10-Minute Beginner Medicine Ball Workout

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You can almost always find medicine balls laying around at the gym, but not everyone knows how to use them. Contrary to popular belief, medicine balls are good for more than throwing against walls, and slamming down on the floor. In fact, they’re a great way to turn up the heat on any traditional strength training exercise—without them even needing to leave your hands.

Medicine ball training will challenge your core strength and stability, while still working muscle strength of your entire body. The weight of the ball can be used in a traditional way to increase the intensity of a strength exercise (i.e. holding a med ball at your chest for a squat) or put the ball in motion with nearly any exercise to simultaneously add weight and double as a core blasting movement (i.e. holding the ball away from your chest with straight arms and moving it right and left as you squat). By throwing the ball, or following through and releasing it at the end of the range of motion like you do in medicine ball slams, you’re able to develop explosive power, balance, and force—something you couldn’t achieve with dumbbells or kettlebells. Another benefit of medicine balls is that they’re perfect for all fitness levels, and can be done with or without a personal trainer. If you’re new to using them, aim for movements (like the ones below) that allow the ball to stay stationary in your hands so that you can work on good form before you get to any throwing or slamming.

Ready to give it a try? All you’ll need is a medicine ball, some space, and 10 minutes! Perform as many reps of each exercise for 60 seconds as you can and, with minimal rest (15 seconds to be exact), move to the next exercise. You can repeat all of the exercises one time through for a quick 10-minute burst, or repeat the circuit three times total for a 30-minute full-body workout. But first…

How do you know what type of medicine ball to use?

And should it be a lightweight medicine ball or a heavy one? Great questions, we thought you’d never ask! 😉 Each type of medicine ball is created for a specific purpose, and can vary in different weights and sizes; there are: slam balls, wall balls, and normal weighted balls. So before you go balls to the walls (literally), we’re going to break down all of the information you need to know:

  • Slam Balls: designed mostly for throwing or partner passing exercises, such as medicine ball slams or partner chest passes. The inside is filled with sand or gel, and is covered by a thick, rubbery shell that softens the impact when slammed so that it doesn’t bounce or break open.
  • Wall Balls: used for gaining explosive power through throwing movements, and should only be thrown at the wall—hence its name. These balls are typically covered in leather, with thick, double stitching on one side. They’re also the largest of the three balls.
  • Medicine Balls: there are a variety of different types of medicine balls, but most are covered in either leather, vinyl, or rubber. Their size usually depends on weight, as lightweight medicine balls will be smaller, and heavier medicine balls will be larger. Medicine balls should not be slammed, as they are sometimes hollow and can bounce back or break open.

That answers what type of ball to use, but not what weight you should use. For the most part, it will depend on certain information, such as the movements being performed and the amount of reps, but as a rule of thumb, beginners will use a ball that is 2–6 pounds, and an intermediate will use one that is 6–12 pounds, and those who are advanced can use up to 20 pound balls. Aim for picking a weight that makes the movement challenging, but doesn’t ruin the movement all together; it’s better to pick a lightweight medicine ball and have good form and explosive power over a heavy one that makes you slow and compromises form.

Now that you have an idea on what type and size ball to use, let’s get started.

Beginner Medicine Ball Workout

Squat Push-Press with Medicine Ball

Target: Strengthens legs, quads, glutes, arms, shoulders, and obliques.

Tips: Be sure to keep weight in the heels while in squat position and elbows soft when extending the ball overhead.

  1. Get into starting position (similar to squat position), with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the ball out in front of your chest.
  2. Squat down, keeping the ball in front of your chest.
  3. As you return to standing position, press the ball overhead, finishing the move by looking up at the ball and fully extending your hips forward.
  4. Return to starting position, and bring the ball back in front of your chest.

Figure 8

Target: Strengthens arms, shoulders, and obliques.

Tips: The closer your feet are together, the tougher the core challenge. You could even try this on one leg to work on your balance. Don’t let the ball drop below your belly button.

  1. Bring your feet shoulder-width apart, or for more of a challenge, put your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hold the ball out in front of you, with one hand on each side of the ball.
  3. Keep your shoulders back and your upper body upright, as you draw an imaginary “Figure 8” in front of you. (Note: the 8 will be sideways and look like an infinity sign.)
  4. After 30 seconds, go the opposite direction so you aren’t going the same way the entire time.

Medicine Ball Circle Squat

Target: Strengthens arms, shoulders, and obliques.

Tips: Be sure to keep weight in the heels during the squat and, as best you can, keep your knees forward as you move the ball towards the floor. Touching the floor is not mandatory, so reach as far towards the ground as possible. Lengthen the spine as you reach for the ground; avoid rounding the back.

  1. For starting position, bring your feet to shoulder-width apart. Get into squat position, and squat down while holding the ball on the outside of your right foot.
  2. As you stand up, keep the ball on the right side of your body, bringing the ball overhead.
  3. Without pausing at the top, squat down and lower the ball from your left shoulder, down your body, to your left foot. You should have just created a smooth, rainbow-shaped arch.
  4. Squat back up bringing the ball back over your left shoulder, overhead and to the right.

Half Kneeling Lift (Hay Bailer)

Target: Strengthens arms, shoulders, and obliques.

Tips: Keep in mind, the more the arms are extended, the harder the move.

  1. Get into a lunge position, but rest your left knee on the ground and lay your left foot toes-down on the ground (your right knee should be at a 90 degree angle with your right foot flat on the floor).
  2. Hold the ball with both arms extended straight at the hip of your left leg.
  3. Twist and bring the ball out and across your body to your right shoulder; this should make a straight line diagonally from your left knee to the space in front of your right shoulder. Bring the ball back down to your left leg.
  4. Repeat for 30 seconds, and then switch sides so that your right knee is down on the ground for the remaining reps.

Triceps Extension

Target: Strengthens the back of the arm (triceps).

Tips: You could also perform the move seated on a chair or a stability ball.

  1. Stand, or sit, with your feet hip-width apart. Hold the medicine ball out to the side in your right hand.
  2. Raise your right hand and arm overhead, as you transfer the ball to your left hand.
  3. Slowly lower your left hand and arm down to your side, just opposite of starting position.
  4. Repeat by bringing raising your left hand back up to meet your right hand overhead.

Lunge With Twist

Target:  Lower half (legs, quads, glutes, hips), core, obliques.

Tips: You can also perform the twist with walking lunges. In the lunge, be sure to keep weight in the heel of the front foot to protect the knee. Keep in mind, the longer the arms reach, the tougher the move.

  1. Bring your feet to hip-width apart and hold the ball out in front of you.
  2. Step into a lunge with your right leg, and twist the ball to the left. Return the ball back to the center and step back to starting position.
  3. Next, switch sides by stepping your left leg forward and twisting to the right. You should aim to get equal reps on both legs.

Medicine Ball Plank

Target:  Core strength.

Tips: The plank could be performed with feet together, wide for a bit more stability, or on your knees. Some may find this uncomfortable to have the hands so close together; don’t force this exercise if it becomes uncomfortable in the shoulders.

  1. Put both hands on the medicine ball, so that the inside of your wrists are nearly touching and your fingers are facing away from each other. The ball should be aligned directly under your shoulder blades.
  2. Reach back your right leg, followed by your left leg, and step up onto your toes. Your legs should be completely straight, along with your entire body.
  3. For this exercise, there is no such thing as “reps.” If you can, try to make it the entire 60 seconds; otherwise, hold it for any many seconds as you can.

Seated Medicine Ball Trunk Rotations

Target: Core, obliques.

Tips: The closer towards your body your arms are, the easier the exercise. To increase the challenge try touching the ball to the floor on the outside of the hip or leaning back slightly to put tension on the abdominal wall. You could also try to lift one or both legs.

  1. Sit back on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Your knees should be slightly bent.
  2. Hold the medicine ball out in front of your chest, and lean back to create a 45-degree angle with the floor.
  3. Bring the ball over your right leg, and twist your torso to bring it back across your body and to the left. Repeat!

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