No Barbell, No Problem — the Best Medicine Ball Exercises for Power

The barbell isn't your only option to boost your power output.

One of the best ways to develop power and athleticism is by performing the Olympic lifts. Snatches, jerks, and cleans develop a strong and powerful body. Watching athletes move heavy weight quickly from the floor to overhead is amazing, and they make it look easy. But for everyone who isn’t an elite weightlifter, Olympic lifts take years to master. 

Slamming and tossing a medicine ball isn’t a replacement for Olympic lifts, but you can generate a lot of force with medicine ball throws, which will help you learn to produce more power. Medicine ball throws help develop power without the required highly coordinated actions of the Olympic lifts. They are easy to do and don’t require too much time to learn. Here are the five best medicine ball power exercises.

Best Medicine Ball Exercises

Med Ball Slam

Few exercises are a better expression of full-body power than the medicine ball slam. (And few exercises are more fun to perform.) Hold a medicine ball with both hands, bring it overhead behind your head, and slam it down as hard as you can. Med ball slams require balance, coordination, overhead mobility, speed, and when performed with good form, trains most muscles from head to toe. Go ahead, make some noise.

The Benefits of the Med Ball Slam

 How to Do the Med Ball Slam

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a med ball in both hands. Simultaneously raise on your toes, bring the ball up and overhead, and extend your arms. Now, hinge forward at the hips, bringing your heels back to the floor and slamming the ball as hard as you can to the floor. Be careful that the ball doesn’t bounce back and hit you in the face. For smooth reps, work on catching the ball on the up bounce and then beginning your next rep. 

Squat Medicine Ball Throw

The squat medicine ball throw is deceptive. It looks like you’re using your arms to throw the ball, but the power is really coming from your legs. The arms are just going along for the ride. Like a snatch or clean & jerk, the power is generated from your lower body and then transferred through your upper body for the toss.  This exercise mimics many actions on the sporting field where you need to transfer power from your lower to the upper body. 

The Benefits of the Squat Med Ball Throw

  • Develops total body power needed for sports.
  • A great warm-up exercise for squats because it grooves the squat movement.

How to Do the Squat Med Ball Throw

Get into your squat stance holding a med ball with both hands at arm’s length. Squat down until your hands almost touch the ground, and then explosively squat back up while throwing the ball up. Keep your eye on the ball until it lands and gather, reset, and repeat for reps.

Overhead Medicine Ball Throw

There’s a lot of sports and exercises that require you to be strong overhead. In strength sports, like strongman, you perform literal overhead presses. If you’re a baseball player, stronger shoulders will help you throw a ball faster. If that’s you, then overhead med ball throws are a great way to train overhead power. Taking a strong step forward encourages transferring power from your lower to the upper body like a pitcher or quarterback. If you’re an athlete whose sport involves throwing a ball explosively, this is for you.

The Benefits of the Overhead Med Ball Throw

  • Develops explosive upper body power in the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  • It’s a simple and easy total body exercise to perform.
  • It’s a great exercise for athletes to improve overhead power.

How to Do the Overhead Med Ball Throw

Stand eight-10 feet in front of a sturdy wall and hold a four to eight-pound medicine ball in both hands. Bend your elbows and bring the ball behind your head. Take a significant step forward and throw the ball powerfully against the wall. As the ball rolls back to you, pick it up. Reset and repeat. If you don’t have access to a wall (or don’t feel comfortable throwing a medicine ball at it), you can toss the ball to a partner. 

Rotational Medicine Ball Throw

We rotate a lot — both in everyday life and in the gym — so it makes sense to train your core rotationally. And if you’re an athlete like a golfer, baseball players, and quarterbacks must transfer power from one hip to another to hit or throw the ball powerfully. If you play any of those sports, performing rotational med ball throws is highly recommended. This exercise trains the core explosively too, which not a lot of core exercises do. That means a more injury-resistant core and spine, and of course, nicer-looking abs (assuming your macros are in check).  

The Benefits of the Rotational Med Ball Throw

  • Strengthens the obliques and the internal and external rotators of the hips.
  • It helps to improve rotational power to hit or throw a ball harder.

How to Do the Rotational Med Ball Throw

Stand two-four feet side on from the wall with a med ball in both hands and take the ball to your back hip. Then transfer your weight from the back hip to the front hip while throwing the ball explosively against the wall. The power comes from your hips and not the arms. Catch the ball with both hands and rest and repeat. 

Medicine Ball Shot Put Throw

Med ball shot put throw trains the chest, triceps, and shoulders unilaterally and explosively. If you’ve plateaued with any of your pressing exercises, this will help develop explosive power in your triceps to assist with lockout strength. Plus, if you’re throwing a ball for a living or recreation, this will help you throw the ball harder and with more pop. Dodge ball, anyone?

The Benefits of the Med Ball Shot Put Throw

  • Improves rotational and pressing power at the same time
  • Strengthens power imbalances between sides, if any exist.
  • Great exercise for anyone throwing the ball for a living or fun.

How to Do the Med Ball Shot Put Throw

Stand perpendicular to a wall about four feet from a wall with feet a little wider than hip-width. Hold one hand underneath the ball and the hand that’s throwing on the back of the ball. Keep your back elbow at shoulder height, transfer the weight to the back hip and then explosively transfer the weight to your front hip as you throw the ball to the wall. Catch the ball on the bounce and reset and repeat.

Medicine Ball Programming Suggestions

Although med ball training is as simple as picking up a medicine ball and throwing it, here are a few suggestions to help you get the best out of med ball power training.

Go Lighter

Power is about moving weight as fast as possible, so you want to pick a medicine ball to move efficiently for reps. Go too heavy, and your form will break down and/or you can’t produce the amount of velocity you need to reap the power-building benefits you’re after. Start with a medicine ball that’s about four to 10 pounds (depending on the movement you’re performing.)

Do These Movements First

Medicine ball power exercises are best trained between your warmup and your strength training exercises. At this point, your muscles are ready to go but aren’t fully taxed. Because power puts a demand on your neurological/muscular system, which is best trained when you’re fresh. Furthermore, it sets the table for the rest of your training because your fast-twitch muscles are now primed to lift some weight. (2

Do Fewer Reps

When it comes to power output, reps are less of a concern. You want to focus on the quality of the rep. Is each rep fast, hard, and fluid? If not, then you’ve done one too many. Start with three to five reps because these exercises need to be done with absolute power. 

The Benefits of Using Medicine Balls for Power

Medicine balls challenge your balance, core strength and are a great way to add some ‘fun’ to your training. Here are four more important benefits of med ball training.

Medicine Ball Slam
Srdjan Randjelovic/Shutterstock

Improved Athleticism

Med ball training can boost the speed and accuracy of your movements in the sporting arena. For example, twisting and changing direction. The freedom of movement and the ability to train in multiple planes of motion with medicine balls prepares your body for motions on the sporting field or gym.

Increased Strength

Medicine ball power exercises involve rapid contractions that build and enhance fast-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are the fibers that have the biggest potential for improved hypertrophy and strength.

Increased Calorie Burn

Using the fast-twitch muscles of your arms and legs increases the number of calories burned during the workout and up to 14 hours later. (1)

Ease Of Use

Olympic lifts are fantastic, but it takes time to master the technique. Medicine ball power training doesn’t, and it’s a great introductory method for training power for those with little experience in the weight room.

More Med Ball Training Tips

Now that you have a handle on the five best medicine ball power exercises to improve your power, you can also check out these other helpful med ball training articles for strength, power, and fitness athletes.


  1. Knab AM, et al. A 45-minute vigorous exercise bout increases metabolic rate for 14 hours. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Sep;43(9):1643-8.
  2. McBride JM, et al. The effect of heavy- vs. light-load jump squats on the development of strength, power, and speed. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Feb;16(1):75-82.

Featured image: Srdjan Randjelovic/Shutterstock