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5 Medicine Ball Exercises You Should Try (That Aren’t Slams)

Boost balance, power, and more.

Medicine balls are great for slamming, throwing, and developing power and explosiveness. And it has been that way for almost 3,000 years.  Yes, that long.

While the details are sketchy on the history of med balls, they were supposedly used in Persia 3,000 years ago by wrestlers looking to become stronger. In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates is said to have stuffed animal skins for people to toss for “medicinal” uses.

Hippocrates considered these ‘balls’ to be great for helping injured people regain their mobility and strength and as a way for people to stay healthy.

Then in the early 1900s, med balls became popular because of a game called ‘Hooverball,’  which was like volleyball but with a med ball that was tossed over the net. President Herbert Hoover’s physician suggested his patients use the ball to get in shape, hence the name Hooverball.

a medicine ball
Parilov/Shutterstock

Benefits Of Medicine Balls

Besides throwing, there are other benefits to using these tools. 

  • Med ball training can boost the speed and accuracy of your movements in the sporting arena. For example, twisting and changing direction.
  • They can improve your coordination and balance when you use med balls exercises that throw you off-balance. For example, when transferring the med ball from one hand to the other.
  • The freedom of movement and the ability to train in multiple planes of motion with the med balls will prepare your body for realistic motions and may help prevent injuries.
  • They’re portable and can be used in or outside. And they’re easy to use.

Here are 5 med ball exercises that will strengthen your core, improve your balance and coordination, and improve your athleticism. And there is no slamming (or throwing) in sight. 

1. Med Ball Single leg Hip Extensions

The instability of the med ball, the reduced base of support and the elevated surface gives your hip an extra challenge. This is more hamstring dominant than other hip extension variations so if your hamstrings are on the weak side, this exercise will expose them.

Form Tips

This is best performed as an accessory exercise on leg day, because if your legs are not warmed up, your hamstrings will let you know about it. Dig your heels into the ball to start the move and slowly lower down on the eccentric.

8-12 reps on each side will definitely do the trick.

[Related: How to Use Medicine Balls to Develop Power]

2. Single Leg Med Ball Transfer

Reducing your base of support helps your balance and improves your ankle stability and strength. Combined with the weight of the med ball and your eyes moving from side to side makes for a fun exercise that will build your balance and coordination.

Form Tips

‘Grip’ the floor with your foot to strengthen your base of support. The med ball shouldn’t be heavy because it’s not a strength exercise.  4-8 pounds is more than enough.

Doing 6 reps on both legs will do the job of testing your dynamic balance.

3. Med ball Push Ups (3 Variations)

Med balls are a great way to progress push ups instead of adding load. The offset position combined with the greater range of motion engages more of your shoulders, chest and triceps muscles as well as core to stabilize your body.

There is no muddling through med ball push-ups. You are totally engaged because a loss of form or technique will result in a gym blooper.

Note- If you have any shoulder issues, please let pain be your guide.

Form tips

To offset the increased demand on your core, have your feet wider than hip width. This prevents your hips swaying from side to side and your low back from going into extension.

This is a great accessory exercise on upper body days and anywhere from 8-15 reps will be a challenge for most athletes.

[Related: 3 Benefits of Medicine Ball Slams]

4. Med Ball Pass The Bell

Although this exercise appears easy, it is anything but. The reduced base of support with the weight transferring from side to side will test your core stability and the strength of your hip flexors.

And if you are sick of planks and all its variations, this exercise is a nice change of pace.

Form Tips

If you have trouble maintaining your balance, start this with your heels on the ground.  Make sure to keep your chest up and to pass the ball slowly from side to side. Do not throw the ball as this reduces the exercise effectiveness.

Anywhere from 30-60 seconds will have your core begging for mercy. 

5. Med Ball Ice Skaters

Ice skaters are a great plyometric move that shifts your body weight from side to side. Adding load (in the form of a med ball) increases the intensity and single leg balance demands. It also targets neglected muscles like the glute med and adductors which are important for hip and knee health.

If your sport involves changes of direction and lateral movement, ice skaters deserve a spot in your routine.

Form Tips

This exercise can be performed in two ways, either for speed or for distance. Taking the ball to your hip will load the push-off leg more and challenge your single leg balance.

You can choose to do this for time, 20-30 seconds or for reps around 8-12 reps each side.

Sample Med Ball Circuit Workout

Consider using the following routine as a finisher at the end of your training or as a replacement for your regular cardio routine.

1A. Med Ball Ice Skaters 8-12 reps each side

1B.  Single Leg Med Ball Transfer 6 reps each side

1C.  Med Ball Push Up Variation 8-12 reps

1D. Single Leg Hip Extension 8-12 each side

1E.  Pass The Bell 30-60 seconds

Repeat for a total of 2-4 rounds.

Wrapping up

Med balls are great for developing power but they’re also handy to improve your balance, coordination, and athleticism. And you don’t need a lot of load to make med ball exercises effective.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead and have a ball. 

Featured image via Miljana and Igor Sinkov/Shutterstock

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