One of the oldest pieces of exercise equipment still in use, the medicine ball is great for a full-body workout for gym rats or people who are satisfied with the odd workout every now and then. Famed physician and originator of the Hippocratic oath Hippocrates is rumored to have used objects similar to the medicine ball for some of his physical fitness routines in the 4th or 5th century B.C. In its long history, the medicine ball has been put to great use in countless exercises.
Medicine ball workouts are the best way for beginners to break into fitness. Because they are so versatile, med balls are very popular for gym rats and enthusiasts of every skill level. They allow users to make bodyweight exercises even more challenging and therefore effective at building muscle. By holding the ball overhead or in an outstretched arm, you can engage the muscles that your body uses to balance. Targeting these muscle systems with medicine ball workouts is wise because there are few exercises tailored to build strength in the stabilizing muscles.
Beginning any kind of fitness training can be intimidating and medicine ball training is no exception. We’ve put together this guide of the best medicine ball exercises to help newcomers design a routine that suits their individual tastes and fitness goals. Beginners who want to add weighted ball exercise to their fitness routine can use this thorough rundown to design a medicine ball workout of their own.
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Safety During a Medicine Ball Workout
Understanding how to use a medicine ball begins with knowing a few things that you shouldn’t do with one. Although many med balls are similar in size to soccer balls, anyone who tries to kick one will only end up with sore or possibly broken toes. They also should now be thrown on the ground since they tend to bounce and can also be damaged that way.
Pay attention to your body when you use a med ball. If you feel pain with certain movements, stop it immediately. Beyond the normal feeling of stretching muscles, a med ball shouldn’t be causing pain. Posture is also important. Since a typical medicine ball workout involves rotational movement, make sure your spine and joints aren’t accidentally overextended. Injuries sustained by overextending could delay or ruin a workout routine for weeks.
Make sure you have enough area around you to perform your routine. If you’re truly a beginner, consider getting a friend or a personal trainer who can act as a spotter and help make sure you are performing the exercise correctly without injuring yourself.
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What Size Medicine Ball Should Beginners Use?
Many people become a bit over-excited when they begin their fitness routine. Men in particular are very likely to overestimate their existing strength and select a med ball that’s too heavy. Over-exerting oneself during a weighted ball exercise can lead to torn muscles and damaged ego, both of which might take some time to recover from.
To avoid this, start with a small and lightweight med ball. Even if it’s too light to cause you much strain, it will still help you get used to including a med ball in your fitness routine. You can always graduate to heavier and larger med balls later on. That will help create benchmarks in your fitness routine and mark progress in your muscle gains and weight management.
Also bear in mind that not every medicine ball workout for beginners will call for the same size medicine ball. The ball might feel light when it’s in front of your chest, but holding the ball overhead or straight out at chest level will definitely cause more strain. If the ball feels too light, try holding the medicine ball overhead or out at a distance.
12 Best Medicine Ball Workouts for Beginners
There are tons of ways to use a medicine ball to pump up your workout routine and keep your heart rate elevated. Here are some of the classic workouts and a few that have been developed more recently. Mix in a few of them and you’re sure to see results in no time.
1. Shoulder Press
This easy med ball workout is perfect for a warm-up. It’s really easy to do but it still helps to build strength in various muscle groups of the upper body.
To get into the starting position, all you need to do is stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold the med ball in front of your chest and slowly lift the ball overhead until your right and left arms are fully extended. Return to the starting position. Repeat for 15 – 20 reps.
Although this might not seem very intense, it wakes up your upper body in preparation for more rigorous exercises to come. To make it more challenging, use a heavier med ball.
2. Biceps Curl
Just like you would do with dumbbells or a kettlebell, you can perform a biceps curl with a medicine ball. It’s another great exercise to add to your warm-up routine.
The starting position is simple: with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold the medicine ball in front of your chest with both your left and right hands. Lower it until your arms are fully extended, then bring it back up in front of your chest again. Repeat 10 – 15 times.
3. Med Ball Push-Ups
Add some extra strain to your push-ups by propping yourself up on a med ball. It takes a bit more balance and will work upper body muscle groups in the chest, shoulders, and arms.
The starting position is exactly the same as a standard push-up position except both of your palms should be on the med ball. Continue lowering yourself as you would in a normal push-up until the med ball is almost touching the front of your chest. Repeat as many reps as you can. This is another great warm-up medicine ball workout for beginners.
4. Ab Jackknife
A twist on classic sit-ups, the Ab Jackknife is a fine warm-up medicine ball exercise but it can also be used to work the muscles in your abdomen during the normal routine. Rather than coming all the way up from the starting position, this exercise requires you to lift your head and feet simultaneously, causing your body to form the shape of a V.
The starting position is the same as in regular sit-ups except your legs will be fully outstretched. Hold the med ball overhead in both hands. As you lift your head and legs, make sure your body stays aligned. Imagine a straight line going from the med ball all the way through your head and neck to your feet.
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5. Crunch With a Med Ball
Another variant of the classic sit-up, this medicine ball workout for beginners will target the muscles in your lower abdomen as well. Anyone who has tried a sit-up with their legs elevated knows that it engages many more of the core muscles and abs. This stretch is also commonly called a med ball toe touch.
The starting position is the same as a sit-up but both legs should be raised so that the left and right feet are up in the air. Your legs should be straight. Hold the medicine ball overhead. Lift it toward your shins until it’s almost touching, then lower back into the starting position.
You can also do a variant of this exercise that’s more like a sit-up by raising your entire upper body along with the medicine ball.
6. Standing Hay Bailer
Incorporating slightly more movement than the previous warm-up exercises, the standing hay bailer is a great way to work out your ab muscles.
To get into the starting position, stand with your feet hip-width apart and then a step forward with either your left leg or your right leg. It should be about the same distance you would take to prepare for a lunge, which is to say slightly longer than your normal tread distance.
Hold the med ball in front of the hip of the leg that is in the rear position. Bring it up, passing in front of your chest, until it is on the opposite shoulder. It’s very important to keep both the left arm and right arm straight throughout the duration of this weighted ball exercise.
7. Chest Fly
To complete this medicine ball workout, you also need a stability ball. In the starting position, you’ll be lying on your back on top of the stability ball, which will engage your balance and build strength in your upper body and your abs.
The starting position for the chest fly requires you to have your shoulder blades on the stability ball. Both your right and left knee should be bent at ninety degrees.
Once you’re lying on the stability ball, take a med ball in either your right hand or your left hand. Bring your hands together, pass the med ball to the opposite hand, and then separate your hands until they are once again parallel to the ground.
If you don’t have a stability ball, a classic chest fly is done lying down on a bench.
8. Med Ball Squat Toss
This medicine ball workout takes a little getting used to, but it’s one of the best plyometric exercises you can do with a med ball. It works the entire body and it will definitely keep your heart rate up while it helps build muscle.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. The med ball should be held in front of your chest with both hands. Lower yourself into a squat position. Stand back up with an explosive movement and toss the ball straight overhead. Try to catch it in front of your chest.
If you have a workout partner, you can turn this medicine ball workout into a tossing game.
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9. Medicine Ball Slam
The medicine ball slam is an exhausting plyometric weighted ball exercise. To do it properly, you need tons of empty space around you and a med ball that can handle hitting the ground repeatedly. It needs just enough bounce to get back to you but not so much that it bounces away.
This exercise will work out your entire body and increase your agility. To get into the starting position, your feet should be hip-width apart. Hold the med ball with both hands in front of your chest. Squat down and then inhale before exploding upward. As your legs straighten, lift the ball overhead. Your body should form a straight line.
As your body lands, slam the med ball down on the ground. Use your knees and hips to put some power into it. Return to the squat position to pick up the ball, then shoot right back up into the next rep.
10. Med Ball Superman
This is a great medicine ball workout for beginners who are already familiar with planking. All you need to do is get into the plank position and hold the medicine ball overhead with both hands. Lift into the plank with your arms fully outstretched and holding the med ball up off the ground.
11. Med Ball Mountain Climbers
There are tons of variations on the mountain climber, but the basic med ball version is pretty simple. Start in a pushup position with both palms on the med ball. It should be roughly in front of your chest on the ground. Both arms should be straight and beneath your shoulders.
With your core engaged, lift one leg off the floor and raise that knee until it is in front of your chest. Your body should remain in a straight line throughout the exercise. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.
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12. Romanian Deadlift with Med Ball
In this medicine ball workout, you’ll be picking up the med ball and placing it back on the ground, alternating with each rep. The movement may sound complicated but it’s actually quite straightforward.
In the starting position, your feet should be hip-width apart. Raise your right leg until the knee is bent at ninety degrees. Bring it back to the starting position, but continue moving it behind you until it is stretched out completely. Your body should be in a straight line except for the supporting leg.
Once you’re in this position, reach down and pick the med ball up off the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other leg, putting the med ball down at the point where you previously picked it up.
A great medicine ball workout for beginners should be simple and still include cardio and plyometric elements to keep the heart rate elevated throughout. A med ball makes it really easy to get a total body workout because you can put your body slightly off balance and target muscles that normal workouts tend to ignore.
There are plenty of ways to stretch important stabilizing muscles like the hamstrings, but a med ball will allow you to multitask during workouts that are aimed at building muscles elsewhere in the body. In addition to improving balance, a med ball can also help add plyometric elements to a workout routine. Dumbbells may also have this advantage, but med balls are better for use with a partner or for throwing exercises.
Athletes, personal trainers, and physical therapists have extolled the utility of the medicine ball in modern fitness regimens for decades. Even when they are used to make existing exercises more effective, the best medicine ball exercises are still simple enough for anyone to get the hang of quickly. Handling them is easier than a kettlebell or dumbbell and far less restricted.
To keep your heart rate up and make strength training routines more varied, medicine ball training is certainly one of the simplest and most worthwhile methods. Giving the various muscle groups of your body exercise that is hard to come by with other techniques is easy if you use a med ball when your body is slightly off balance. Best of all, because medicine balls are so easy to use, they can help to work out the entire body.
You can add a med ball into many other exercises from burpees to the Russian Twist. The additional weight will be more challenging and make the workout much more effective. There are also some exercises, like the medicine ball slam, that center this ancient piece of fitness equipment to create a tough workout.
Beginning a fitness program might seem daunting, but beginners can use these basic med ball exercises to ease themselves into the program. That doesn’t mean you’ll eventually outgrow these exercises, though. Medicine ball workouts are mainstays in fitness programs at every level from amateurs to professional athletes. Try some of these med ball exercises out and you’ll see the advantages in no time.
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