Movement

A Medicine Ball Workout for Power and Strength

Dumbbells. Kettlebells. Even barbells. When you think of strength-building tools, these are probably amongst the first to come to mind. And while that’s understandable – each one is indeed awesome – there are other options as well. We told you all about how to use the resistance band while you were traveling over the holidays. Now, we’re advocating for the medicine ball.

It’s a secret weapon of sorts because – unlike a dumbbell or kettle bell – you can actually throw a medicine ball. And doing so helps shore up your “pillar” – your hips, torso, and shoulders – which is “the weakest link” for many people, per Kerry Greer, an expert with EXOS.

“The medicine ball is great for building strength and rotational power through your pillar,” says Greer. When these muscle groups all work together, you’ll notice everyday activities (think: picking up your kid) and sports (like running or swinging a golf club) becoming easier, she notes.

What’s more: medicine ball throws (more on how to do it below!) are a sneaky abs exercise: “It may not feel like a typical crunch where you are focused on one portion of your abdominals – instead you are working all of them in order to keep your body stable and throw the ball with the most power,” explains Greer.

Medicine balls can also be used to increase the intensity of a movement you already know how to do. In other words, you can use it in lieu of a dumbbell or other weighted objected to amp up bodyweight moves. We’ll show you how below. But, first things first:

A Medicine Ball Workout for Power and Strength

Choosing the Right Size Medicine Ball

“For most exercises, a 3-kilogram ball will be appropriate,” says Greer. “As you progress through the program and the throws get easier, either throw the ball harder or progress and pick up a 4-kilogram ball,” she notes. Beginners should start with a 2-kg ball. It’s better to pick up a lighter ball and make speedy, quality movements with it, per Greer.

The bottom line: You want to find a ball where the last couple of reps feel tough but doable (you can do ’em with good form!) *Note for moves that don’t involve throwing the ball, you can use a heavier one to increase the intensity of the movement, says Greer.

Circuit 1: Build Rotational Power and Pillar Strength

Directions: Work through the first four moves as a circuit. Do 10-12 reps of each exercise. Repeat the circuit 3 times.

Medicine Ball Perpendicular Rotational Throw – Standing


Steps:

  • Stand in an athletic stance with your side to a wall about 2 to 3 feet away, holding a medicine ball at waist level.
  • Rotate your torso and hips away from the wall, taking the ball behind your back hip.
  • Throw the ball against the wall, initiating the move by rotating your hips and followed by your torso, arms, and the ball.
  • Catch the ball and return to the starting position.
  • Complete the set on one side before repeating on the other side.

Coaching Tip: Initiate the throw with your hips.

Feel It: Working your entire body.

Medicine Ball Parallel Rotational Throw – Standing


Steps:

  • Stand in an athletic base position facing a wall about 3 to 4 feet away, holding a medicine ball at waist level.
  • Rotate your shoulders, torso, and hips away from the wall, taking the ball behind your hip.
  • Initiate the throw by exploding your hip back toward the wall and follow with your torso, arms, and the ball.
  • Catch the ball with your arms slightly bent and immediately go into your next repetition.
  • Complete the set on one side before repeating on the opposite side.

Coaching Tip: Initiate the throw with the hip closest to the ball.

Feel It: Working your entire body.

Medicine Ball Overhead Pass – Standing


Steps:

  • Stand 1 to 2 feet away from a wall in an athletic position, with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a medicine ball overhead.
  • Cock the ball behind your head and immediately throw it against the wall by driving your elbows down.
  • Catch the ball above your head and immediately repeat.
  • Continue for the remainder of the set.

Coaching Tip: Keep your chest up, stomach tight, and torso still.

Feel It: Working your torso, legs, and arms.

Medicine Ball Chest Pass – Standing


Steps:

  • Stand in an athletic stance 3 to 4 feet in front of a wall, holding a medicine ball at chest level with your arms straight.
  • Bring the ball to your chest and then immediately throw it as hard as possible against the wall.
  • Catch the ball and immediately go into your next throw.
  • Continue for the remainder of the set.

Coaching Tip: Keep your chest up, knees slightly bent, and hips back. As you improve, challenge yourself by changing your feet to a low split stance position, just like a split squat.

Feel It: Working your entire body.

Circuit 2: Build Total-Body Strength

A Medicine Ball Workout for Power and Strength

Directions: Work through the next four moves as separate circuit. Do 10-12 reps of each exercise. Repeat the circuit 3-4 times.

Medicine Ball RDL to Overhead Squat

Steps:

  • Stand, holding medicine ball in front of body.
  • With knees slightly bent, hinge over at the waist, lowering ball to mid-shin level.
  • Drop the hips and lift the chest into a squat position, raise the ball overhead and stand up.
  • Repeat.

Coaching Tip: Keep knees slightly bent, back flat, and hips tall on the descent. Keep heels on the ground, chest up, and ball as far back as possible on the ascent

Feel It: Stretching the hamstrings on the way down and in the glutes on the way up.

Medicine Ball Glute Bridge – 1 Leg

Steps:

  • Lie face up with your arms at your sides, knees bent, and one of your feet on the medicine ball.
  • Bend your knee opposite of the foot on the medicine ball, bring it toward your chest, and hold it there.
  • Fire (squeeze) your glute to lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders are in a straight line. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds.
  • Lower your hips back to the ground.
  • Complete the set on one side before repeating on the other leg.

Coaching Tip: Keep your chest up, knees slightly bent, and hips back.

Feel It: Working your entire body.

Medicine Ball Push-up – Alternating

Steps:

  • Start in the classic push-up position with one hand on the medicine ball.
  • Keeping your torso stable and hips square to the ground bend your elbows to lower your body towards the ground.
  • Without touching the ground, push yourself back up.
  • Continue on the same side for half the set, then repeat on the other side.

Coaching Tip: Keep your body in a straight line and push your chest as far away from your hands as possible.

Feel It: Working your chest, arms, and torso.

Medicine Ball Rotational Lift – Standing

Steps:

  • Stand holding a medicine ball with both hands.
  • Squat and rotate to one side while holding the medicine ball with your arms straight.
  • In one continuous motion, stand up, pull the weight toward your chest and continue rotating as you press the medicine ball overhead and away.
  • Reverse the movement pattern back to the starting position.
  • Complete the set on one side before repeating with the opposite side.

Coaching Tip: Generate the force to lift the weight from the legs.

Feel It: Working your hips, torso, upper back, chest, and shoulders.

Mix It Up

Starting to master these moves? Try one of these variations, courtesy of Greer, to keep things fresh.

Throw with a partner.

Do your rotational perpendicular and parallel throws with a training partner. Start by throwing for a set while your partner catches, and then switch it up. As both of you become proficient at your throws and are able to maintain accuracy, you can try doing a set at the same time so you’re tossing it back and forth to each other.

Don’t release the ball.

Try “shadow throwing” in which you go through the exercise holding a ball and stop yourself just short of where you would release the ball. Move at a tempo that allows you to control your speed. Although you won’t be as explosive as you would be throwing against a wall, you’ll still reap benefits by learning the movements and gaining stability by decelerating your body at the point of release.

Train outdoors.

If you don’t have a medicine ball wall at your gym, find a concrete or brick wall outside, for example, at a sports field or school. Treat it like a separate training session. Start with movement prep, then go through your medicine ball routine. Keep it short and you can do this on any training day. Or, if you play a sport, try doing it before or after practice.