12 Innovative New Ways to Use a Medicine Ball
For years, it was same-old, same-old with the medicine ball. You basically use them to perform sit-ups or you play catch with a partner. These two boring old workhorse moves don’t really do the medicine ball justice, considering its potential for versatility and its storied history. According to ESPN The Magazine, doctors in ancient Greece wrote about weighted exercise balls. Such balls also appeared in drawings of wrestlers found in ancient Persia as far back as 1000 B.C.; the Roman gladiators of old clearly used them in their training. A prominent physician from the Renaissance age was famous for prescribing them as part of "medicinal gymnastics" and there is ample documentation that the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has used them for more than 200 years.
But this is 2019. This is the age of radical variations in fitness. This is the age of crossfit, HIIT, macro-targeting, tabatas – the list goes on and on. So, let’s get straight to how you can transform that drab old medicine ball into an incredible 12-exercise equipment wonder. In alphabetical order:
1. FEET-ELEVATED PUSH-UP
Most people think the medicine ball is used on a hands-only basis. Simply place it on the floor, position your feet together on top of the ball, and perform push-ups. Place your hands on the floor about 1.5 times your shoulder width and use a full range of motion such that in the bottom position your face almost contacts the floor.
This variation still works your chest but, requires a little more effort from your shoulders and triceps than a standard push-up.
2. HALO SLAM
This move combines two medicine ball favourites, the halo and the slam. Bring the ball up to the level of your head, rotate it around the back of your neck, then instead of continuing for more halos, immediately slam the ball to the ground. On the next rep, reverse the direction of the rotation before the slam, and continue in this manner.
This move works mainly your shoulder muscles, triceps and forearms.
3. HORIZONTAL DRIBBLING
You don’t have to be a seven-foot monster from the NBA to be a good dribbler. But when you do it horizontally against a wall with a medicine ball, you’re performing an effective compound exercise. Use a ball that has sufficient compression to bounce off the wall and thrust it forward in a passing motion such that it bounces off the wall back into your hands. You’ll need to stand fairly close to the wall.
This move works your chest, of course, but also requires a solid effort from your front shoulders and triceps.
4. JACKKNIFE CRUNCH
Lie on your back on the floor, fully extended. Hold the medicine ball using a neutral grip (at the outer edges of the ball) with arms extended horizontally above your head. In one synchronized motion, bring your legs and your torso upward such that they’re both almost perpendicular to the floor. Make sure your legs remain straight and your arms fully extended in the same plane as your spine.
This crunch is very effective for both your upper and lower abs.
5. ONE-ARM PUSH-UP
This is an interesting variation of the push-up which requires a little more skill to supply balance. Place the medicine ball on the floor. Set yourself into position as you would with a standard push-up, but place one hand on the medicine ball. The start will feel awkward if you’re not used to this move, but simply flex at the elbows to lower yourself then extend them to raise back to the start position. After performing a fixed number of reps, switch over to placing your other hand on the ball and repeat for reps.
Your chest, shoulders and triceps are the key muscle groups for this exercise.
6. OVERHEAD LUNGE
Stand upright with feet together. Grasp a medicine ball with both hands using neutral grips and raise the ball with arms fully extended above your head. Lunge forward with one foot as you would in a traditional lunge, keeping closer attention to preserving a straight back and straight arms supporting the medicine ball. Reverse the motion out of the lunge, then perform the lunging sequence with the other foot.
You’ll feel this move in your quads and hamstrings, but the medicine ball will require additional effort from your triceps, abs and lower back.
7. OVERHEAD UPRIGHT HOP
This move is fairly basic, but nonetheless effective. Stand upright with feet together and grasp a medicine ball using a neutral grip in both hands. Extend your arms fully overhead, supporting the ball. Keeping the entirety of your body straight except your feet, simply hop about two inches off the ground, land with slightly bent knees, and repeat for a relatively high number of reps (15 to 20 per set).
This move focuses on your calves, arguably the most-neglected body part. It will also involve effort from your quads.
8. ROLLING PUSH-UP
This move is a fun test of your hand-eye co-ordination. Set up in the same manner as the one-arm push-up. Upon completing a repetition, gently roll the medicine ball across the floor to where you other hand will be placed upon it. From there, perform the push-up, again with the emphasis of effort on the arm placed on the medicine ball. Continue reps while rolling the ball back and forth.
Your triceps are one of the key factors here, along with your front shoulders and chest.
9. ROTATIONAL LUNGE
Stand straight with feet together and the medicine ball secure in your hands. Extend your arms straight in front of you such that they are parallel to the floor. Lunge forward on one leg, then swing the ball 90 degrees to one side. Reverse the motion and swing it 180 degrees in the opposite direction, come back to the front position, and raise back out of the lunge. Repeat for reps, then switch up and do the move lunging with your other leg.
This move incorporates a lot of muscle groups, especially your quads, hamstrings, abs and shoulders.
10. SQUAT PASS
Stand upright with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold the medicine ball at the height of your chest using a neutral grip in each hand. Flex at the knees to lower yourself into a squat as you simultaneously extend your arms to “pass” the ball in front of you (without actually letting go of the ball). When your quads are parallel to the floor, reverse the motion and raise back to the start.
Another great compound move, this gives good work to your quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and triceps.
11. VERTICAL THRUSTER
This move is very similar to the preceding exercise. Set up in a similar way, but when you squat down, keep the ball in close to your chest. The move becomes more dynamic when you raise up; after completing the squat by extending your legs, press your arms above your head to raise the ball vertically, hold for a split-second, then bring it back to your chest level before you squat again.
This move sees most of the work from the quads and hamstrings at first, then your middle shoulders and triceps.
12. WALL BACK-AND-FORTH TOUCH
Stand straight with your back facing a wall, just inches in front of it. Hold the medicine ball in both your hands with arms extended. Keeping almost all of your body motionless, rotate to one side and swing the ball over until it touches the wall gently. Reverse the direction and rotate 180 degrees to the other side until the ball touches the wall again, all the while keeping your arms extended and on the same plane parallel to the floor.Try these innovative moves the next time you feel like a full-body workout, or select those moves which work your target muscles for that day. Medicine balls are truly more versatile than you might think!