How to Use a Medicine Ball in Your Workouts

Woman with a med Ball
Getty Images/Kevin Kozick

Most of you know that a stability ball is an excellent way to work every part of your body, including your abs, hips, and thighs. Using a ball, whether you're doing crunches, push-ups, or using it as a weight bench, targets your abs, back and stabilizer muscles for a more dynamic workout.

But what about doing these things with a medicine ball? Many of us may have used the old-timey ones in gym class or we may even have one sitting in the corner gathering dust.

Time to dust it off and put it to good use.

Why a Medicine Ball?

Instead of the scary gym class medicine ball, our current version is an excellent tool for building strength, balance, stability, and coordination.

  • They come in 1-lb increments, giving you tons of options for different exercises
  • They can be used for almost every exercise and movement you can imagine: Seated, standing, lying down, static movements and dynamic movements.
  • They don't damage floors if you drop them the way dumbbells can
  • They're fun to throw back and forth
  • They allow you to work on action and power that doesn't stress your joints at the end of the movement because the ball is released
  • They have a low risk of injury

Medicine balls have come a long way and now come in a variety of weights and textures. Some have handles and some don't, some bounce and others don't. Using a medicine ball adds a whole new dimension to your training since it takes you through all planes of motions (unlike traditional weight training). This type of training translates well into how we really move out in the real world.

Choosing a Medicine Ball

I like to recommend that my clients have a variety of medicine balls if they can. The average weight you'll want to use will probably be between 2 and 10 lbs, but it's nice to have increments. I recommend you have 4, 6 and 8 lbs. to start because some exercises will require more weight than others.

My favorite medicine balls:

  • The 4 lb Valeo medicine ball is high quality and has great texture so you don't drop it. It bounces so you could use it for exercises like the squat, dribble and toss.
  • The 6 lb Spri Xerball Medicine Ball is a huge favorite of mine because it, too, is very high quality and it has a great bounce.
  • The 8 lb ZoN Soft Medicine Ball is great because it's soft, so it doesn't bounce. I really like using this for push-ups.

Like a stability ball, using a medicine ball requires a lot of work from your abs and back, so choose a weight you can handle, usually between 2 and 10 lbs. The most movement begins at the core and without strong muscles, you risk injury as well as looking silly in the gym. Using a medicine ball can help you train those trunk muscles the way they work during daily activities, not just at the gym.

Getting Started

Sometimes you get a piece of fitness equipment and realize you have no idea how to get started or, even more confusing, how to integrate it into what you're already doing.

The great thing about medicine ball training is that it can be aerobic/anaerobic (tossing the ball back and forth) or you can use it as a strength training tool (as in medicine ball crunches).

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