use it as an unstable surface to increase efficiency.

The same principle for working your core muscles works with medicine balls.

When you perform medicine ball workouts you train your stabilizers along with the prime movers.  The prime movers are the primary muscles, those which are supped to perform the action.

Strengthening your stabilizers will help you perform all weight training exercises such as bench press and squats more efficiently.

Medicine Balls provide Significant Resistance

You can get medicine balls which weigh up to 30 pounds or more. Even if 30 pounds sounds light to you it will not seem light at the end of a tough medicine ball workout. Medicine ball exercises are a great way to supplement other weight training exercises during an intense scientific personal training program.

Medicine Balls Take up very little Space

Even the heaviest medicine balls don’t take up very much space. Unlike a stability ball which is filled with air, medicine balls are usually made of thick rubber or are filled with sand.

Since they are very dense a medicine ball with a significant resistance can take up very little space. You can have a set of medicine balls in your hallway closet. There are medicine balls which are made large for different purposes.

Medicine Balls are Very Durable

Medicine balls allow you to perform exercises in rough conditions. All you have is a brick wall in your backyard? Throw a medicine ball into it from different angles for a few minutes. The brick wall will take a beating but the medicine ball will remain the same.

Medicine Balls are Soft Enough

everlast soft medicine ball
Click Image to Browse Medicine Balls

Most medicine balls are not as hard as rocks. They are even hard enough to allow you to perform the exercises you see boxers and fighters doing when they throw the balls into each others stomach.

Since you probably have no desire to be a boxer you the softness of the medicine balls allows you to perform catching exercises.

Exercises in which you catch the ball have different benefits. When you catch the medicine ball from any position your body has to activate different muscles. If you are in a position where you have to balance and catch the ball, the medicine ball workouts will help improve your balance.

Medicine Ball Workouts for Two

Medicine ball workouts are a great way to work out in pairs. Since medicine balls are heavy you can share the load for fun workouts where you and your workout partner get some work.

What are some Medicine Ball Exercises For All Body Parts?

These medicine ball exercises are great to throw in during your weight training workouts to change it up. You can also use them al together as a medicine ball workout which will be challenging for your core, cardio and muscles.

Warm Up

After your general cardio warm up you can perform a little more dynamic warm up with a medicine ball. You can even use this medicine ball exercise if you haven’t performed a general warm up because it dynamically uses your major muscle groups.

Step up with Medicine Ball Twist

Start: Have a step at a desired height. The higher the step the more this medicine ball exercise will work your legs and glutes.

The step should not be too high to where you struggle to reach it. Make sure the surface is stable and flat. Hold a medicine ball with both hands against your chest.

Begin the motion: Step up onto the step with one foot. Lift the opposite knee as you step up to assume a position balanced on one foot.

As you lift your opposite knee up, extend your arms and rotate your torso and the medicine ball across the knee which is raised.

Be careful as you lower yourself back to the original position at the bottom of the step and repeat with the other leg alternating.

Modifications: You can perform a given number of reps with one leg at a time or you can perform this exercise as your medicine ball workout all together.

To increase the difficulty you can use a heavier medicine ball or increase the height of the step. You can use this as the first exercise in all medicine ball workouts or you can use it as a legs or cardio exercise.

Abdominal Exercises

Core / Abs

Medicine balls are very effective for working your core and abs.

Before you perform any medicine ball workouts, make sure you have mastered the best core exercises and you know the difference between core and abs.

Medicine Ball Sit Ups

Medicine ball sit-ups are a good way to develop functional strength for your mid section. You will use your hip flexors also, but that is part of functional movement because it mimics activities of daily living.

These medicine ball sit-ups are a great way to work your chest, arms and shoulders while your work your abs. You can perform alone or with a partner who will throw the ball at you and catch it.

Start: Sit flat on the floor with your legs bent to around a 90 degree angle. Keep your feet flat on the floor for the duration of this motion.

Begin the motion: Sit up without the ball and catch it when it is thrown to you.

Lower the medicine ball to your chest as your lower your upper body towards the floor.

After your back touches the floor sit back up and push the medicine ball up towards the ceiling and throw it at your workout partner or up in the air and catch and repeat. Medicine ball workouts are not complete without some throwing which can increase your power as well as keep your heart rate up.

Medicine Ball Twists

Medicine ball seated twists are a great way to work your abs, hip flexors, core, and obliques.

Start: Sit on the floor and lift your feet off of the floor. Swing the medicine ball up and hold it. Your feet will remain off of the floor for the duration of this exercise.

Begin the motion: Turn the medicine ball towards one side and touch the floor with it.

Once you touch one side, immediately turn the ball over to touch the other side of the floor. Remember to keep your core drawn in for the duration of the motion.

Modifications: You can bounce the medicine ball on each side if you want. Another great modification is to throw the medicine ball up to yourself after you touch the floor on each side.

You may find it difficult to keep your feet up for the duration of the motion. Certain body types with long or heavy legs will find this exercise more of a hip flexor exercise. If this is the case you may want to avoid this medicine ball exercise. Remember medicine bal workouts are flexible so don’t get discouraged if you some medicine ball exercises are not for you.

Leg Exercises

Legs & Glutes

If you use medicine balls while performing body weight leg exercises you will work the muscles which stabilize your body more.

Lunge w/ Torso Twist

This medicine ball exercise is a must for all medicine ball workouts.

Lunges with twist are a tremendous exercise to work your legs, glutes, obliques, core and overall stabilization. The twisting motion of your upper body will challenge your lower body’s stabilization.

Start: You can either perform these walking provided you have enough free floor space or stationary if space is limited.

Take a medicine ball and hold it at your chest. Stand up tall with your core drawn in and your shoulders in neutral alignment.

Begin the motion: Lunge one foot forward and land with your heel or the back 2/3 of your foot first. Your lunge should be far enough to where your knee is directly above your ankle and your front and back legs are close to a 90 degree angle.

From the bottom position with your back knee about an inch off of the floor extend your arms with the medicine ball. Keep your core tight and rotate your upper body and the medicine ball over the front leg as far as you can while you maintain your drawn in core.

Modifications: You can perform multiple stationary lunges for each lunge or multiple twists each time you lunge for a more intense workout. This is a good exercise to use at the beginning, middle and end of your medicine ball workouts.

ChestChest Exercises

Medicine balls can make the push up, one of the most basic leg exercises advanced by adding a shoulder stabilization component to it.

Medicine Ball Alternating Push-ups

Medicine ball alternating push-ups are a great way to exercise your shoulder stabilization as well as your chest, anterior deltoids, triceps and core.

Start: Have a single medicine ball on a hard surface. Place one hand on the ball and one hand on the floor. Your hands should be spread apart significantly wider than shoulder width

Bring your feet back so your are in the plank / push-up position with a neutral back.

Begin the motion: Keep your body and spine in neutral alignment. Lower your chest towards the floor.

Since the surface is uneven you will be able to lower the side with your hand on the floor lower than the side with the medicine ball.

Push your self back up to the original position. Roll the ball to the other side while you keep your hips from tilting to work your core. Repeat the push-up while you keep your tight drawn in core with your head and spine in neutral alignment.

Modifications: The closer your feet are towards each other, the more difficult this exercise will be for your core. You can perform a number of reps with your hand on the ball and then switch to the other side or you can perform a single push-up on at a time.

If you lift a foot up or place your feet on an unstable surface such as a BOSU ball you will increase the need for stabilization and make the exercise more difficult.

TricepsExercises for the Triceps

The triceps are a synergist (helper muscle) for most chest and shoulder exercises.

If you perform any chest exercises during your medicine ball workouts there is a good chance you have already worked the triceps.

Medicine Ball Triceps Push-ups

Close grip pushups with both hands on a single medicine ball are not only one of the best functional exercises, but one of the best exercises for triceps.

Start: Have a medium or large sized medicine ball and place it on a flat hard surface such as the gym’s rubberized flooring or a hardwood floor. Place both your hands on the medicine ball.

It works best if your palms are facing each other towards the side of the ball. Push yourself up until you are in a solid push-up position with your spine in neutral alignment.

Begin the motion: Keep your head up with your elbows close to your sides and lower your chest all the way to the medicine ball.

As you lower yourself down make sure you keep your core tight and don’t let your hips sag towards the floor.

Modifications: If you cannot perform these push-ups from your feet you can perform them from your knees. If you perform push-ups from your knees start from your feet. Drop your knees straight down towards the floor and keep your back in the same alignment. You can also perform the following medicine ball press for chest and triceps.

Medicine Ball Triceps Press

If you are not able to perform push-ups on a single medicine ball you can perform the close grip triceps press.

Start: Lie on either a bench or get into the supine bridge position on a stability ball. If you use the stability ball, make sure your head and upper shoulders are rested on top of the ball.

Your legs should be in a 90 degree angle with your knees directly above your ankles. Hold the medicine ball tight with both hands on the side of the ball.

Begin the motion: Keep your elbows in towards your sides as you lower the medicine ball towards your chest. You should contract your triceps while you lower the ball.

Once you touch your lower chest with the medicine ball raise it up squeezing your triceps.

Modifications: If you perform these when you are not already fatigued the resistance of the medicine ball may not be enough. If you have a workout partner you can have them apply manual resistance to the ball by pushing down on it.

Exercises for the LatsLats

The lats are really the only body part which exercise balls cannot exercise very much. You can use other equipment along with medicine balls to really get the lats but you can work your lats on days you don’t do medicine ball workouts.

Medicine Ball Pull-Overs

Medicine ball pull-overs are a great exercise to stretch your chest and the long head of your triceps as well as work your lats.

Start: Lie on a bench or you can be in the supine bridge position on a stability ball. Hold a medicine ball on the sides.

Holding the ball on the sides will allow you to keep your elbows in towards each other which will increase the effectiveness of this medicine ball exercise and prevent a shoulder injury.

Begin the motion: Keep a slightly bent position of your arms and lower the medicine ball behind your head.

It is important you take a deep breath as you lower the medicine ball because it will allow your rib cage to naturally expand.

Squeeze your chest and triceps as you bring the ball back to the original position above your chest.

Modifications: Since a medicine ball is probably a lighter weight than you are capable of lifting you can super-set this or perform it after a serious of any other medicine ball exercises for your upper body. This will create a complete medicine ball workout.

More Articles about Various Resistance Training and Ball Exercises

  • Best Exercise Ball
    Looking to work out at home? Find the best exercise balls including the best med balls for great medicine ball workouts and buy the best med balls.
  • Stability Ball Workouts
    You can get a great workout for your entire body with a stability ball. You can even perform some Swiss balls exercises with medicine balls.
  • BOSU Ball Workouts
    BOSU balls are amazing. Once you perform some exercises on them they will become indispensable for your exercise program.
  • Resistance Exercise Information Articles

About Michael Behnken

Mike Behnken is a personal trainer who holds multiple NASM certifications and a MS in Exercise Science. Mike loves fitness, travel, and photography among many other interests.

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