A gym without a medicine ball is like a basketball court with no hoops, yet often they get overlooked. Medicine balls are wondrously simple tools for improving your functional fitness.
While there are plenty of medicine ball exercises to choose from, I’ve gathered my favorite 10 that can be peppered into your current routine to spice things up. You can even do them all together to complete one medicine ball-inspired workout!
1. Bicycle Kicks
There isn’t a single muscle grouping that isn’t involved in this masterpiece of a movement, although make no mistake… your abdominals are the highlight. If you’re challenged in the coordination department, then this is a great opportunity for you to improve!
How to do it: Take a V-sit position with your feet off the ground, if you’re able (feet on the ground for back issues). Take your medicine ball and pass it underneath your leg by bringing your knee towards your chest. Repeat on the other side in a figure 8 formation.
Rep count: 10-30 (each leg = 1 rep)
2. Balance Burpee
If you’re nursing any wrist injuries, sit this one out. If not, then get ready for an added bonus of balance to the traditional burpee!
How to do it: Start standing with your medicine ball before bringing it to the floor, using it as a singular handle, and jumping back with your legs into a plank position, momentarily. Jump back towards the ball, then jump straight upward before repeating the whole grueling process. If the jump is too hard on any joints, tendons, or ligaments then go through the same motions only with a step instead of a jump.
Rep count: 10-20
3. Wall-Sit Cabbage Patches
This exercise is made exponentially better by blasting a great song through your headphones and getting lost in the music. It’s also a great way to get your legs screaming, core engaged, and shoulders fired up (if you’re in the market for such things).
How to do it: Choose your medicine ball weight, find a blank space of wall and get in a wall-sit position. Then, get your best “dad dance” going with as wide of a circle as your muscles can muster. Make sure you go both directions with your cabbage patch or else we’re never going to make it onto “So You Think You Can Dance.” That’s what we’re all here for after all, right?
Rep count: 10-20 Circles (each direction)
4. V-Sit Single Arm Balance Presses
This is another one that puts the “core” in “coordination” which, and this can’t be stressed enough, is great for helping your body operate at its fullest potential. When you incorporate balance movements into your regimen, you give love to the small stabilizers, tendons, and ligaments that make your body’s world-go-round in ways that major movements can’t. Plus, you open more neural pathways which increases your mind-to-muscle connection. Read; enhanced bodily function & decreased potential for injury.
How to do it: Revisit the V-sit position (feet up if able, feet down for back issues) and hold a medicine ball in one hand in preparation to shoulder press. Have your free arm extended all the way out to work as a counterbalance mechanism while working your core even harder. Balance the medicine ball in your hand and press all the way up. Bring it back down while maintaining your balance and repeat!
Rep count: 10-15 (each side)
5. Atlas Chops
The last of the V-sit positions, this one is the most taxing on bodies that have back problems, so unless you’ve got a good command of your core, back, and hips… consider avoiding this one. If you’re good to go, then let’s do it! The focal point is core with your arms and back getting some great sculpting by proxy.
How to do it: Maintain the V-sit pose (feet up is the hardest, feet down offers lower back support), grab your medicine ball, and bring it to the back of your neck with arms bent at the elbow. Bring the ball back in front of you and all the way down to your hip (you choose which one since you’ll be alternating) while keeping your arms bent. Repeat by bringing the ball back up and then down to the other side.
Rep count: 10-30 (each side = 1 rep)
6. Lateral Lunges w. Butterfly Elbows
Working your lateral range of motion is easy to overlook but is wise to avoid if you can help it. This is a great one for getting that side movement in not just with your legs, but your arms as well.
How to do it: Take a wide stance while holding your medicine ball against your chest. Lateral lunge all the way to one side, focusing on getting as much of a stretch on the extended leg as you can while keeping the heel flat on your anchor leg. As you lean into the leg stretch, flare your elbows all the way up to parallel with your shoulders while keeping hold of the medicine ball. As you come back up to switch to the other side with your legs, bring your elbows down. Repeat on the other side!
Rep count: 10-20 (each side)
7. Isometric Lunge Orbits
If you’ve been looking to do a wall-sit style exercise, only with lunges… look no further, the time is now.
How to do it: Get into a lunge position with your medicine ball, lunge downward, and hold at the bottom. The leg in front of you should be at a 90-degree angle (or close to it) which is perfect for you to pass the ball around your thigh, going under/over the leg. Once you’re finished with your reps, do the same thing on the other side.
Rep count:10-20 (each side)
8. Kneeling BOSU Ball Bounces
A BOSU is easiest for this one, but if you don’t have one, anything that you can balance on your knees while keeping your feet off the ground will do (folded mat, foam pads, cushions, etc.). This exercise adds a small plyometric component while sharpening your reflexes and further strengthening your infrastructure.
How to do it: Take a kneeling position on a BOSU (round side up) with your weighted ball of choice. If you’re able, keep your feet off the ground (if not, you have something to work up to). Now simply bounce the ball hard enough to bounce back up and catch it. Repeat as fast as you can while doing your best not to lose control of the ball (this may take some practice). For an added bonus, bounce the ball to your left and right. This will challenge your balance and engage your core, too.
Rep count: 10-30
9. Quadominal Extensions
This exercise will target your quads, hamstrings, and abdominals in an “outside the box” sort of way. Whichever of those three need the most work is where you’ll feel it the most.
How to do it: Lie on your back and place your medicine ball between your feet (a little weight goes a long way). Squeeze the ball between your feet and lift your legs up, maintaining a 90-degree angle at the knee and keeping your knees above your hips. Holding this position like a statue, extend your legs all the way up while holding the ball. This is one of the few times where the goal is to lock your knees out. Return the ball back down and do not let your knees sway.
Rep count: 10-15
10. Back Extension Pass
Our last endeavor involves the entirety of your back kinetic chain to assure no stone is left unturned. Although it seems simple, this exercise acts as a spotlight on areas that might get ignored more than you think. Be mindful of your neck, shoulders, back (upper and lower), core and legs as they’re all going to need to work together to get this done correctly.
How to do it: Lay on your stomach with your medicine ball about an arms-length away from your head. You can elevate your feet to get an enhanced glute/lower back squeeze but keep your feet down on the ground if the strain is too much. When you’re ready, simply roll the ball from one side of your body to the other doing your best not to let your arms drop until your allotted reps have been done.