9 Best Medicine Ball Exercises (Proven Full-Body Workout)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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No matter if you’re just beginning or you’re years into your fitness journey like me, medicine ball exercises can be an effective addition to your training routine.

This article will overview some of my fitness clients’ favorite medicine ball exercises for building strength, speed, and power.

In my experience as a certified fitness coach, I have learned that from medicine ball slams to lunges and deadlifts, you can have a challenging total-body workout that helps build or maintain strength and overall fitness.

Let’s begin.

Quick Summary

  • To enhance full-body strength and endurance, incorporate a variety of medicine ball exercises like slams, passes, lunges, and deadlifts into your workout regimen.
  • Medicine ball workouts are adaptable for all fitness levels, with lighter balls recommended for beginners and specific exercises such as twists and lunges.
  • The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion affirms that any physical activity, including medicine ball exercises, offers significant health benefits like strengthening the core, enhancing coordination and balance, and increasing explosive power.
  • In my view, medicine ball exercises are an excellent way to add diversity and challenge to a fitness routine, effectively targeting multiple muscle groups.

Best Exercises with a Medicine Ball

A person in the gym working out with a medicine ball

The following exercises include lunges, squats, and slams and are excellent ways to get a challenging full-body workout.

If you are new to exercising with medicine balls, I would advice to keep the following in mind:

  • Begin with a lighter medicine ball to prevent injury.
  • Concentrate on proper form.
  • Use slow and controlled movement for each exercise; even if it calls for explosive execution, you should still maintain control.
  • As you get stronger, you can move to a heavier ball.

It is better to do a few reps with a lighter weight while maintaining proper form.

Stay encouraged even though, in the beginning, you may only manage a few repetitions.

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion states that any amount of physical activity yields health benefits [1].

Now, let’s dive into the best exercises.

Russian Twist

A person doing russian twists with a medicine ball

This exercise will effectively target your core muscles.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent.
  • Keep your feet off the floor.
  • Hold a medicine ball with both hands.
  • Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight as you twist from side to side, passing the ball from one hand to the other and tapping it against the ground each time.
  • Keep twisting for as many reps as possible based on your fitness levels.

Lateral Lunge

This medicine ball lunge will work your legs, glutes, and core.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a medicine ball in both hands.
  • Step out wide to one side and lower into a one-legged squat position, keeping the medicine ball close to your chest.
  • Push back up to standing and repeat on the other side for the desired reps.

Overhead Squat

A person doing overhead squats with a medicine ball

Medicine ball overhead squats are a challenging and effective full-body exercise to add to your routine.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Hold a medicine ball over your head with both hands.
  • Slowly lower into a squat position, keeping the ball and arms extended throughout the movement.
  • Pause for a few seconds at the bottom of the squat before slowly standing again.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Related: 7 Squat Variations To Try

Push-Ups

I always tell my clients that to increase the difficulty of their upper-body workout, they should incorporate their body weight by performing a medicine ball push-up, which involves a different position compared to a classic push-up.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Kneel on the floor and place a med ball in front of you.
  • Place your hands on the top half of the ball with your fingers pointed downward. Have a firm grip.
  • Get into a classic push-up position, keeping your body in a straight line and your feet hip-width apart.
  • Lower your body, almost touching the medicine ball underneath you with your chest, then push back up.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

“While the push-up largely targets the muscles of the chest, the pectoralis major and minor, several other muscle groups contribute. Namely, these include the triceps, anterior deltoids, and the core muscles.”

- Daniel Preiato, BSc, RD

V-Ups

A person doing V-ups with a medicine ball

These exercises strengthen your core and improve your balance.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Lie on your back with a med ball in your hands and your arms overhead.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and use them to lift your torso and legs off the floor.
  • Keep your arms and legs straight and raise yourself into a V shape, bringing the ball straight over your body.
  • Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired reps.

Overhead Slam

If you are looking for an explosive, full-body exercise to increase strength and stability, try the overhead slam.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Start standing, holding a medicine ball straight overhead with both hands.
  • Bend at the hips while keeping your chest up, and explosively throw the ball onto the ground in front of you using all the power you can muster.
  • Pick up the ball again and repeat for as many repetitions as desired.

Single-leg Deadlift

A person doing single leg deadlifts with a medicine ball

With this exercise, you’ll work your hips and glutes and improve your balance.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Start by standing on one foot and holding the medicine ball held in your hands in front of you at chest height.
  • Keep your back and torso flat, your right leg slightly bent, your core tight, and your neck in a neutral position.
  • Hinge forward from the hips, extending your left leg straight behind you until both arms and the left leg are parallel to the ground, ensuring you don’t lock the right knee.
  • Pause briefly before returning to the starting position.
  • Keep your weight on your right leg throughout the exercise.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  • Switch legs and perform the same number of reps.

Also Read: 4 Best Deadlift Alternative Exercises

Medicine Ball Pass

Medicine ball chest passes are great full-body exercises that can improve speed and power.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Stand holding the medicine ball in both hands in front of your chest.
  • With a quick, explosive motion, throw the ball straight out from your chest, pushing it away from your body with both arms extended.
  • Use both hands to catch the ball with both hands as it comes back toward you, softening your elbows to absorb its impact.
  • Repeat for as many repetitions as desired to finish one set.

Bent-Over Medicine Ball Row

A person doing bent over medicine ball workouts

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a med ball.
  • Bend over from the hips until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle with the floor.
  • You will start with your arms straight.
  • Pull the medicine ball toward your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Pause briefly at the peak of the movement before slowly lowering.
  • You can do a specific number of reps or perform the exercise for a certain amount of time.

How to Use a Medicine Ball

Medicine balls are versatile pieces of exercise equipment for strength and conditioning.

You can perform dynamic exercises like throws and slams or more static exercises like planks and leg raises.

You can also use medicine balls to add resistance to squats and lunges, other bodyweight exercises, or partner drills where you pass the ball back and forth.

As a fitness coach, I always emphasize to my clients the importance of selecting a weight that matches their fitness level and goals, ensuring they maintain proper form to prevent injuries.

Nutritional Tips to Complement Medicine Ball Workouts

To complement the physical efforts of medicine ball exercises, focus on a balanced diet rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

  • Protein is crucial for muscle recovery and growth, so include lean meats, fish, eggs, and plant-based sources like beans and lentils.
  • Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables provide sustained energy for workouts and aid in muscle glycogen replenishment.
  • Healthy fats from sources like avocados, nuts, and olive oil support overall health and reduce inflammation.
  • Stay hydrated with water and consider electrolyte-rich drinks post-workout.
  • Additionally, incorporating anti-inflammatory foods like berries, turmeric, and green leafy vegetables can help with recovery and overall wellness.

FAQs

Can You Build Muscle With a Medicine Ball?

Yes, you can build muscle with a medicine ball. Holding a medicine ball while doing exercises like squats and lunges adds resistance and increases the intensity of the movement, helping build muscle.

How Heavy Should a Medicine Ball Be?

How heavy a medicine ball should be depends on your fitness level and type of exercise. A lightweight medicine ball is appropriate for beginners or exercises like twists and chops, while a heavier one is suitable for advanced users and explosive movements like slams.


References:

  1. https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/physical-activity-guidelines/current-guidelines/top-10-things-know
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