Medicine balls are one of those things I avoid at the gym (right along with the assault bike and rowing machine) because they’re intimidating to me. For weights, I always grab dumbbells, and I upgrade my ab workouts with a resistance band. But try as I might to avoid them, medicine balls are a pretty good way to up your strength-training game, so I went straight to the source for how to incorporate them into my workout.
“Medicine balls are useful because they don’t take up much space, but they pack a big wallop when it comes to their usage potential,” says trainer Josh Cox from Anytime Fitness. “Like kettlebells, the sheer volume of exercises you can do can be overwhelming.” He actually calls the medicine ball the “Swiss army knife” of exercise tools. I’m intrigued.
I never see other people using at the gym either, though. “It may be the most simple and efficient [tool], but all the other stuff is way more pretty, intricate, and enticing,” he says. But medicine balls combine the perk of added weight with stability and balance, which make for a well-rounded workout enhancement. Curious how to work with the thing? Keep scrolling for Cox’s favorite medicine ball exercises, which are no joke.
Try this 10-move medicine ball workout for a full-body burn
1. Bicycle kicks: Take a V-sit position with your feet off the ground. Take your medicine ball and pass it underneath your leg by bringing your knee towards your chest. Repeat on the other side in a figure-eight formation. Do 10 to 30 reps, and each leg equals one rep.
2. Balance burpee: Start standing with your medicine ball before bringing it to the floor, using the ball to balance and jumping back with your legs into a plank position momentarily. Jump back towards the ball then jump straight upward before repeating the whole process. If the jump is too hard on any joints, tendons, or ligaments then go through the same motions only with a step instead of a jump. Do 10 to 20 reps.
3. Wall-sit cabbage patches: Choose your medicine ball weight, find a blank space of wall, and get into a wall-sit position. Hold your medicine ball out with your arms straight and circle it out in front of you as wide as you can (looks like the cabbage patch dance!). Do 10 circles in each direction.
4. V-sit single arm balance presses: Revisit the V-sit position and hold a medicine ball in one hand in preparation to shoulder press it. Have your free arm extended all the way out to work as a counterbalance while working your core more. Balance the medicine ball in your hand and press all the way up. Bring it back down while keeping it balanced. Do 10 to 15 on each side.
5. Atlas chops: Maintain the V-sit pose and bring the medicine ball to the back of your neck with arms bent at the elbow. Bring the ball back in front of you and all the way down to your hip, with arms bent. Do 10 to 30 on each side.
6. Lateral lunges with butterfly elbows: Take a wide stance position while holding your medicine ball against your chest. Lateral lunge all the way to one side while keeping the heel flat on the anchor leg. As you lean into the leg stretch, flare your elbows all the way up to parallel with your shoulders while keeping hold of the medicine ball. As you come back up, switch to the other side with your legs and bring your elbows down. Do 10 to 20 on each side.
7. Isometric lunge orbits: Get into a lunge position with your medicine ball, lunge downward, and hold at the bottom. Your front leg should be at a 90-degree angle, which is perfect for you to pass the ball around your thigh, going under and over the leg. Do 10 to 20 on one side, then switch legs.
8. Kneeling Bosu ball bounces: Take a kneeling position on a Bosu ball with the round side up and your weighted ball of choice. If you can, keep your feet off the ground. Bounce the ball hard enough to bounce back up to head height and catch it. Repeat as fast as you can while doing your best not to lose control of the ball. Do 10 to 30 reps.
9. Quadominal extensions: Lie on your back and place your medicine ball between your feet. Squeeze the ball between your feet and lift your legs up, maintaining a 90-degree angle at the knee and keeping your knees above your hips. Holding this position, extend your legs all the way up while holding the ball. The goal is to lock your knees out. Return the ball back down without letting your knees sway from staying over your knees. Do 10 to 15 reps.
10. Back extension pass: Lie down on your stomach with your medicine ball arms-length away from your head. You can elevate feet to get an enhanced glute and lower back squeeze but keep your feet down on the ground if the strain is too much. Roll the ball from one side of your body to the other doing your best not to let your arms drop until your reps have been done. Do 10 to 20 reps.
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