The Medicine Ball Workout: Old School Strength That Works

Westend61/Getty Images
 Westend61/Getty Images

A simple medicine ball is all you need to get a killer core workout without machines or extra gear. It’s also the perfect tool for a spartan home workout or busy gym with limited equipment. Here are 10 strength moves that will tone your core and work your entire body. You can add a few favorites to your strength routine, or string them together for a complete medicine ball workout.

Med Ball Slams
Grab a mat, and stand over it. With your medicine ball, fully extend on to your tiptoes and reach up as high as possible. Throw the ball down to the mat at full speed, using your core to add force. The mat should be thick enough to dull the bounce of the ball. Repeat for sets of 15–20 slams. [Video]

Backward Throws
This one should be done outdoors. Using an open field, hold your medicine ball with an underhand grip, between the legs. Squat down as low as possible, and launch the ball behind you, aiming for as much height and distance as possible. This fires your entire posterior chain and core. To make a conditioning exercise out of it, run after the ball once you’ve thrown it, pick it up, and throw it back. Perform sets of 8–10 throws. [Video]

Wall Oblique Side Throws
Take a half-kneeling stance beside a wall, with the leg that’s up kept closest to the wall. Hold your medicine ball with an underhand grip and throw it hard against the wall, using your core to rotate. You should be kneeling close enough to catch the ball off the wall without it bouncing on the ground first. As soon as you catch it, rotate into your next rep. Stay tight and avoid moving the hips or losing balance. Aim for sets of 12–15 throws. [Video]

Mountain Climber
Plant the ball on the ground and assume a push-up start position with the hands placed on the ball. Keeping the hips in line (don’t let them rise or sag), bring one knee toward the chest and alternate legs under control. Once you get better at this, increase the tempo to a running speed with good form. Start with 20-second sets. [Video]

Supine Leg Raise
Lie on your back with the med ball on the ground behind your head. Reach up and secure your hands on the ball. Remove any space from under the lower back and keep the knees bent. Slowly raise the legs and curl the knees up to the chest without letting your back arch. Your lower abs should work hard to make this happen. Return to the start position slowly and repeat for sets of 12–15 reps.

Sit-Up Wall Toss
Lie on your back in front of a wall, bend the knees, plant the feet, and spread them apart by around two feet. Hold the ball on the ground behind your head, and in one motion, sit up while throwing the ball overhead to the wall. Be in a position to catch it after a bounce upon return. Slowly descend and repeat for sets of 10–15 reps. Be warned: This is not a move for beginners. [Video]

Weighted Superman
Lie prone on your stomach with the ball on the ground at full arm’s length above your head. Squeeze everything on the rear side of your body to raise your arms (with the ball) and legs as far off the ground as possible. If you can get your chest off the ground too, you’re a rockstar. Hold this position for a full second, and return to the start position. Repeat for sets of 15 reps. [Video]

Single Leg Squat
Not everyone can do a one-legged squat (also called a pistol squat), but the counterbalance of a ball in front of you can help your cause. Hold your medicine ball out at arm’s length as you sit back, and you’ll notice you can get deeper than before. If you still struggle, add a target by lightly sitting to a bench. Keep your heel down the entire time. [Video]

Thoracic Rotation
This is a mobility exercise, but it’s an important one. Lie on your side, and bring the top knee out to a 90-degree angle to trap the ball on the ground. While maintaining this pressure, twist with your torso using the upper back, and reach for the ground on the opposing side with your top arm. Make sure the head and eyes follow your hand. Exhale during each rep and allow it to open you up. It’s especially helpful for golfers. [Video]

Dead Bugs
Lie flat on your back and remove all space from under the spine. Hold the ball overhead, about one foot above the floor with straight arms. While maintaining this position, perform slow running strides with the feet, aiming for a full extension with each leg. Doing this in slow motion should make the abs go crazy. This will help force transfers from lower to upper body. [Video]