Medicine balls have been around since moustachioed gentlemen were flinging them around gymnasia during Queen Victoria’s reign. And, er, probably before that. But are medicine ball exercises actually an efficient use of your training time? Yes – if they fit with your goals. Here’s the easy-to-remember version, alongside a must-do move for each one.
This is the best reason to use med balls – and the one thing it’s difficult to do with any other bit of gym kit. “However fast you press a dumbbell or barbell, you’ll have to spend the last part of the move decelerating it,” says strength coach and strongman competitor Jack Lovett. With a medicine ball there’s no need for that, so you can accelerate throughout the move, helping you to build power. Use overhead throws to mimic sporting movements.
Must-do move: Rotational medicine ball throws
Benefit Developing explosive rotary power
How to do it Pick up a fairly bouncy medicine ball and stand 120-150cm from a sturdy wall. Throw the ball at the wall while explosively rotating through your shoulders and hips. When the ball bounces off and rebounds back towards you, catch it and get ready for the next throw, performing rep after rep in quick succession. Do as many reps as you can handle then switch sides.
You might have tried supersetting bench presses with explosive press-ups, or heavy squats with jump squats, but what do you use to train your pull-up muscles explosively? Easy: med ball slams. Hoisting the ball aloft and slamming it into the Tarmac/mat/floor works similar muscle groups to the pull-up, and will give you a decent cardio hit into the bargain. For best results, try to catch it on the bounce.
Must-do move: Explosive medicine ball slam
Benefit It may sound like a special move from a videogame but this exercise will help to develop explosive upper-body power quickly.
How to do it Start with the medicine ball held over your head. Explosively slam the ball just in front of your feet, using your entire body for the movement. If you’re using a bouncy ball, watch out for that rebound. Continue to replicate the move for your designated number of reps.
A dose of instability in your training can mix things up and provide a fresh training stimulus to your muscles. The med ball press-up is a classic – just put both hands on the ball and get going.
Must do move: Medicine ball push-up
Benefit Strengthening your core
How to do it Start the exercise in a traditional push-up position, palms placed on the medicine ball, with your bodyweight shifted forward until in the plank position. Keep your core tight throughout and your head aligned with your spine, slowly lower your chest toward the medicine ball until they almost touch, ensure you keep your elbows pinned to your sides. Complete the move by pressing upward through your arms until they're back to the fully extended start position. Try to complete 12 reps.
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Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.