Try This Fast and Furious Medicine Ball Workout
For versatility, portability, and simplicity, it’s hard to beat the old-school medicine ball. This tough and rugged piece of fitness equipment was touted as far back as 1000 BCE for its purported ability to improve various aspects of health — hence the medically-inspired name.
Those ancient strength coaches were on to something. The med ball is an exceptionally adaptable form of resistance, and thus an ideal way to increase the intensity of bodyweight moves like squats, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, and leg raises.
Its spherical shape challenges your grip and core in unusual ways. And for people who are accustomed to slow and methodical strength-training moves, throwing a five-pound object against the wall can be a frustration-releasing revelation that also builds fitness and explosive power.
How to Choose the Best Medicine Ball
If you haven’t done a medicine ball workout before, there are a few things you need to know.
Medicine balls may or may not bounce, and they can be soft-sided or made from firm, textured rubber. For this workout, opt for a soft-sided medicine ball with no bounce that can be used as both a medicine ball and a wall ball.
Medicine balls can range from 2 to 150 (!) pounds, so what’s the best medicine ball weight? For this workout, choose a medicine ball that’s equal to about 5 to 10 percent of your bodyweight. (For a 160-pound person, that works out to an 8- to 16-pound ball; for a 200-pound person, that’s a 10- to 20-pounder.)
You may be tempted to choose a heavier weight, especially if you’re a long-time strength trainer. But you’re not looking for a weight that’s hard to lift — you’re looking for something you can throw with maximum speed.
Got a med ball and a few minutes to spare? Run through the moves below for a fast-paced, full-body medicine ball workout. If you’re short on time, or you want to add a cardio challenge — or both! — perform all nine exercises as a circuit, resting minimally between exercises. Rest 1 to 2 minutes, and repeat (if desired) for a total of 1 to 3 rounds.
1. Reverse Lunge to Woodchop
- Stand holding a medicine ball at chest height.
- Take a long stride backward with your right foot, lowering the ball towards your right hip.
- Keeping your torso upright, bend both knees until your right knee is close to the floor.
- Return to the starting position, raising the medicine ball in a diagonal line up and to your left, finishing with the ball above your left shoulder and your arms straight.
- Repeat the movement five more times (for a total of 6 reps), then repeat for 6 reps on the opposite side.
2. Wall Ball
- Stand about two feet in front of a brick or cinder block wall with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a soft-sided medicine ball or wall ball between your hands at chest height. Squeeze your elbows into your sides.
- Keeping the ball close to your chest, sink into a squat until the crease of your hip is at or below your knees — or as low as you can while maintaining a neutral arch in your spine.
- Keeping your chest up, push your body away from the floor and throw the ball up and forward, aiming to hit a spot on the wall about eight feet off the ground.
- Catch the ball as you descend into your next rep and repeat for a total of 8 reps.
3. Med-Ball Slam
- Choose a medicine ball that does not bounce.
- Assume an athletic stance, holding a medicine ball at chest height.
- Raise the ball overhead.
- Keeping your core tight, throw the medicine ball straight downwards as hard as you can, shooting your hips backward as you swing your arms down to slam the ball on the floor just in front of your feet.
- Squat to pick up the ball and return to starting position. Repeat for a total of 6 reps.
4. Med-Ball Squat to Rotational Press
- Assume an athletic stance, holding a medicine ball at shoulder height.
- Keeping your chest up, your gaze forward, and your elbows tucked in, squat down until your hips are lower than your knees (or as low as you can go without dropping your chest).
- As you stand back up, rotate right as you press the med-ball overhead, raising your left heel off the floor and rotating your hips and shoulders as you do.
- Return to the starting position and repeat the move, this time rotating to your left. Repeat for a total of 6 reps on each side.
5. Rotational Walking Lunge
- Stand with your feet together, holding a light med-ball at arm’s length in front of your chest.
- With your torso upright, take a long step forward with your right foot, bending both knees 90 degrees and dropping your left knee close to the ground. Pause.
- From the low position of the lunge, rotate your shoulders and arms to the right as far as you can, keeping the arms long and the med-ball at chest height the whole time.
- Return to the center position, and step forward with your left foot, bringing your feet together again.
- Step forward with your left foot and repeat the movement, alternating sides for a total of 6 reps per side.
6. Overhead Med-Ball Throw
- Hold a medicine ball at shoulder height.
- Crouch slightly, then explode upwards, swinging the arms overhead and throwing the ball as high as you can when you come up.
- Stay clear of the ball as it falls to the floor.
- Pick the ball up and repeat for 6 reps.
7. Split-Stance Lateral Toss
- Stand with your right shoulder an arm’s length away from a brick or cinder block wall (so the wall is on your right side). Hold a soft-sided medicine ball or wall ball with both hands.
- Assume a split-stance lunge — left foot forward, right foot back — with both of your knees bent 90 degrees. Stack your front knee over your ankle and hover your back knee a few inches above the floor.
- Bring the ball to your outside hip, then twist your torso and toss the ball against the wall as hard as possible.
- Catch the ball on the rebound and immediately bring it back to your outside hip. Complete a total of 6 reps, then repeat the drill on the opposite side (starting with your left shoulder turned towards the wall) for 6 reps.
8. Standing Chest Pass
- Holding a soft-sided medicine ball or wall ball between your hands at chest height, stand at least three feet away from a brick or cinder block wall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Throw the ball into the wall as hard as possible and catch it on its return.
- Continue to throw the ball into the wall and catch it. Repeat for 6 reps.
9. Med-Ball Pushups
- Assume a push-up position with your hands elevated on a medicine ball in a “diamond” position, with the tips of your thumbs and index fingers facing each other. Spread your feet wide for balance. (Note: This exercise requires a ton of shoulder and core ability, so if you’re unable to stabilize your bodyweight with both hands on the ball, opt for a regular push up until you can work up to this.)
- With your core and glutes tight and your head in neutral alignment, bend your arms and lower your torso toward the medicine ball.
- Pause in the low position and push yourself back up to the starting position. Complete 8 reps.
Can a Medicine Ball Workout Help Me Lose Weight?
The primary use of medicine balls is to help you build power — the ability to produce force quickly.
Power training activates your fast-twitch muscle fibers — the same ones used when you sprint, jump, and perform maximum lifts, and the ones with the most capacity for growth. So, like strength training, med-ball workouts can help you hold onto muscle and get stronger.
If you perform medicine ball exercises quickly, with minimal rest between them — as you will in this workout — you can also get your heart rate up, which will help you burn additional calories and can be part of an effective weight-loss program.