Medicine Ball Exercises for Strength Training

A medicine ball (also known as an exercise ball, a med ball, or a fitness ball) is a weighted ball roughly the diameter of the shoulders (approx. 13.7 inches), often used for rehabilitation and strength training. The medicine ball also serves an important role in the field of sports medicine to improve strength and neuromuscular coordination. It is distinct from the inflated exercise ball, which is larger (up to 36″ diameter). Medicine balls are usually sold as 2-25 lb (1-11 kg) balls and are used effectively in ballistic training to increase explosive power in athletes, in all sports (e.g. throwing the medicine ball or jumping whilst holding it).

 

Medicine Ball Exchange

The medicine ball exchange is a great way to warm-up the arms and shoulders and get the heart rate up. You can do this from a seated position or a standing position. The key to this move is to start with a light medicine ball (4 or so lbs), if you’re a beginner, and keep the movement slow and controlled. If you are more advanced, you can use a heavier ball and add a toss at the top of the movement for more intensity.

  1. Stand, or if you’re sitting, engage the abdominals and sit up tall.
  2. Hold the medicine ball in the right hand with your arm down at your side
  3. Circle the arm up overhead and take the ball with the other hand
  4. Circle the left hand down to your side
  5. Continue circling the ball overhead, alternating the arms, and speeding up as you get more comfortable with the move
  6. Add a toss at the top of the movement for more intensity
  7. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 16-20 repetitions

 

Medicine Ball Curl and Press 

The medicine ball curls and press target the biceps as well as the shoulders. Because you’re doing this one arm at a time, you’ll also engage the core to keep your spine straight and your balance intact. You can do this from a seated position, as shown, or from a standing position.

  1. Stand, or if you’re sitting, engage the abs and sit-up with good posture
  2. Hold a medicine ball in the right hand down at your side
  3. Balance the ball in your hand as you curl the arm up in a biceps curl
  4. At the top of the movement, push the arm out and up, engaging the shoulder
  5. Bring the ball back down and then lower the arm to the starting position
  6. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-12 reps, switching sides for each set

 

Triceps Extension with a Medicine Ball

The triceps extension with a medicine ball is a variation of the traditional extensions with dumbbells. You can also add some fun and intensity by throwing the ball to someone after you extend the arms, an explosive movement that will challenge your arms.

  1. Stand, or if you’re sitting, engage the abs and sit tall
  2. Hold the medicine ball in both hands with the arms extended, arms next to the ears
  3. Keep the shoulders pulled down and away from the ears
  4. Bend the elbows, lowering the ball behind your head until your elbows are at 90-degree angles
  5. Squeeze the triceps to straighten the arms, taking the ball back up
  6. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.

 

Medicine Ball Knee Roll

This medicine ball knee roll is a great way to both strengthen and stretch the core. The exercise ball adds an element of support, giving you the freedom to completely control the exercise based on your strength and flexibility.

  1. Lie on the floor with the legs resting on an exercise ball, knees bent
  2. Squeeze a medicine ball between the knees and take your arms out to the sides for more stability
  3. Slowly roll the ball to the right as far as you comfortably can, feeling the core engage
  4. Roll back to the center and roll to the left
  5. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions (1 rep is to the right and left)

 

Medicine Ball Pullover

This medicine ball pullover is a challenging version of a traditional pullover. In this move, you have a firmer grip on the ball, but your hands are rotated, which puts much of the weight on the bottom arm. This move can be very challenging for the shoulders, especially if you have flexibility issues. Take care with this move and start with a very lightweight to get a sense of the exercise and how much you can handle.

  1. Lie down on a step or bench and hold a medicine ball straight up between both hands
  2. Rotate the ball until one hand is on top and one hand is on the bottom
  3. Gently and slowly lower the ball behind your head, arms straight, and keeping the core engaged to avoid arching the back
  4. Only lower down as far as your flexibility allows
  5. Lift back up, rotate the ball so that the other hand is on top and lower
  6. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions 

 

Medicine Ball Circle Squat

The medicine ball circle squat is a great way to work the lower body while also raising the heart rate, making it a great addition to any cardio or strength training routine. Because this move is low impact, you will also protect your joints while getting a great workout.

  1. Stand holding a medicine ball in both hands on the right side, next to the hip
  2. Circle the medicine ball overhead towards the left as you step out with the left leg into a squat
  3. As you squat, circle the ball to the right side of the body
  4. Step the feet back together, again circling the ball back to the right
  5. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-16 repetitions on each side.

 

Medicine Ball Lunge with Toe Touches

The Medicine Ball Lunge with Toe Touches is a great way to raise the heart rate while working the lower body and the arms. You’ll also work on your balance and hamstring flexibility, making this a great overall exercise.

  1. Stand holding a medicine ball overhead and step back with the right leg into a straight leg lunge
  2. Make sure you step back far enough that the front knee is behind the toe
  3. Still holding the medicine ball overhead, swing the right leg forward and bring the medicine ball down towards the toe
  4. Touch the toe if you can (this will depend on your flexibility) and take the right leg back into the lunge
  5. Continue the lunges and toe touches on one leg before switching sides
  6. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-16 repetitions on each side.

 

Medicine Ball Squat and Swing

This squat and swing are a great warm-up for the entire body, engaging the glutes, hips, thighs, arms, and core as you move from side to side. Use a lighter medicine ball if you’re warming-up and move to a heavier one for more intensity.

  1. Hold a medicine ball (4-10 lbs) in both hands, feet together
  2. Step out to the side into a squat, swinging the medicine ball between the knees
  3. Keep the hips back, the knees behind the toes, and the abs engaged
  4. Step the foot back in as you swing the medicine ball overhead
  5. Step out to the other side, again swinging the medicine ball down between the knees
  6. Step back together, swinging the weight up, and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 repetitions 

 

Medicine Ball Diagonal Woodchop

This dynamic exercise is great for working the entire body with a focus on the abs and the obliques. The diagonal movement is also functional, strengthening the body through a rotational movement, much the same way the body works in real life.

  1. Begin with the feet together and holding a medicine ball overhead at a diagonal towards the right side
  2. Step out to the left onto a lunge, swinging the ball across the body towards the left side
  3. Make sure the knee is behind the toe and rotate through the torso, taking the ball towards the backroom as far as you can
  4. Step the left foot back to start while swinging the ball up and at a diagonal
  5. Repeat for 10-16 reps before switching sides, completing 1-3 sets

 

Medicine Ball Squat, Dribble and Toss

This is a great warm-up exercise for the entire body and it can also be used in cardio workouts to get the heart rate up. The squat gets the lower body moving and adding the weight of the medicine ball along with a dribble and toss improves coordination and engages the core.

  1. Stand with feet about shoulder-distance apart, holding the medicine ball
  2. Toss the ball up in the air as high as you can
  3. As you catch it, squat as low as you can, taking the hips back and keeping the knees behind the toes
  4. While squatting, throw the ball to the floor and let it bounce back up into your hands
  5. Stand back up while tossing the ball in the air and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-16 repetitions 

 

Medicine Ball Knee Pulls

This exercise is a great for working the entire body. The standing leg gets most of the work as you slide the other leg in and out. If you keep the standing leg in a squat position for the entire set, you will feel the burn in that glute and thigh. Adding a light medicine ball will get your heart rate up and it incorporates the upper body as well. A Gliding Disc is used for this exercise in this image, but you can use a paper plate or just touch the foot in and out as a modification.

  1. Hold a light med ball or dumbbell and place a Gliding Disc, paper plate, or nothing at all under the left foot.
  2. Bend the right knee into a squat as you slide the left foot straight back behind you.
  3. Keep all the weight in the heel of the right leg.
  4. Simultaneously push the medicine ball out in front of you.
  5. Bring the med ball back in as you slide the left foot back to start, keeping the right knee bent the entire time.
  6. Continue to slide the foot back as you take the med ball out for 8-16 reps before switching sides.
  7. Try to keep the right knee bent in a squat throughout the exercise for maximum intensity. Pretend like there’s a ceiling just over your head that you’ll hit if you come up too high.

 

Modified Medicine Ball Woodchop

Regular medicine ball woodchops are great for the core, but this modified version, which keeps the lower body still, actually targets the core with a bit more intensity.  With this move, you want to keep the hips and knees square throughout the exercise.

  1. Begin with the feet wide and hold a medicine ball in both hands
  2. Squat, sending the hips behind you, and take the ball to the outside of the left hip
  3. Keep the hips and knees facing the front of the room
  4. Push into the heels to stand up and swing the ball up and overhead at a diagonal, so the ball is over the right shoulder
  5. Repeat for 10-16 reps before switching sides, completing 1-3 sets

 

Knee Lifts with a Medicine Ball

The medicine ball can be a great way to get the heart rate up without having to jump around and this exercise is the perfect example of this. You’re involving both the upper and lower body and the addition of lightweight will get the sweat flowing, all while working on balance and upper body endurance.

  1. Hold a lightweight or medicine ball (e.g. 2-8 lbs) straight up over your head with both hands
  2. Lift the right knee to waist level while bringing the arms down, touching the weight to the knee
  3. Take the weight back up and switch sides, lifting the left knee while touching the medicine ball to the knee
  4. Keep the torso upright throughout the exercise and avoid rounding through the spine
  5. The faster you go, the more intense this exercise will be.  Just make sure you go at a pace that allows you to maintain control of the weight
  6. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

 

Squat and Sweep with a Medicine Ball

The squat and sweet is a great total body exercise involving both the upper and lower body in one dynamic move. Use this as a warm-up exercise or to get and keep the heart rate up during your cardio workouts.

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a medicine ball or a dumbbell (suggested weight:  5-12 lbs)
  2. Squat as low as you can, sending the hips back and keeping the back straight, and touch the ball to the floor if you can
  3. Press through the heels and continue to keep the back straight as you stand up, sweeping the weight up and overhead
  4. Lower and repeat, moving quickly, but still keeping control of the weight.  Add a toss at the end for more intensity
  5. Repeat for 30-60 seconds

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