Forget about weights. If you’re serious about ratcheting up your workout, you need a medicine ball. Unlike traditional dumbbells and barbells, which tend to hit individual muscles, these weighted spheres force you to engage during an entire range of motion, ensuring that none of your muscles get an easy pass. “When you work with a medicine ball, your body has to control this oddly shaped object,” says Detric Smith, a strength and conditioning coach in Williamsburg, VA. Trying to manage a ball will keep your muscles guessing and amp up calorie burn to help you push past plateaus. Plus, medicine balls are versatile. You can lift them overhead, chuck them against a wall, add them to your pushup and lunge routines, and more. Medicine balls date back some 3,000 years, but these moves prove they’re still a vital tool to help you build serious strength.
This intense total-body routine designed by Smith consists of two parts: a five-move circuit and a three-move finisher. Together, they hit all your major muscle groups—legs, glutes, chest, back, and shoulders—in a big way. The routines require that you brace your abs, obliques, and the stabilizing muscles of your spine and hips to generate the force necessary to throw the medicine ball and maintain proper form—so expect an extra challenge to your core, especially during the throwing or slamming exercises.