When it comes to home workouts, there are few movements as versatile and effective as medicine ball exercises.
(Not to be confused with an exercise ball, also called a stability ball.)
“When you’re holding on to a piece of equipment, especially if balance or coordination is involved, you’re more likely to stay present,” says Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., Los Angeles-based trainer and author of Lift to Get Lean.
“That can help you engage muscles in a more thoughtful way, instead of just going through the motions. That offers a huge boost for efficiency and even injury prevention,” she explains.
Ready to get started?
Here are 10 medicine ball exercises to kick off your workout, from Scottsdale, Ariz.-based personal trainer Ramsey Bergeron.
1. Medicine Ball Push-Ups
Push-ups getting ho-hum — even if you add an extra set?
Introducing medicine ball exercises like these push-ups can certainly make your next set extra zesty!
- Spread your feet a little wider than you normally would and start with the medicine ball under one hand.
- Do a push-up, then roll to switch the ball to the other hand.
- Keep rolling it back and forth, alternating which hand is on the ball.
- Repeat for equal reps per hand.
“The offset provided will challenge the triceps and pecs more individually as well as force you to engage your core,” says Bergeron.
2. Medicine Ball Bridges
Much like push-ups, bridges are a workout staple, but simply doing more of them doesn’t always help you progress. Try this instead.
- Lie on your back with both feet on a medicine ball and arms at your side.
- Press your feet into the ball to lift your hips into a bridge so your body is in one line from knees to shoulders. Hold for a moment, then lower down slowly and with control.
- Repeat for as many slow and steady reps as you can manage.
Bergeron says the extra height lets you get better glute activation, and the ball makes it more functional by forcing you to recruit more stabilizers.
3. Overhead Slams
This is the kind of exercise that seems too easy at first — until your rep count gets higher and you realize it’s a full-body exercise.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and a soft bend in the knees, and hold the medicine ball with both hands over your head.
- With explosive force, slam the ball to the ground, engaging your core and glutes while putting more bend in your knees and pushing your hips back slightly. Try to slam the ball hard enough so it bounces back upward.
- Catch the ball and raise it back overhead.
4. Superman With a Medicine Ball Hold
Much like a plank, a superman hold can fire up your core fast, as well as engage your lower back muscles. Holding on to a medicine ball can power up that response, and add arm muscles into the mix.
- Lie face down on a mat with arms outstretched and legs straight, hip-distance apart.
- Slowly raise up your arms and legs simultaneously, and hold onto a medicine ball as you contract your back muscles and squeeze your glutes. Be sure to breathe as you hold for three to four counts.
- Lower back down for one to two counts, then repeat.
5. Squat and Toss
Give your squat session more power by adding a medicine ball exercise element.
- Hold a medicine ball at chest level and stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward.
- Bend your knees and drive your hips back as you squat, keeping your chest up while holding the ball steady.
- Push through your heels to come back up forcefully, tossing the ball overhead and then catching it. You can also use a wall, throwing the ball above you at the wall and then catching. As soon as the ball lands back in your hands, come down into another squat.
- This is a good exercise to use in a high-intensity session, using time rather than reps as a way to go faster.
6. Dead Bugs With a Medicine Ball
Ready to get your core burning? Opt for this medicine ball exercise variation on dead bug.
- Lying flat on your back with your knees bent and stacked above your hips, hold the medicine ball up with both hands against both thighs close to your knees.
- Extend one arm back while simultaneously extending the opposite leg, so you are left holding the medicine ball with the remaining arm and leg.
- Bring the limbs you moved back to the ball and then extend out the other ones.
- Repeat for equal reps on both sides.
“Repeat until your core hates you,” says Bergeron. You can also do a variation with an exercise ball and get the same effect.
7. Medicine Ball Twisted Lunges
This is a great transverse exercise, Bergeron says, which means it targets the muscles just under your obliques — giving you that whittled-the-middle look.
- Hold the medicine ball out in front of you, and perform traveling lunges. (If keeping your arms straight is hard on your shoulders, bend your elbows.)
- As you are in the full lunge position, slowly rotate to the side of the lead leg. (If you are stepping with the left leg, rotate to the left.)
- Keep that front knee bent in a 90-degree position and tracking over your ankle as you turn your entire trunk, head, and arms to that side then slowly rotate back to the center.
- As you step with the other leg, repeat.
In general, we don’t do enough transverse exercises (exercises involving rotation) so this exercise is a great way to hold the burn in the quads a little longer and strengthen your obliques.
8. Russian Twists With Medicine Ball
Here’s another excellent medicine ball exercise that targets your core’s stability and rotational strength at the same time.
- Sit on the floor, holding a medicine ball in front of your chest. Balance on your butt with your knees bent and feet together a few inches off the floor.
- Keep your back flat and core strong as you rotate your torso to your right and lower the ball toward the floor next to your right hip.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat on your left. Continue alternating sides, performing equal reps on each.
9. Straight Leg Crunch With Medicine Ball
Like other core work, this move uses the medicine ball to make a classic exercise more dynamic. It also helps you stay engaged throughout the exercise.
- Lie on your back with legs extended straight up and together, so your body is in an L-shape.
- Hold a medicine ball behind you and overhead, with arms straight.
- Crunch up, bringing the ball as far up toward your feet as possible.
- Lower back down, bringing the ball behind your head and repeat.
10. Chest Toss With Partner
A game of catch is a simple partner exercise, and it also keeps you focused on pressing and catching.
Throw in some lower-body work at the same time by shuffling around a space as you toss the ball. Use it to wrap up your medicine ball exercises workout.