Medicine Ball Exercises for Fitness, Fat-Burning, And A Stronger Core – Fitness Volt


Fitness technology has come a long way in the last few decades, and most commercial gyms are full of state-of-the-art training equipment. While these machines and devices can produce good results, many of them are unnecessary, not to mention VERY expensive, which is why it can cost so much to join a gym.

The good news is that getting fit, building muscle, and losing weight doesn’t have to be costly or complicated. In fact, you have everything you need right at your fingertips – your own bodyweight.

Calisthenic exercises like push-ups, dips, pull-ups, chin-ups, lunges, and squats are unbeatable for building fitness and strength. You can do them anywhere, anytime, and usually for free.

That said, a few well-chosen items of basic exercise equipment can make your workouts even more effective.

Good choices include:

Medicine balls are another traditional exercise tool that’s worthy of your consideration. You can use medicine balls for a wide range of exercises, including upper body, lower body, and core training  

In this article, we reveal the best medicine ball exercises for fitness, fat loss, and a stronger core.

What is a Medicine Ball, Anyway?

Like all the best workout equipment, medicine balls have been around for many years. In fact, ancient Greek philosopher and father of medicine Hippocrates stuffed sand into animal skins to make something akin to the modern medicine ball. Similar devices were used in Persia in the early 1700s.

Medicine Ball
Medicine Ball

The first recorded use of the term medicine ball was in America in 1866 by Harvard athletic coach Aaron Molyneaux Hewlett, as they were initially used for injury rehabilitation.  

Traditional medicine balls were made from leather and stuffed with horsehair and other dense materials. Modern medicine balls are more likely to be constructed from PVC or rubber and may contain sand, gravel, or a heavy gel. However, leather balls are still popular and available. Some medicine balls are designed to bounce, while others are “dead balls” and do not bounce at all.

Medicine balls vary in weight from just a few pounds to 50 pounds or more. Most exercisers will benefit from training with a 10 to 25-pound ball.

Medicine balls can be lifted like freeweights or thrown to develop explosive muscle power. Throwing exercises are especially useful for athletes. Medicine balls are also perfect for abs training.

Best Medicine Ball Exercises

You can use a medicine ball to train every part of your body. That doesn’t mean you need to go all medicine balls all the time; they make a great addition to any workout – whether freeweight or calisthenic-based.

Here are 15 of our favorite medicine ball exercises!

1. Medicine ball thrusters

Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core, deltoids, triceps.

Medicine ball thrusters work virtually every major muscle in your body. Done with heavy weights for low reps, thrusters build full-body strength. But, with a light weight for high reps, they’re excellent for conditioning and fat burning. You can do thrusters with any freeweight, but they work particularly well with a medicine ball.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold your medicine ball in your upturned hands in front of your chest. Brace your core and pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Bend your knees and squat down, so your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.
  3. Stand up quickly and use this momentum to help you drive the ball up and overhead to arms’ length.
  4. Lower the medicine ball back to your chest and repeat.

2. Wall ball

Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core, deltoids, triceps.

Wall ball is a CrossFit staple. It’s like a thruster, but you release and then catch the ball at the top of every rep. Having a fixed target, typically ten feet above the ground, helps ensure that every wall ball you perform is similarly intense. This is an excellent conditioning and fat-burning exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold your medicine ball in your upturned hands in front of your chest. Brace your core and pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Bend your knees and squat down, so your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.
  3. Stand up quickly and use this momentum to help you throw the ball up and overhead to hit a target roughly ten feet above the floor.
  4. Catch the ball as it comes back down and then drop into another rep.

3. Medicine ball lunges with rotation

Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, obliques.

This very functional exercise will build leg and core strength, hip mobility, and balance. It’s the perfect exercise for athletes who have to run, kick, throw, or swing a bat or racket. It also uses a lot of muscles simultaneously, making it good for fitness and fat loss.

Medicine Ball Lunges With Rotation
Medicine Ball Lunges

How to do it:

  1. Hold a medicine ball or single dumbbell/kettlebell in front of your hips. Stand with your feet together. Pull your shoulders down and back and brace your core.
  2. Take a large step forward with your left leg while simultaneously turning your upper body and lowering the weight to the outside of your front thigh.
  3. Bend your legs and descend until your rearmost knee is just above the floor.
  4. Push off your front leg and bring your feet back together.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Medicine ball dynamic leg curl

Target muscles: Hamstrings.

Medicine ball dynamic leg curls are one of the few isolation exercises on our list. Done explosively, this is a great way to build hamstring strength and power, making it a valuable exercise for athletes.

You’ll need a partner to do this exercise, but if you use an “I go, you go” training approach, it’s a very time-efficient way to train your hamstrings without a leg curl machine.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your front on the floor with your legs straight and feet together. Your partner should stand near your head and face your feet.
  2. Get your partner to roll the ball down the middle of your legs. Make sure they take care NOT to drop the ball on you.
  3. As the ball nears your feet, curl your legs powerfully to heel-kick the ball back to your partner.
  4. Continue for the desired number of reps.

5. Medicine ball sit-up and throw

Target muscles: Rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, hip flexors.

Most core exercises are done very slowly and deliberately, but for this one, you will be working quickly and explosively to develop muscle power. This is a fun exercise that challenges your abs in a very unique way. You can do it with a partner or alone against a wall.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat. Hold your medicine ball and lower it behind your head, so it touches the floor.
  2. Using your arms for momentum, sit up and throw the ball at a wall or to a training partner.
  3. Catch the ball as it’s returned to you and lie back down. Ideally, you should receive the ball at arms’ length above your head to maximize leverage and put more tension on your abs.

6. Medicine ball overhead throw

Target muscles: Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae, deltoids, biceps, triceps.  

The medicine ball overhead throw is an excellent alternative to posterior chain power exercises like cleans, snatches, and kettlebell swings. However, you’ll need plenty of space to do this exercise. You MUST look behind you before doing your reps to avoid injuring anyone passing by.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a medicine ball in your hands and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Brace your core.
  2. Bend your knees and lower the ball between your knees. Do not round your lower back.
  3. Explode upward and, keeping your arms straight, throw the ball up and behind you.
  4. Turn and retrieve the ball, and then repeat.
  5. Walk slowly after the ball if you want to focus on power, or jog/run after the ball if you want to burn more calories and challenge your heart and lungs.
  6. Alternatively, you can start with the medicine ball on the floor.

7. Medicine ball chest pass throw

Target muscles: Pectoralis major, triceps, deltoids, core.

Medicine ball chest pass throws are a great power exercise for athletes. You can do it alone against a wall or with a willing training partner. Doing this exercise will increase throwing, pushing, and punching power, so it’s perfect for athletes from all sports.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel or stand in front of a wall or your training partner. Hold your medicine ball in front of your chest. Your hands should be behind the ball, so your elbows are aligned with your wrists and shoulders. Brace your abs.
  2. Lean back and then explosively push forward, extending your arms as you do so. Use this momentum to drive the ball toward the wall or your partner.
  3. Catch the ball as it’s returned to you and repeat.

8. Medicine ball push-up

Target muscles: Pectoralis major, triceps, deltoids, core.

This is an excellent exercise for anyone looking for a more challenging push-up variation. With your hands close together on the unstable medicine ball, you’ll need to work harder to pump out your reps. This exercise will humble even the most experienced push-up performer!

Medicine Ball Push Up
Medicine Ball Push Up

How to do it:

  1. Put your medicine ball on the floor in front of your feet. Squat down and place your hands on either side of the apex of the ball.
  2. Keeping your arms straight, walk your feet out and back into the push-up position. Brace your core.
  3. Bend your arms and lower your chest to the ball.
  4. Extend your arms and repeat.
  5. Make this exercise easier by bending your legs and resting on your knees, or more challenging by wearing a weighted vest or elevating your feet.

Related: 15 Intense Push-Up Variations for Bodybuilders

9. Medicine ball rolling push-up

Target muscles: Pectoralis major, triceps, deltoids, core.

The medicine ball rolling push-up is a part core and part chest and triceps exercise. This exercise is an excellent choice if you want to save time and train more muscle groups simultaneously. It’s also a great way to overload one arm at a time, making it a good progression from regular push-ups.

How to do it:

  1. Adopt the push-up position with straight arms and legs and core braced. Place one hand on your medicine ball.
  2. Without dropping your hips or losing core tension, bend your arms and lower your chest down toward the floor. Extend your arms and return to the high plank position.
  3. Next, roll the ball under your body and place your other hand on top of it.
  4. Do another push-up.
  5. Roll the ball back again.
  6. Continue rolling the ball from hand to hand and doing push-ups for the duration of your set.

10. Medicine ball mountain climber

Target muscles: Pectoralis major, triceps, deltoids, core.

This exercise is a significant step up from planks and regular mountain climbers. You’ll need to brace extra hard to stabilize your core as the ball wobbles beneath your hands. Remember to breathe during this exercise – it’s very easy to hold your breath while trying to maintain core tension.

How to do it:

  1. Place your hands on your medicine ball and, with your arms extended, walk your feet back so your legs and body are straight. Brace your core.
  2. Bend one leg and pull your knee slowly into your chest.
  3. Extend your leg and then swap sides.
  4. Continue slowly alternating legs for the duration of your set.

11. Medicine ball Russian twists

Target muscles: Rectus abdominis, obliques.

The Russian twist works all your core muscles but emphasizes your oblique or waist muscles. It’s a challenging move, so don’t go too heavy too soon. If you are using a heavy ball, it may be necessary to anchor your feet, so you don’t fall backward mid-set.

Medicine Ball Russian Twist
Medicine Ball Russian Twist

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat. Sit up so your upper body is inclined to around 45 degrees. Hold your medicine ball in both hands.
  2. Without leaning back or sitting more upright, rotate your upper body and lower the medicine ball to the floor outside your left leg.
  3. Turn and lower the ball to the floor outside your right leg.
  4. Continue for the prescribed number of repetitions.
  5. You can also do this exercise with your feet in the air and balancing on your butt.

12. Medicine ball slams

Target muscles: Rectus abdominus, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, triceps.

Medicine ball slams are a fun and effective full-body exercise. Done with a heavy medicine ball for low reps, this move will build anterior chain power. But, done with a light ball for high reps, it’s great for conditioning and fat loss.

Regardless of the weight of your medicine ball, you should try and throw it down as hard as you can. However, do NOT use a gel-filled medicine ball for this exercise, as it will probably split. Old-fashioned leather balls and slam balls are best.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold a medicine ball in both hands.
  2. Raise the ball above your head and come up onto your tiptoes.
  3. Putting your entire body into the throw, hurl the ball down to the floor just in front of your feet.
  4. Catch the ball as it bounces and repeat.

13. Medicine ball triceps extensions

Target muscles: Triceps

This exercise is an excellent alternative to the more usual dumbbell or barbell overhead triceps extension. While performing it correctly does require good upper body mobility, the medicine ball triceps extension is a great arm builder and targets the long head of your triceps.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your medicine ball above your head. Your biceps should be next to your ears. Brace your core and pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower the ball behind your head. Try not to lean backward.
  3. Extend your arms and repeat.
  4. You can also do this exercise dynamically and turn it into a triceps throw.

14. Medicine ball Saxon side bends

Target muscles: Rectus abdominis, obliques, erector spinae.

Arthur Saxon was a late 19th/early 20th-century German strongman. Famed for his incredible lifting prowess, Saxon also invented several exercises, some of which are still performed today. Saxon side bends are a great way to train your core using just a medicine ball.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Raise your medicine ball above your head, so your arms are straight.
  2. Without twisting your shoulders or hips, lean over to the left as far as you can and then return to the center. Next, lean over to the right.
  3. Continue leaning from left to right for the required number of reps.

 

15. Medicine ball rotational throws

Target muscles: Rectus abdominis, obliques, erector spinae.

Rotational medicine ball throws work your legs, upper body, and core. Rotational movements are important for throwing, punching, kicking, and even running. A lot of people overemphasize their anterior core, focusing on their rectus abdominis. This exercise targets your obliques more.

How to do it:

  1. Stand sideways onto a smooth, strong wall and hold a medicine ball with both hands. Adopt an athletic stance with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Turn away from the wall and take the ball to your back hip.
  3. Transfer your weight from your back to your front leg, rotate your upper body, and throw the ball explosively against the wall. Follow through with your hips and rear foot.
  4. Catch the ball with both hands, reset and repeat.
  5. Do the same number of reps on both sides.

 

Medicine Ball Exercises – Wrapping Up

While medicine ball exercises often feature in group fitness classes, such as circuit training, they’re not often used by individuals for personal strength and conditioning. That’s a shame because the humble medicine ball is a potent and versatile training tool.

Whether at home or in a commercial gym, you can use a medicine ball to train virtually every part of your body. Use one to build your aerobic or anaerobic fitness, muscular endurance, muscle power, strength, mobility, or core stability.

Medicine balls have been around for centuries, and that means they work. Introduce medicine balls into your workouts to add a new dimension to your strength and conditioning training.



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