When you walk into a gym, it’s easy to focus on all the shiny resistance equipment, the humming cardio machines, or the impressive collection of barbells and weights. These are all great fitness tools, but don’t overlook the medicine balls stacked in the corner. Sometimes the simplest equipment can give you an unbeatable workout. That’s the case when it comes to medicine ball workouts, especially if you want to tone your abs and core. By adding a few medicine ball exercises to your gym routine, you can strengthen your abs, improve your overall fitness, and get that flat tummy you’ve always wanted.
Why Work Out with Medicine Balls
Highly versatile and often underrated, medicine balls can give you a full-body workout like no other. Medicine balls (also known as exercise balls) come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of them are small and rubbery, while other variations are big and cushy. Some even come with handles. In most cases, medicine balls come in sets with increased weights.
Though simple in nature, medicine balls can deliver an amazing workout. Rather than isolating a single muscle, exercise ball workouts activate an array of muscles, including stabilizer muscles. Medicine ball ab workouts also help you work on coordination and balance and burn more calories during your workout.
The real beauty of ab workouts with a medicine ball is that you can focus on strengthening any part of your body as well as develop your power and explosiveness. In particular, medicine balls are a great tool to help you chisel your abs and strengthen your core.
Your Abs Matter
We all love the idea of strolling down the beach with our tight, taut abs on full display. However, there are more reasons to strengthen your abs than just looks alone. Your abdominal muscles are part of your body’s core, which also includes the muscles in your back and sides.
Your core is the foundation of your body’s strength and stability. Harvard Medical School describes the core as the “sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body.” Almost every action you take involves your core, which means that a strong core can help improve your athletic performance, whether you are a runner, weightlifter, or just want to keep up with your kids.
The core also cradles your spine, which is why a weak core can lead to poor posture and chronic back pain. Strong abs are part of a strong core. With a medicine ball, you can strengthen your rectus abdominis, the long slab of muscles at the front of your stomach, as well as your external and internal obliques, the long side muscles that bracket your abs.
Ready to get started working your abs? Try these nine great medicine ball exercises for your abs.
Our Top Nine Medicine Ball Ab Exercises
If you are new to exercising, start with a lightweight medicine ball and focus on form. A great starting rep scheme is three sets of ten reps. If that feels too easy, increase the number of reps or the weight of the medicine ball. Make sure you move completely through each movement without rushing it. A slow, steady pace will give your abs a better workout.
1. Medicine ball sit-up
If sit-ups are starting to feel a little too easy for you, spice them up with a medicine ball. Hold the medicine ball to your chest and perform a set of ten sit-ups. You are sure to feel the difference. To make this exercise more difficult, push the medicine ball overhead as you sit up. This extra movement works your shoulders, chest, and back, and forces your abs to push harder during each sit-up.
2. Extended butterfly sit-ups
Take the commonplace sit-ups to the next level. Start by sitting on the ground with your legs in the butterfly position (heels together, knees to the side). Start with the medicine ball held to your chest. When you fall backward, raise the medicine ball out and overhead and tap the ground behind your head when your shoulders touch the ground. At the top of the sit-up, bend forward and touch the medicine ball past your feet. This extra movement brings your arms and shoulders into the mix and forces your abs to work hard as you pull up from each sit-up.
3. Russian twist with a medicine ball
Let’s work those obliques! During a Russian twist, you start in a sitting position and lean back so that your abs are engaged. Then you twist from side to side to work your obliques. To make this movement more difficult, hold an exercise ball to your chest and move it across your body as you twist. You may want to tap the floor on each side with the medicine ball to get the full range of motion.
Don’t rush your twists. The slower you go, the better the workout. To increase the difficulty of this movement, lift your feet off the ground and extend your legs.
4. Hollow hold with a medicine ball
Hollow holds are a great static movement that can increase the muscular endurance of your abs. To perform a hollow hold, start on your back. Engage your abs and lift your heels and shoulders off the floor. Try to press your lower back into the floor and hold for 30 seconds at a time.
To make this movement more challenging, add a medicine ball. The easiest modification is to simply hold the medicine ball on your chest, giving your abs more weight to carry. To increase the difficulty, extend your arms and hold the medicine ball behind your head. (Keep those shoulders off the ground!) Finally, if you want the ultimate challenge, squeeze the medicine ball between your heels and keep it off the ground during your hollow hold.
5. Medicine ball knee roll
Another great oblique exercise is the medicine ball knee roll. Start by lying on your back. Bend your legs so that your knees point upwards and your heels are on the floor. Place a medicine ball between your knees. Press your palms on the floor for stability and slowly lower your knees to one side. Try to keep your shoulders on the ground. Just before your bottom knee hits the ground, bring your knees back up and lower them to the other side. You should feel a nice burn kindle in your obliques.
6. Partner toss sit-up
To work on your explosiveness, try the partner toss sit-up. First, recruit an exercise buddy then start in a sit-up position. Ask your partner to stand near your feet and toss the medicine ball to you. As you catch the medicine ball, let the momentum carry you back. Use your abs to sit up and toss the ball back to your partner. You’ll get an ab and upper body workout with this exercise. If your partner wants to join in the fun, sit facing each other and perform sit-ups in sync while tossing the medicine ball back and forth. If you can’t wrangle up a partner, try tossing the medicine ball against a wall.
7. Medicine ball side throw
A great oblique exercise that also requires coordination is the side throw. Don’t let your workout partner wander too far away. You’ll need them again for this exercise. Stand sideways a few feet from your partner. With the medicine ball in your hands, twist to the side and toss the medicine ball sideways to your partner, who should catch the ball, twist, and then toss it back. Think of the motion you’d use if you needed to toss a sack of grain into a wheelbarrow. Now you’ve got the idea. Make sure to switch sides to activate both obliques.
8. Medicine ball v-up
Are your medicine ball sit-ups too easy? We can certainly up the ante. Try some medicine ball v-ups. A standard v-up starts with you on your back. Engaging your abs, bring your shoulders and your legs up toward the center of your body. Keep your legs straight and try to touch your shoelaces with your fingertips at the top. Now, add your medicine ball into the mix. You can hold the medicine ball in your hands and touch it against your feet at the top of the V-up, hold it between your feet, or, our favorite, transfer it between your hands and feet with each rep.
9. Medicine ball knee raises
Most gyms have a knee-raise machine that gives you a padded back and armrests to hang from. To add more burn to your knee raises, clench a medicine ball between your knees or feet and perform slow, controlled knee raises. After just a couple of reps, you should feel the burn throughout your abs.
Try mixing and matching these ab exercises next time you hit the gym to devise the ultimate medicine ball ab workout just for you. If you want to find even more ways to tighten up your tummy, sign up for a core-focused group fitness class at EōS Fitness, like Rock Hard Abs, Bellies & Butts, and Kettle Core & Cardio. Also check out this blog post about core training with stability balls.