Want a total-body workout that will let you build power while becoming a better all-around athlete— without spending thousands of dollars on fancy equipment?
Get yourself a medicine ball.
These weighted balls don't look like anything special, but don't be fooled.
"Medicine balls can turn a regular exercise move into something way more intense," says Chicago fitness coach Stephanie Rountree. "They throw your body off balance, so your core has to engage to stabilize and keep you in place."
When shopping for a medicine ball, look for one that's heavy enough to provide resistance without compromising control. (Size does not always correlate with weight; small models can be quite heavy.)
According to the American Council on Exercise, most people should start with a ball weighing between 4 and 15 pounds.
What makes a medicine ball so useful?
In many fitness activities (running, for example) your body is moving in just one plane (forward, in the case of running).
On the other hand, working with a medicine ball allows your body to move in different planes, especially twisting, or transverse, motions.
Ball workouts build power by allowing for explosive movement, and they can work different muscles depending on how you set your feet (parallel versus staggered) and how you hold the ball (on each side, one hand back with the other on the side, etc.).
This lets you pack a lot of different exercises into one piece of equipment, making the medicine ball perfect for your home gym.
Make sure you're in shape for this work, with no back or joint issues and a relatively strong core as well as decent baseline fitness. And if you're going to throw the ball, make sure the wall and floor are built to take the punishment (and that you won't drive housemates or neighbors crazy).
A Medicine Ball Beginner's Workout
This workout will give you a sense of the motions working with a ball entails. (Here's a bonus: The slam will let you release frustration!)
2. Grip a medicine ball in both hands and raise it overhead; hold for 30 seconds.
3. While continuing to balance on your left foot, move the ball to your left hand and hold for 30 seconds; move to your right hand and hold another 30 seconds.
4. Repeat the sequence, this time standing on your right leg.
5. Repeat sequence two additional times on each leg.
2. Squat by dropping your hips until they're parallel with your knees; keep your chest up, your weight in your heels and your knees behind your toes.
3. While moving down, engage your core and push the ball out in front of you.
4. Push back up, bringing the ball back to your chest.
5. Repeat three times.
2. Engage your core and raise the ball overhead (don't go into a backbend); you should feel a stretch in your abdominal muscles.
3. Slam the ball as hard as you can onto the floor, going into a squat as you do so.
4. Retrieve the ball and repeat for 3 minutes, 20 seconds of motion with 40 seconds of rest.
A Rotational Medicine Ball Workout
Spend a lot of your time hitting a baseball or tennis ball, or driving a golf ball? Work the medicine ball first to level up your game.
2. Extend your arms and bring the ball up over your right shoulder.
3. Breath in; as you exhale, bring the ball across your body in an explosive chopping motion toward your left knee (hips and torso should rotate).
4. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds.
5. Switch so that the ball starts over your right shoulder, and repeat.
2. Step forward into a lunge with your right foot, without letting your knee travel past the foot, and push the ball forward.
3. Keeping your arms extended, twist to the right. Twist repeatedly for 20 seconds.
4. Return to the starting position, then repeat with a left-footed lunge.
5. Do three sets with each leg.
2. Twist away from the wall, then twist explosively toward the wall while slamming the ball into the wall.
3. Retrieve the ball and repeat with your right shoulder towards the wall.
4. Repeat for five minutes, changing sides each time.
A Floor-Based Medicine Ball Workout
Does your normal fitness routine include a lot of floor work? Here's how to incorporate the medicine ball into what you're already doing.
2. Engage your core, then twist the ball to your left hip, keeping your body centered, before twisting back to the right.
3. Repeat for 10 reps per side.
2. Slowly bend your elbows to lower yourself down, then raise yourself back up to start position. Do this for 35 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest.
3. Repeat on the other side.
2. Engage your core, then raise your upper body and legs up off the floor as high as you can; keep your neck neutral.
3. Pause for a moment, then return to the start position.
4. Do three sets of seven reps.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.