The Ultimate Medicine Ball Workout: 5 Great Exercises For Powerful Gains

A great tool for resistance training is a medicine ball. 

Medicine ball workouts can shake up your strength training routine by adding dynamic power, strength, and speed to regular strength training.

But, what are the best medicine ball exercises for beginners and advanced athletes? Are weight ball exercises and exercises for weighted balls good for building muscle and increasing strength?

In this medicine ball workout guide, we will explain what a medicine ball is, the benefits of medicine ball exercises, and step-by-step instructions for some of the best medicine exercises for athletes of all levels.

We will look at: 

  • What Are Medicine Balls?
  • How To Do a Medicine Ball Workout
  • The Ultimate Medicine Ball Workout: 5 Great Medicine Ball Exercises For Powerful Gains

Let’s get started!

A Russian Twist

What Are Medicine Balls?

Medicine balls are strength training implements used for “weight ball exercises.”

Medicine balls also may refer to slam balls or wall balls. These are all weighted exercise balls but slam balls and wall balls are usually more durable due to the thick rubber shell and are designed to withstand high-intensity exercises, tosses, passes, and drops. 

Traditional medicine balls are often hand-stitched and have a softer shell made from leather, vinyl, PVC, or other synthetic materials. 

Although the terms are used interchangeably in many gyms, use a hard-shell weighted ball (wall ball or slam ball vs medicine ball) for medicine ball exercises that involve dropping or throwing the weight balls.

For medicine ball exercises that involve just holding the weighted exercise ball statically or tossing it between a partner without dropping it, use a softer medicine ball

A medicine ball lunge.

Generally, wall balls and slam balls have a durable outer shell with some sort of rubber grip to help prevent slipping when you catch the ball.

A medicine ball usually has a sand or gel filling to prevent significant bouncing so that it acts like a dead weight when they are thrown into the ground or thrust into a wall.

However, some weighted balls for exercise have more of a bouncy outer material, so there are a range of options for medicine ball workouts.

The spherical shape and dead weight of a medicine ball can increase the difficulty and provide a unique challenge to performing exercises.

Some common medicine ball exercises include overhead lunges, standing chops, walking lunges with trunk rotations, crunches, Russian twists, overhead high knees running in place, weighted V-ups and sit-ups, burpees, thrusters, and lateral lunges with chest presses.

Medicine ball exercises can improve hand-eye coordination, cardio endurance, power, speed, and functional strength.

A medicine ball squat.

How To Do a Medicine Ball Workout

There are different ways to incorporate medicine ball exercises into your training, depending on your fitness level and fitness goals. 

You can perform full-body medicine ball workouts or medicine ball workouts that target specific muscle groups, such as the core, upper-body muscles, or lower-body muscles.

Many of the best medicine ball workouts incorporate some traditional strength training moves translated to become a weight ball exercise rather than one other strength training tools, along with explosive power med ball exercises, plyometric exercises with a medicine ball, and some medicine ball cardio exercises. 

Depending on your fitness goals, your medicine ball workouts may resemble high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. 

Studies have even found that medicine ball exercises can provide a similar cardio workout as traditional aerobic exercises like running and swimming.

Performing plyometric medicine ball exercises (jump training) with the added weight of a weighted medicine ball not only increases the intensity of the exercise due to the additional external resistance but also helps build more explosive power and strength and boosts the cardiovascular and metabolic demand, helping you burn more calories.

The Ultimate Medicine Ball Workout: 5 Great Medicine Ball Exercises For Powerful Gains

Here are some of the best medicine ball exercises that can be done with a softer medicine ball rather than a wall ball:

#1: Russian Twists

The Russian twist is a classic medicine ball ab exercise that targets your obliques along with all of the muscles of the core and your hip flexors. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Sit up, holding a medicine ball in a V-sit position such that your back is straight but leaning backward and your legs are up off of the mat. Beginners can bend their knees but keep the heels off of the floor, and advanced athletes can keep their knees straight with their feet up in the air.
  2. Keeping your core tight, bring the medicine ball from chest level hovering over your lap to the right side of your body so that it hovers just above the floor next to your right thigh.
  3. Do not twist your trunk as you do this; try to keep your abs engaged so that only your upper body is moving.
  4. Then lift the medicine ball and bring it past neutral over to the left side of your body.
  5. Continue alternating sides for 30 to 60 seconds. Move slowly and with control.

#2: Walking Lunge Twists

One of the best medicine ball exercises is a forward lunge with a trunk rotation because this is a full-body medicine ball exercise that improves the functional strength of not only your lower-body muscles, but also your core and upper body.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand up with good posture holding a medicine ball between both hands with your arms fully extended out in front of your chest.
  2. Take a giant step forward with your right foot and bend both knees to drop down into a forward lunge while simultaneously rotating your trunk and upper body to the right, keeping your arms straight and back straight.
  3. As you press back up to the standing position, rotate your upper body and trunk back to neutral.
  4. Keep alternating sides as you step forward to lunge and rotate; when you step with the right foot, rotate to the right; when you lunge forward with the left foot, rotate to the left.
  5. Complete 12 reps per side.

#3: Medicine Ball Burpees

An advanced medicine ball exercise is the medicine ball burpee. 

Regular burpees are difficult; adding the weighted exercise ball makes this a great move for medicine ball HIIT workouts due to the extra weight and resultant cardio and strength demand on your body.

Plus, using a medicine ball for this exercise forces you to use a narrow hand placement for the push-up, which is much more challenging and helps target the triceps and core muscles more than a regular push-up.

Here are the steps for this challenging medicine ball workout exercise:

  1. Stand up, holding the medicine ball at chest height with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees and sit your hips back to squat down.
  3. Then, lower the medicine ball all the way to the floor with your hands placed along the sides of the top surface.
  4. Simultaneously jump your feet back so that you are in a push-up position with your hands straddling the top of the med ball.
  5. Perform a full push-up off of the medicine ball.
  6. When your elbows are extended back to the starting position, jump up your feet forward and lift the medicine ball off of the ground as you explode upward into a vertical jump, reaching the medicine ball as high up into the air as you can. 
  7. Advanced athletes can even toss the medicine ball up toward the ceiling, catch it as they land from the jump, and transition into a squat to begin the next rep.
  8. Try to do as many medicine ball burpees as you can in 30-60 seconds.

#4: Medicine Ball Chops

Another great medicine ball core exercise is the medicine ball chop.

The key to making this an effective exercise for your core is to keep your arms as straight as possible and keep your trunk as stationary as you can so that you’re really targeting your obliques and abs.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand upright with good posture, with your arms straight out in front of you, holding the medicine ball parallel to the ground at chest height.
  2. Keeping your arms straight and glutes and abs tight, rapidly chop the medicine ball down to the lower left and then straight up to the upper right.
  3. Complete 20 vigorous chops and then switch to chop from the lower right to the upper left.

#5: Medicine Ball Squat and Press

For this med ball exercise, perform a squat, and once you are in the lower position, explosively and rapidly perform chest presses forward and back with the medicine ball for 30 seconds as you stay in an isometric hold in your squat position.

If you are interested in other exercises for weighted balls that involve throwing or thrusting the medicine ball, check out our guide to an awesome wall ball workout here.

A medicine ball woodchop.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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