I love using medicine balls. Well, really, I like playing with all fitness toys — variety is key when it comes to keeping a workout fun and challenging. Medicine balls are a particular favourite “toy” because they are extremely versatile — they can replace dumbbells, make traditional exercises more dynamic, allow for partner fun, and add a balance challenge.
Four Ways to Use a Medicine Ball
1. As a dumbbell
The most basic use for a medicine ball is as a replacement for dumbbells. Instead of holding dumbbells as you do exercises like squats or lunges, hold the medicine ball.
Try the squat medicine ball press: Start standing, feet hip distance apart, holding a medicine ball at your chest. Bend at your ankles, knees, and hips — as if you were sitting backward into a chair. As you sit press the ball out in front of you. Engage your bum and core to stand up while you simultaneously bring the ball back into your chest. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
For your core, try the V sit and rotation: Sit on the floor holding a medicine ball at your chest. Lean backward slightly — make sure to keep your chest out, back flat, and core engaged. Hold this position with your core and rotate the medicine ball side to side for 10 to 20 reps. To make it harder, lift your feet off of the floor.
2. To make traditional exercises more dynamic
You can also use a medicine ball to add a reactive element to traditional exercises. This dynamic element is particularly useful for anyone who plays sports that involve a high degree of reactivity, such as basketball or tennis. Try playing catch with yourself while holding a V sit or as you do squats and lunges.
V sit catch: Hold a medicine ball at your chest, sit on a mat and lean back 10 degrees. Hold your back flat, with your abs engaged. Throw and catch the ball 10 to 20 times. To make it harder, lift one or both legs or hold a heavier medicine ball.
Squats and wall balls: Stand facing a wall holding a medicine ball at your chest. As you squat throw the ball against the wall. Catch it as you stand up.
3. With a partner
I love partner-based medicine ball workouts. Training with a friend makes the workout more fun, adds an element of friendly competition, and ensures I actually show up to my workout — I would never leave a friend hanging.
Try the plank medicine ball roll: Both partners start in a plank position, on hands and toes. Face away from each other, feet touching. Partner A has the medicine ball under their right hand, then rolls the ball under both partners so that partner B has to stop the medicine ball with their hand. Partner B then rolls the ball back to Partner A. Keep your hips still and continue to roll the ball back and forth for 20 to 60 seconds.
Other great partner exercises are the V sit partner toss and standing single-leg toss.
V sit partner toss: Face your partner in the V sit position outlined above and toss the ball back and forth.
Standing single-leg toss: Stand on one leg facing your partner and throw the medicine ball back and forth.
4. To add a balance challenge
The medicine ball can also be used to create a more unstable environment for floor exercises like push-ups and planks. This element is particularly useful for anyone who participates in sports that take place on an unstable surface, such as paddleboarding or surfing.
Try doing a push-up with one hand on the medicine ball and one hand on the floor. Or try a plank with both hands on one medicine ball.