7 Medicine-Ball Moves to Boost Athletic Performance

by Carla Henderson

Need some new exercises to spice up your programming? These seven medicine-ball moves each train one or more different facets of fitness and performance, making you a better, more efficient athlete.

Sprinkle them throughout your training week or try the suggested Sporty Girl’s Medicine-Ball Workout: It’s the ultimate fitness prescription.

The Exercises

1. Single-Leg Slam

Agility | Balance | Coordination

Model: Courtney Stice (Photo: Sean Michel)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a medicine ball with both hands. Lift your right leg to hip height and raise the ball overhead, arms straight. Quickly drop your hips, swing your right leg behind you and whip your arms downward to slam the ball on the floor. Catch it on the rebound, stand and repeat.

Tips:

Do this slowly for one or two rounds to get the hang of the movement pattern — and to test the bounciness of your medicine ball. (Your face will thank you.)

Having issues with balance? Focus on the ground a few feet in front of you and bend your standing knee slightly.

2. Faux Slam

Deceleration | Eccentric Strength

(Photo: Sean Michel)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a medicine ball with both hands. Quickly lift it overhead, rising up onto your toes, and then quickly drop your hips and bring the ball down in front of you with force. Instead of letting it go and slamming it to the floor, use your core, shoulders and back to stop its momentum and hold in the bottom position for a count of three. Stand, shake it out and repeat.

Tip: Perform a few real medicine-ball slams to engrain the mechanics into your muscles and your mind, then move into the deceleration drill.

3. Squat Toss and Clap

Timing | Speed | Endurance

(Photo: Sean Michel)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, legs turned out slightly from your hips, and hold a medicine ball at your chest. Push your glutes back, then bend your knees, squatting to parallel or below. Quickly extend your legs and hips, and as you stand, lightly toss the ball into the air and clap your hands together underneath. Catch the ball as it falls and go right into your next rep.

Tip: Challenge yourself to throw the ball as low as you can and still be able to get in a hand clap. Then link those reps together and go for speed.

4. Offset Squat

Balance | Unilateral Strength

(Photo: Sean Michel)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, legs turned out slightly, and hold a medicine ball on top of one shoulder. Push your glutes back and then bend your knees to squat down to parallel or below. Drive through your heels to stand. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

Tip: Your body will want to compensate for the one-sided load by changing its movement pattern. Keep your hips and shoulders square and your feet flat on the floor.

5. Good Morning

Stability | Strength

(Photo: Sean Michel)

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a medicine ball behind your head across your upper back and traps. Brace your core, tuck your tailbone and hinge from your hips to fold forward, keeping your back straight. Lower slowly until your torso is parallel with the floor, then return to the start.

Tip: Having the ball behind your head requires more stabilization from your core, so do each rep slowly and with good form to prevent injury.

6. Squat Hold and Press

Endurance | Speed

(Photo: Sean Michel)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, legs turned out slightly from your hips, and hold a medicine ball at your chest. Push your glutes back, then bend your knees to squat down to parallel or below. Hold here as you press the ball straight in front of you at shoulder height, then pull it back into your chest. Increase your speed with each rep.

Tip: If either your lower or upper body begins to fail, stand, rest 30 seconds and then continue with your reps.

7. Side-Lunge Sweep to Stand

Coordination | Balance | Power

(Photo: Sean Michel)

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a medicine ball at your chest. Take a large lateral step with your left leg and lunge deeply, reaching the ball to the left. Push off your left foot, sweep the ball in an arc from the floor to overhead, as you stand and lift your left leg to hip height. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

Tip: The more explosive you can push off with your lunging leg, the more quickly you’ll come to standing and the smoother your reps will be.

The Sporty Girl’s Medicine-Ball Workout

Complete two rounds of each circuit. Rest as needed between exercises and circuits.

Circuit 1

Exercise Reps Good Morning 10 Squat Hold and Press 25 Offset Squat 15 (each side)

Circuit 2

Exercise Reps Squat Toss and Clap 30 Side-Lunge Sweep to Stand 15 (each side)

Circuit 3

Exercise Reps Single-Leg Slam 10 (each side) Faux Slam 8-10