The Best Medicine Ball Exercises for High-Intensity Workouts

Medicine balls—the weighted spheres often found in a far corner of the gym—aren't just good for adding weight to a set of situps. These tools are easy to grip, catch, and throw, making them ideal for ramping up the intensity of your next strength training routine. In fact, forcefully throwing and catching weighted objects is an excellent way to enhance upper body power and strength while simultaneously taxing your cardiovascular system. If you're ready to take your workout to the next level, consider adding the following high-intensity medicine ball exercises to your routine.

1
Wall Balls

medicine ball exercises
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Wall balls were popularized by CrossFit as a way to develop total-body strength and power. The movement essentially has two phases. You first lower yourself into a weighted squat, holding the medicine ball at your chest before explosively rising from the squat as you throw the ball as high as you can into the air.

The exercise targets all your major muscle groups—your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, core, shoulders, back, biceps, and triceps—and when performed for time, it taxes your cardiovascular system, too. Here's how you do it:

  • Stand facing a sturdy wall, your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent. You should be about a foot or two away from the wall.
  • Hold a medicine ball between your hands with your elbows bent so the ball is in contact with your chest.
  • Press your hips back and bend your knees, lowering yourself into a deep squat.
  • From the bottom of the squat, forcefully press through your heels, explosively extending your knees and hips to stand, rising up onto the balls of your feet. As you do so, simultaneously press your arms straight upward, extending your elbows as you throw the medicine ball as high as you can against the wall.
  • As the ball falls from the wall, catch it, re-rack it at your chest and immediately lower yourself into another squat to continue the exercise.

Aim to perform the movement continuously for at least 30 to 60 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Complete three to five sets in this format, or add the exercise to a circuit routine.

2
Slams

Medicine ball slams don't seem like they'd be that hard—you're just throwing a medicine ball down against the floor. But the full-body challenge of slamming a weight into the ground is surprisingly exhausting, especially for your core.

One thing to keep in mind when you perform this, or other, medicine ball slams, is that you should use a weighted medicine ball that's specifically designed for slamming, such as the Rogue Echo Slam Balls. This version of the tool is less likely to bounce as high, reducing the risk that the medicine ball might rebound off the floor and hit you in the face. To perform the exercise, follow these steps:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart, your knees slightly bent. Hold a medicine ball between your hands at your navel.
  • In a smooth movement, rise up onto the balls of your feet as you lift the medicine ball into the air directly over your head.
  • Immediately and forcefully swing your arms down in front of your body as you crunch your torso forward, releasing the ball as you do so, slamming it into the ground directly in front of your feet.
  • Lower yourself into a squat to retrieve the ball from the ground.
  • Return to standing and immediately repeat the exercise.

Continue the med ball slams for 30 to 60 seconds. When you complete a set, rest for 30 seconds before performing two more sets.

3
Split Stance Overhead Throw

To perform a split stance overhead throw, select a medicine ball that will offer some bounce when it hits a sturdy object. This exercise will tax your quads, core, back, shoulders, and arms as you work on upper body power.

  • Stand about 10 to 12 feet away from a sturdy wall (concrete block or brick walls are ideal), holding a medicine ball between your hands.
  • Stagger your feet, so your right foot is in front of your left foot by several feet, positioned roughly hip-distance apart. Bend your knees to create a sturdy base of support.
  • Lift the medicine ball directly over your head, gripping the ball securely between both hands.
  • Bend your elbows slightly, so the medicine ball is behind your head, then forcefully throw the medicine ball at a downward angle into the wall, shifting your weight onto your front foot as you perform the throw.
  • Retrieve the ball as it bounces off the wall and reset to perform the exercise again.

Continue the exercise for 30 to 60 seconds, keeping your right foot in the front position. Rest for 30 seconds, then perform another set, this time with your left foot staggered in front. Complete a total of four or six sets.

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