Medicine Ball Magic: How to Make Your Workout Harder—Not Longer

Medicine-ball push-ups are a great way to add an element of difficulty to your workout.When it comes to cranking up the intensity of your workouts, you can always add reps and sets, cut back on rest periods, or tack a few extra minutes on to your traditional training session. But, if your routine’s growing stale and you need to shake things up with a few additional moves, grabbing a medicine ball could be your best bet. A weighted ball is perfect for hitting every major muscle group and can be a lot more fun than your typical set of dumbbells. Boost the difficulty of your next workout with these six moves. Perform them all on your total-body training day, or swap out your standard exercises for these variations.

1. Single-Arm Medicine Ball Push-up

Medicine-ball push-ups are a great way to add an element of difficulty to your workout.Embrace unilateral training by turning a standard push-up into a single-side challenge. With this exercise, you’ll target your chest while engaging your entire body.

1. With the medicine ball under one of your right hand, get in the push-up position.
2. Keeping your core tight and your back flat, lower your chest down as far as you can, then push back up.
3. Move the ball to your left hand. Repeat for 10 reps total (or 5 reps per side).

2. Medicine Ball Plank Jack

Woman performing a medicine ball plank jack.Once you’ve mastered the standard plank, it’s time for a challenge. Take jumping jacks to the floor with a movement that calls for a strong core, engages muscle fibers, and cranks up lower-body intensity.

1. Position both of your hands on the medicine ball and get in plank position.
2. Maintaining a flat back and level hips, pull your abs in  tight and jump your feet out to about shoulder-width apart.
3. Jump your feet back together and repeat for 10 reps.

3. Medicine Ball Squat to Overhead

Woman performing a medicine ball squat-to-overhead.Combine the lower-body benefits of squatting (hello glutes!) with the upper-body strength building that comes from pressing the medicine ball overhead.

1. Stand with feet hip-distance apart while holding the medicine ball directly in front of your chest. Keeping your back flat, knees out, chest up, and ankles screwed into the ground,  lower into a squat position, making sure your knees don’t pass your toes.
2. Stand up, still holding the ball directly in front of you.
3. Press the medicine ball overhead to complete the movement. Repeat for 10 reps.

4. Medicine Ball Superman

Woman performing a medicine ball superman.

You might regularly train your mirror muscles (biceps, core, chest), but it’s also important to engage muscles you can’t easily see. With this hero-inspired move, you’ll work your lower back and develop the strength needed for proper posture.

1. Lie face down on the floor with your arms fully extended overhead and a medicine ball between your palms.
2. Brace your core, engage your glutes, and simultaneously raise your arms, legs, and chest off the floor. Hold for two seconds.
3. Slowly lower back down to the starting position so that the medicine ball touches the floor. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

5. Medicine Ball Narrow Push-up

Woman performing a medicine ball narrow push-up.

Get rid of that back-arm jiggle with this triceps-toning move. Resting your forearms on the medicine ball’s unstable surface provides an added challenge to this classic push-up.

1. Position both of your hands on the medicine ball and get in the plank position. Squeeze your core to maintain a neutral spine and flat back.
2. Slowly lower yourself down until your chest almost touches the ball. As you lower, make sure to push your elbows back, not out.
3. Use your triceps and chest pectoral muscles to press back up to the starting position. Repeat for 8 to10 reps.

6. Medicine Ball Russian Twist

Woman performing a medicine ball Russian twist.No full-body workout is complete without dedicated core work. Target your obliques with this side-to-side movement. Looking to engage your abs with an additional stability challenge? Try lifting your feet off the floor and balancing while you twist.

1. Sit on the ground with knees bent. Holding a medicine ball—arms extended in front of you—engage your core and lean back so that your upper body forms a V-shape with your thighs.
2. Twist your torso to the right until your arms are parallel to the floor.
3. Hold for a breath, then move back to the center before twisting to the left.
4. Repeat for 20 total repetitions (or 10 per side).

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