Although dumbbells and kettlebells are absolutely brilliant at supercharging any exercise routine, they’re not your only options for adding resistance to your workouts. If you want to mix-up your routine and add extra challenge, there’s never a better time to pick up a medicine ball.
Medicine balls are like a cross between a sandbag and a basketball, and because they’re easy to move and balance in ways that other free weights aren’t, they’re perfect for training your core. They also come in different sizes and weights so there’s bound to be one that suits your goals, even if you’re new to working out.
With that said, let’s take a look at a number of core-focused exercises that I believe make up the best ab workout with a medicine ball to tone and firm up that mid-section.
Before You Start
Pick the right size and weight
Before beginning any workout, ensure you pick the correct weight. There are no hard and fast rules to this but a good indicator is whether you can lift a weight above your head and back down again in a controlled manner ten times in succession without stopping, but feeling noticeable fatigue in your arms. If this feels too easy then a heavier ball may be needed, and if you’re struggling to complete ten controlled reps then opt for something lighter.
Create some space and grab a mat
Make sure you have enough space around you to do this routine comfortably and without knocking into things. As a lot of this will be floor-based, it’s a good idea to grab yourself a gym mat if you have one, or think about investing in one. There’s a great range of inexpensive yet good quality mats available that you can use for all sorts of floor based routines at home.
I always advocate warming up before any workout to help get the blood flowing and to prime your muscles for the work to come whilst also protecting yourself from injury. Do a few minutes of light jogging or running on the spot, or on a treadmill if you have one, followed by one or two of the exercises in the routine you’re about to do with a light weight to get your body used to the movement before you increase the weight and up the intensity during your workout.
These six strength exercises engage every layer of your core muscles from the front to the back of your body, including your abdominals. Either incorporate some of these moves into your next workout, or do a round of all these exercises for a really focused core-busting routine!
Medicine Ball Crunch
Lie down on your mat with your knees bent and feet flat and hold the medicine ball with arms extended overhead.
Now curl upwards by squeezing your abs and bringing your head and shoulders off the floor. As you do this raise the ball and bring it in front of you, keeping your arms outstretched, as you sit up. From here slowly lower back down to the floor bringing the ball with you and allowing it to fall gently overhead. Perform between 10 to 15 reps to complete the exercise.
Medicine Ball Twist
In a seated position on the floor, with your feet slightly raised, hold the medicine ball to your chest. Now twist your torso to the left as you move your knees to the right. Come back to centre then over to the right with knees moving to the left – make sure your knees don’t touch the floor. Ensure you keep your core tight and your hips stable and alternate from side to side for between 8 to 12 reps on each side. To make this exercise slightly easier, you can keep your knees and hips straight throughout the move so your just twisting your upper body.
Medicine Ball Toe Touch
Lying face up on your mat with ball held overhead, raise your legs towards the ceiling so you’re in an L-shape. Keeping your arms extended above you, crunch upwards, raising your shoulders and upper back off the floor and bringing the ball towards your feet. Make sure you contract your abs and keep your shoulders and neck relaxed. Slowly come back down to the start position, allowing the ball to come overhead. Perform 8 to 12 reps.
Medicine Ball Woodchopper
Standing with feet at shoulder width and with knees slightly bent, hold the medicine ball in both hands and bring it up and to the right on a diagonal so your arms are extended. Now bring the ball back down and across your body to the left as you naturally rotate your torso, bending your knees and slightly pivoting your feet as you come down. You should finish with the ball around even height with your left knee, with your hips positioned back and knees bent. Return back to the start position as you bring the ball back up and across your body following the same diagonal line as before. Perform between 8 to 12 reps before switching to the other side.
Medicine Ball Mountain Climber
From a high plank position with both hands on the medicine ball, bring your right knee in towards your chest, re-extend it back out again and bring the left knee in. Alternate bringing your knees in as quickly as possible whilst keeping your core tight and your hips level for between 30 to 60 seconds.
Medicine Ball Plank
Put both hands on the medicine ball with arms extended and legs out straight behind you in a high plank position. The added challenge compared to a normal high plank is that you’ll be balancing your hands on a ball instead of flat on the floor. Keeping your shoulders neutral, hips level and abs tight, hold this position for between 30 to 60 seconds.
Medicine Ball Boat Rock
Laying on a mat with your knees up and legs bent, hold the medicine ball to your chest with both hands. Now, using your core and legs to create momentum, rock back and forth from your glutes to your traps and maintain the same body position throughout. Repeat this move for between 30 to 60 seconds.
Give It A Go!
Medicine balls are really versatile and a great, and easy, way to mix up your workouts and add extra challenge. Give this routine a go, and make sure to pick a ball that allows you to perform the prescribed number of reps per exercise. Once you can do all reps, think about increasing the weight of the ball, or adding in extra reps to keep challenging your body and encouraging strength and muscle growth.
If you want to incorporate some of these exercises into a total body medicine ball workout, check out this great routine.
Remember also that it’s important to cool down and stretch after exercising. For some ideas on some great ab and core stretches, read my post on six exercises for a healthy core.
And if you’re thinking about buying a medicine ball but you’re not quite sure which to go for, I’ve reviewed six of my favourites here.
Do you use medicine balls in your training and would you recommend them to others to develop strength and fitness? Comment underneath and let me know.