10 Medicine Ball Workouts You’ll Love
With such diversity in workout equipment, machines, and training techniques, no two workout routines need look the same. It’s worthwhile to try your hand at several to see what you have the most fun with—and one humble yet mighty piece of strength-training equipment that’s a must-try is the medicine ball.
The versatility of this weighted ball might just make it your next go-to training tool. Plus, if you’re wondering how to stay motivated to workout, trying new exercises and equipment, like the medicine ball, might just be the key. To give you some inspiration, we’ve compiled ten medicine ball workouts that will make planning your next gym session a breeze.
What Is a Medicine Ball, Anyway?
Although it’s a staple in any modern gym, the medicine ball is nothing new to the fitness world. These weighted balls date back to the time of ancient Greece. Hippocrates supposedly gave his patients animal skins full of weighted material and instructed them to toss these around as part of their healing.1 Even gladiators used them in their training practice.
The medicine balls of today have advanced quite a bit from their animal skin cousins. Now, the majority have a firm rubber outer surface and vary in size and weight. You can identify them by looking for a workout ball that most resembles a basketball in shape and feel.
The American Council on Exercise approves of this training tool, affirming that training with the mighty medicine ball can help you improve:2
- Athletic Skills
Convinced yet? Grab your closest medicine ball, and let’s get to working out.
10 Medicine Ball Workouts
Whether you’re looking to refresh your warmup routine or break a sweat with a full body workout, there’s something for everyone in these following ten med ball workouts.
Before you begin, you’ll want to choose the right medicine ball for you. Although they’re simple to use, they aren’t necessarily one-size-fits-all—depending on your fitness level, you can choose a lighter or heavier fitness ball. The key is that you feel your muscles working, but aren’t having to stop the exercise a few reps into each set. Our basic guide is as follows:
- Beginner – Up to 6 pounds
- Intermediate – 6 to 8 pounds
- Advanced – 12 pounds or more
If this is your first time using a medicine ball, focus on maintaining good form, choosing a comfortable weight, and controlling your movements to prevent injury. Once you’ve mastered the medicine ball exercises themselves, you can adjust your number of reps and sets to suit your fitness goals. Let’s jump into the first one!
#1 Medicine Ball Overhead Pass
Dynamic warm-ups are essential to preventing injury during a workout. Beyond stretching and warming your muscles, warm-ups increase your blood flow, body temperature, and heart rate, steadily preparing your body for what’s to come in the main workout.3
Either seated or standing, try this upper body medicine ball workout during your next warm-up routine:
- Start with a medicine ball in one hand by your side, with an engaged core and a straight back.
- Raise the ball above your head and take it with your other hand.
- Bring the ball down and then raise it again, continuing this pass-off above your head.
Variation: You can toss the ball from hand to hand above your head if you’re looking for more intensity.
#2 Hamstring Extension
Want to workout your lower body? Another medicine ball exercise to help prep your body for the upcoming sweat sesh is a hamstring extension. It might just have you wondering if you’re only in the warm-up section of your training.
Here’s how to complete this exercise:
- Start in a standing position with the ball held above your head, arms fully extended.
- Keep your back and arms straight as you lean forward from the hips.
- Extend one leg forward and your arms down, tapping the ball to your toe.
- Bring the ball back up to the starting position and repeat.
#3 Reverse Lunge and Overhead Reach
A unique alteration to the typical lunge, this warm-up exercise can help open up the hips and shoulders. Here’s how to perform it:
- Start in a standing position with the medicine ball between both hands at your waist.
- Drop into a lunge, bringing the ball above your head.
- Lean the ball to the opposite side of your forward leg.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
#4 Knee Lifts
To increase your heart rate without having to set foot on a treadmill, grab a medicine ball and tackle this next exercise. Don’t be fooled by its simple appearance—this one is a body burner in disguise:
- Start in a standing position with the medicine ball high above your head.
- As you lower it down, lift your right knee so that it touches the ball around hip height.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on your left leg, alternating legs.
#5 Triceps Extension with Partner
A triceps extension is a classic exercise that you may have tried before with a dumbbell. But using a medicine ball gives you the option of tossing it to a partner in between reps, increasing intensity—and enjoyment! Catching exercises are an excellent way to practice hand-eye coordination as well.
Choose your partner and follow these instructions together:
- Start either from a seated or standing position, facing your partner, with the medicine ball held behind your head.
- Raise the ball over your head and toss it to your partner. Their hands should be raised above their heads, ready to catch.
- They will lower the ball to the same starting position and toss it back to you.
- Make sure to keep your elbows as close to your head as possible when you’re holding the ball, and keep your triceps engaged as you lower, lift, and throw the ball.
#6 Abdominal Twists
If you’ve ever worked out with medicine balls before, you’re probably familiar with using them to amp up the abdominal twist and work out your core muscles. If not, you’ll soon feel why. Boost the intensity of your twists with these steps:
- Start from a seated position with bent knees. You can plant or raise your feet, depending on the intensity you want. Lean your upper body back slightly.
- Holding the medicine ball with both hands, twist from left to right, controlling the movement.
Variation: To make this a partnered exercise, sit parallel to your gym buddy and pass the ball to each other in between twists.
#7 Medicine Ball Slams
The medicine ball slam is a great exercise that can help strengthen multiple muscle groups in your upper and lower body. This exercise helps you develop power and strength, but can also raise your heart rate, allowing it to even count as cardio. Because this exercise involves slamming your medicine ball against the ground, it can help to do this one outside—such as in a grassy area—to minimize the noise and soften the impact. Then, follow these steps for the overhead slam exercise:
- Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and the exercise ball held above your head.
- Slam the ball down on the ground just in front of your feet.
- Squat down to pick it up.
- Bring the ball back over your head and repeat.
#8 Upwards Toss
If you have a wall in your home or gym that’s sturdy enough to take the impact of the medicine ball, try out this upward toss for a twist on the previous slam. It goes like this:
- Start in a standing position facing a wall, holding the medicine ball to your chest.
- Squat down, and as you come up, use the force to toss the medicine ball up toward a point high on the wall.
- As it falls, catch it and squat down, repeating the same movement.
Variation: Gym partner looking a bit bored? Grab them to replace your wall so you can work out together. They simply need to hold their hands up above you, ready to catch the ball as you toss it upwards.
Don’t turn your back on your back when training. Although the medicine ball-free superman exercise is challenging on its own, you can add some extra upper body weight to amp up the difficulty. This added medicine ball exercise targets the glutes and back.
- Start by laying on the ground face-down with the medicine ball out in front of you.
- Reach forward with your hands to grab the ball.
- Lift the ball and your legs as high as they can go, pausing for one second.
- Lower the ball and your legs to the ground and repeat.
- Be sure to maintain your neck in a neutral, still position as you perform this exercise to avoid injury.
A set of v-ups with the added weight of a medicine ball is sure to make you feel the burn. This exercise combines sit-ups with leg raises to build your core strength and stability. Here’s how to perform them:
- Start by laying flat on your back with the medicine ball in your hands.
- Engage your core muscles to bring your arms and legs up until your body forms a V.
- Pass the exercise ball from your hands to your feet and lower your body down.
- Repeat, passing the ball from feet to hands and back again.
Don’t forget to engage your core and use your breath during this exercise. Engage and exhale as you lift up into the V and engage and inhale as you lower yourself back down to the ground.
Find Your Fitness Community at Chuze
After a few tosses, twists, and turns, the medicine ball is sure to become one of your go-to fitness tools. If you feel unsteady in the beginning, don’t fret. New equipment and exercises can take some getting used to—and if you need some help, you can always rely on your local gym.
At Chuze Fitness, fostering an inclusive community is our priority. No matter your fitness experience, level, or goals, Chuze Fitness experts want to help you master any piece of equipment and build an exciting routine that has you running to (and not away from) the gym.
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- Huffpost. Medicine Balls Are Actually Ancient Fitness Tools. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/medicine-balls-history_n_5937664
- American Council on Exercise. A Medicine Ball Workout for Your Clients. https://www.acefitness.org/continuing-education/certified/march-2017/6267/a-medicine-ball-workout-for-your-clients/
- NSMI. Importance of Warming Up before Sport – Sports Injury Prevention. http://www.nsmi.org.uk/articles/injury-prevention/warming-up.html