Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Jedd Johnson. Jedd loves all forms of training and has written many articles about strength and conditioning. Check out his site, DieselCrew.com for more innovative training ideas.
The medicine ball is a very versatile tool that can be found in many gyms these days. They come in various weights and sizes and some even come with handles that can be used for a better grip and an even greater variety of exercises.
What I like best about medicine balls is that they are designed to be thrown. Unlike dumbbells and barbells that will most likely get damaged if you drop them, medicine balls are resilient and allow you to throw them around while training your body to be powerful and explosive.
Another great thing about med balls is that they can be used for instability training, which is great for the shoulders and core.
Give me a medicine ball and I can show you a workout that will knock your socks off and leave you exhilarated and wanting more. Here are some examples of awesome exercises you can perform with medicine balls that you can use to jump start your routine. There’s no reason to be bored with training anymore.
Before you get started, I have separated the movements into Warm-up, Upper Body, Lower Body, and Core movements. Use them how you like. Plant them into your given routine. Doing all of these movements may be too much for you to handle, however. Some are more challenging than others. Some emphasize power, others endurance, and still others trigger a strong metabolic effect. Use the following movements as a way to challenge yourself and to spawn even more creative ideas of your own in the future.
Med Ball Tai Chi
Hold the med ball out in front of your body, keeping the abdominals tight and tucking the pelvis. Turn the med ball so that the right hand is on top and the left hand is on bottom. Reach with the ball to the left as far as you can go without twisting the lumbar spine. Return to the center and this time rotate the left hand to the top of the ball and reach to the right, keeping the core tight and pelvis tucked.
Perform 6 to 10 reps in each direction in order to thoroughly warm up the torso and core.
Shoulder Mobility / Warm-up with Med Ball (Tea Cup)
Hold the med ball in your open hand. Swivel it behind your back, out to your side, and then over your head and back to the center position without dropping it. In order to accomplish this, swaying the body is allowed but do so under control, trying to maintain tension in the body. This tension is good for a subtle core warm-up prior to a big training session, and it hits the shoulders, chest, and rotator cuff well, too.
Perform this for 2 to 3 reps with each arm, making sure to go slow and stay in control of the med ball.
Med Ball Turkish Get-up
The Turkish Get-up is a very deceptive movement. It seems simple to perform, but when done right it is effective at working just about every muscle and joint in the body. Start in a supine position with the med ball extended upward in one hand and the same side leg bent. Raise the upper body up onto one hand by rolling away from the ball, onto the shoulder, and finally up onto the hand. Elevate the hips in a plank-style maneuver, then swing the leg back so that you are in a half lunge. Recover to a standing position. Do all this with the med ball overhead the entire time, then return to the supine position, change hands, and repeat.
Perform 2 to 3 reps with each arm elevated, holding each position for at least a second or two, especially the bridge with the hips locked out.
Now, you should be thoroughly warmed up for the rest of the movements.
Push-up on Med Ball
Place the med ball on the floor and position both hands comfortably on top of it. Perform a push-up in this position, moving slowly through the range of motion at first to get used to the instability of the movement. The narrow position of the hands will emphasize the triceps more. In order to make the movement even more difficult, raise the feet up onto a box or bench. This is a great finisher for Chest and Arm day.
Perform this movement for 6 to 10 repetitions and do 3 sets. If at any time the form breaks down, terminate the set, stretch out and take a short break (30 seconds) before starting the next set. Perform 2 to 3 sets.
Med Ball Row Plus Band
Step on an exercise band with both feet and loop the other end of the band around the top of the ball. Bend over 45 to 90 degrees, crushing onto the ball with both hands. Once bent over, perform rows against the resistance of the band. For increased difficulty, have a partner stretch the band or attach it to a solid object further away. The further the band is stretched, the tougher the rows will be and the more each repetition will burn.
Depending on the strength of the bands you have, perform 10 to 20 reps of this movement. After each set, take a short break and then perform another set. Keep moving to increase the pump and the metabolic benefit of the exercise. Perform 3 to 5 sets.
Med Ball Shoulder Tosses
This is another power movement that will help you throw a tougher punch or a harder fastball. Stagger your stance so the right foot is back slightly. Draw the med ball back, loading up elastic power in the core and torso, then fire it forward.
Perform two sets per arm and do 8 to 12 reps per set. If form breaks down, stop the set and take a short break before performing the next set.
*This movement can cause damage to walls, so be careful when performing it. As an alternative, you can throw it against a tire either standing up or sitting down or some other solid object that will resist the beating.
Curl – Med Ball Plus Band
Stand on an exercise band with both feet and wrap the other end of the band around the top of the ball. Squeeze hard with your hands and perform a curl. Because you have to isometrically crush the ball with the hands, you get a major recruitment in the arms and chest while also pumping up the biceps.
Depending on the band tension, the difficulty of this exercise can vary. Perform 3 sets and go until your form breaks down or you have to cheat on the lift. Then take a short break and stretch out the biceps and forearm before moving onto the next set.
Rotational Med Ball Throw
Take the med ball outside and perform rotational throws. Start with the med ball low near one foot and toss it over the opposite shoulder. Sprint after the med ball for an anaerobic burst and once you chase the med ball down, perform the opposite movement pattern. This will not only work your core, glutes, and back, but also your heart, lungs, and legs.
This is a very metabolic exercise because you will be sprinting. Perform 2 sets of 6 to 10, alternating sides over which you throw the ball. Be sure to sprint hard in order to get the most benefit out of the movement. You may need more rest between sets here, up to a minute or two and focus on power and speed when going after the ball.
Med Ball Lunges
Hold the med ball with both hands and perform lunges. Make sure to really stretch out on these, taking long but comfortable steps. Make your entire legs work, making sure to feel it in the groin, glutes, hammies, and quads. If you touch your knee down, do so gently. Don’t slam it down to the ground or floor, as this can cause irritation and injury.
This is an endurance movement since the med ball will not weigh you down too much. Set a goal of lunging a certain distance, at least 60 feet and up to 100 or so. Make sure to keep the torso erect throughout the movement, as the weight of the ball, although light, may cause you to want to lean forward. Don’t allow this to happen.
Med Ball Jumps
Hold the med ball in both hands and practice powerful, explosive jumps. This can be done by leaping as high as possible into the air, or onto a solid object, such as a Jump Box or a Strongman Tire. Regardless of what you land on (object or ground), make sure that you absorb the force throughout the body. The contact of your feet when you land should be nearly inaudible. This forces you to absorb the force, causing you to work harder and not get sloppy.
This is also a powerful movement, so keep the reps low, 4 to 8 per set. Do 3 to 5 sets, depending on your current conditioning and strength levels. Because you are jumping up and carefully stepping down, this should not be too hard on the knees.
Med Ball Sled Drags
Attach a Flex Band to a Sled Drag and then loop it around the Med Ball. Grip the ball with both hands and proceed to pull the set-up backward. This can be done by keeping the arms out-stretched and then walking backwards against the tension or by performing a row with the ball after striding. This movement is particularly good for developing the grip, especially if you have a large med ball and you load the sled up fairly heavily.
Aim for a given distance on this movement, at least 60 feet and up to 100 or more. While this movement works the full body, it is also very hard on the grip, which is a must when training to be fully athletic. Go for 4 lengths over the course you decide with minimal rest between sets in order to trigger a substantial metabolic effect.
Med Ball Tornado Ball
The Tornado Ball is a conditioning tool that is sold on the fitness and strength market, but they are easy to make by slipping a med ball into a duffel bag. To perform this drill, stand near a solid wall and explosively sling the ball back and forth against the wall. Effort should be made to brace with the core, resisting movement from the recoil of the ball while continuing to sling the ball side to side.
We’re looking for speed here. Set up a timer or have a partner watch a clock for you. Shoot for at least 30 seconds per set and do 3 to 5 sets. This one will get you breathing hard and is tough on the core, so make sure to do this exercise towards the end of your workout.
Med Ball Leg Lift
Tuck the med ball between the knees and grip a pull-up bar. Hang from the bar and bring the knees up to the chest area under control. This one is great for an abdominal finisher at the end of a hard workout.
Shoot for a serious burn with this one. The weight is light, so 12 to 20 reps per set should not be out of the question. Do 2 to 4 sets here and try to keep the rest to 30 seconds or less.
Med Ball Overhead Floor Slam
Take an athletic stance and lean slightly forward. Bring the med ball up over the head, engaging a stretch in the lats and core, then fire the med ball down to the floor as hard as possible, being careful not to have it bounce back up in your face. This movement is great for creating explosive power with the front of the body, balancing out against some of the other explosive movements we do throwing the ball behind us.
This is an explosive and powerful movement, so go until you lose power here. This could be up to 20 reps. You will really be breathing hard. You may need longer rest here (1 minute) because more muscles are involved. Do 2 to 4 sets.
Med Ball Glute Ham Floor Slam
If you have a Reverse Hyper or Glute Ham bench, it can be used for an interesting variation on the overhead slam. Get in position on the machine with your core elevated about 45 degrees. From here, perform Overhead Slams onto the floor. This one will really hit the core hard, especially the glutes and lower back. This can also be done with Shoulder Toss mechanics.
This lift is much harder on the lower back, so the reps will most likely be lower here, 6 to 10 reps. Go for 2 to 4 sets and take your time between sets.
Med Ball Mini-Tramp Bounces
A med ball and mini-trampoline make for a fun and challenging core workout. Place both hands on the med ball and start out in the lock-out position of a Med Ball Push-up with the ball on top of a mini-trampoline. From there, begin bouncing up and down. Get ready for a dynamic core, grip strength and shoulder workout!
This one is TOUGH, especially if your med ball’s tread is worn off, so be careful. Shoot for 6 reps, but you may be able to do more. Go for 4 sets, making sure you have recovered enough between sets to be ready to go on each subsequent set.
You have probably not seen many of these exercises, but they are great additions to add to your training in order to increase your athleticism. For more innovative strength training ideas, check out DieselCrew.com. Our site is loaded with tons of information on muscle building, strength training, conditioning, and other cool training topics. We’d love to have you visit our strength training blog.
Last updated: May 9, 2016