Jan 3, 2019
Medicine ball exercises for athletes at every skill level

It can be easy to overlook, but the medicine ball is an effective, versatile training tool. All types of athletes can benefit from incorporating medicine ball exercises into their training, as they can help strengthen a variety of areas, from the shoulders to the core to the hips, glutes and legs. Nick Harris-Fry of CoachMag.com and personal trainer Leon Scott provide a rundown of the best medicine ball exercises for each training level.

Beginner medicine ball exercises

→ Medicine ball squat. This targets the legs and core. Stand with legs hip-width apart and toes facing forwards. Hold a medicine ball by the middle of your chest, pressing your hands into either side of the ball. Keep the ball in place as you hinge at your hips to lower into a squat. Aim to get your thighs parallel to the floor. Straighten your legs to stand back up and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.

→ Lunge with twist. This targets the legs, glutes, hips, core, and obliques. Stand holding a medicine ball in front of you at chest height. Step forwards with your right foot into a lunge, lowering until both knees are bent at 90 degrees while rotating your torso to the right. Reverse the movement, then repeat on the other side. During the lunge, keep weight in the heel of your foot to protect your knees. For an added challenge, you can hold the ball out further in front of your chest.

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→ Medicine ball plank. This targets the core. Kneel on the floor with a medicine ball in front of you. Put your hands on the ball and push up until your arms are straight, with your body forming a straight line from shoulders to feet. Hold the position. Because you’re supporting yourself on the unstable medicine ball your core is forced to work harder to keep your body stable. Athletes can start on their knees and build up from there, or put their feet wider apart if it’s too difficult to plank with their feet together.

Intermediate exercises

→ Medicine ball thruster. This targets the legs, glutes, arms, shoulders, and obliques. Stand holding a medicine ball against your chest. Drop into a squat, then push back up and extend your arms to press the ball overhead. Bring the ball back down to your chest and repeat. Keep the weight on your heels when squatting.

→ Torso twist. This targets the core and obliques. Stand with your legs hip-width apart, toes facing forwards, with a slight bend in the knees. Hold a medicine ball in the middle of your chest and press your hands into the sides of the ball. Keeping your hips still and facing forward, twist just your torso left and right at a moderate-to-fast pace.

→ Lateral reach pull. This provides a full body workout. Stand with your legs hip-width apart and toes facing forwards. Hold a medicine ball in your hands and extend your arms up and to the right so the ball is above and in front of your right shoulder. Then move your left leg diagonally behind your body to create one long line from the medicine ball to left ankle. Lower the medicine ball to your chest while raising your left knee to meet the ball. Then extend the ball and leg back to the diagonal. After completing the reps on one side, repeat on the other.

Advanced exercises

→ Alternating-arm medicine ball press-up. This works the chest, triceps, shoulders, and core. Get into a press-up position with your right hand on the ball. Lower your chest towards the floor and then push up and to the right, bringing your left hand onto the ball and swiftly moving your right hand onto the floor in one fluid motion. Reverse the direction for the next rep and keep alternating back and forth. You can make this even harder by performing the press-ups explosively so your hand rises off the ball and you switch hands in mid-air before going into the next press-up.

→ Medicine ball slam. This targets the shoulders and core. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the medicine ball at arm’s length in front of you. Brace your core and raise the ball overhead until you feel a stretch in your abs, but don’t bend backwards. Slam the ball as hard as you can into the floor, drop down into a squat and catch the medicine ball on the rebound.

→ Burpee thruster. This provides a full body workout. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a medicine ball on the floor in front of you. Squat down and place your hands on the ball. Then jump your feet back to land in the top of a press-up position, balancing on the ball with your hands. Jump your feet forwards again, stand up, and press the ball overhead. You can add a jump at the top for a greater cardio challenge.


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