Don't sleep on this piece of gym equipment.
If you typically stroll past the medicine ball rack at the gym, you’re missing out on a whole world of medicine ball ab exercises that target your core muscles — with nothing more than a twist or a slam. Preacher Bench
A medicine ball is an excellent tool for working your abs because it allows for dynamic movements that help develop your power in addition to strength, says Ryan Horton, a sports performance coach and owner of HortonBarbell. “This makes each movement more functional and applicable to both sports and everyday life,” he tells Bustle.
To get started with this piece of fitness equipment, start by taking a look at the type of medicine balls available. “Soft, plush medicine balls and hard rubber medicine balls react very differently when thrown or slammed against the floor or a wall,” Horton says. More often than not you’ll want one that thuds into the ground so that it doesn’t bounce back or rebound faster than anticipated, he says. Weight matters, too. “Make sure you can pick it up above your head without any problems,” says Trevor Wells, an ASFA-certified personal trainer with Living.Fit. The ball should feel heavy but not so hefty that you struggle to move it.
Pro tip: As you do these core exercises, try to focus on moving the ball with your core instead of your arms, Horton says. It can be tempting to propel a medicine ball using your upper body muscles, so make sure all the movements stem from your abs by keeping your core engaged. With all that in mind, scroll below to see some of the best medicine ball ab exercises you can do at the gym.
Wells suggests this move to work your core. You’ll feel it in your abs as well as your obliques thanks to the side-to-side “wood chopping” motion.
- Get into a tall kneeling position with a medicine ball positioned by your left hip.
- Grasp the ball with both hands on each side of the ball.
- Take the ball and move it from your left hip up above your right shoulder.
- Bring it back to your left side.
- Repeat 10 to 20 reps on both sides.
Wells also likes this exercise, which — as you might have guessed — targets the obliques. With the additional weight of a medicine ball, your side muscles get an extra challenge.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Keep a slight bend in your knees.
- Grab the ball with both hands.
- Lean back to about a 45-degree angle.
- Begin to twist side to side as you move the ball from left to right.
- Complete a twist for one rep.
- Do 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 20 reps.
Next up, try this dynamic version of a sit-up. It follows the same motion of a regular sit-up while the added throw adds an “explosive element” that works your rectus abdominis and oblique muscles, as well as your lats and serratus anterior muscles, Horton says.
- Find a partner or a sturdy wall.
- Sit on the floor far enough away so the ball can bounce once before reaching your partner (or the wall).
- Lie on your back holding the medicine ball overhead on the ground behind you.
- Brace your core and engage your lats.
- Explode into a sit-up as you throw the ball as hard as possible.
- The follow-through should bring you into a full sit-up position.
- Allow your partner to toss the ball back (or retrieve it coming back from the wall) and repeat.
- Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Medicine ball slams light up your core as well as your arms and back, Horton says. When you do them with an added twisting motion, you’re putting an extra emphasis on the obliques.
- Grab a medicine ball and stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Reach the medicine ball up high overhead.
- Use your core to pull your body down, hinging forward at the hips, while you simultaneously rotate to one side.
- Utilize your core as you slam the ball into the ground.
- Follow through with your arms.
- The ball should hit the ground just to the outside of your feet.
- Grab it and repeat by alternating back and forth to each side.
- Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps on each side.
This medicine ball exercise works the obliques since they’re what drive a trunk rotation, says trainer Jordi Sadurní Serrallonga. Keep your reps low, he notes, so you can maintain as much speed and power as possible.
- Hold the medicine ball in your right hand.
- Step your left foot forward and keep the right foot back.
- Throw the medicine ball into a sturdy wall as if you were throwing a punch.
- Start the movement in the legs and transfer all your strength through the rotation of your trunk.
- Explode your arm forward to launch the ball into the wall.
- Do 3 sets of 8 reps then switch sides.
- Rest for 1 to 2 minutes between sets.
Horton is also a big fan of partner twists. “Not only are they an outstanding exercise that really targets the obliques, but they're also a fun and competitive exercise,” he says. Give them a try if you work out with a gym buddy.
- Stand back to back with a partner. (It can also be done seated.)
- One partner starts with the medicine ball.
- Both partners need to turn to face the same direction.
- Pass the medicine ball off to your partner.
- Both partners should quickly rotate to face the opposite direction.
- The ball is now passed back.
- To go faster, coordinate your hand placements on the ball when giving and taking and keep it consistent with each rep.
- Continue rotating side to side and passing the ball back and forth until all reps are completed.
- Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Trainer Jake Dickson says this is one of the best ab workouts you can do.
- Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart and a medicine ball in your hands.
- Drop to the ground and press your hands into the medicine ball while jumping your legs backward.
- Add a push-up for a challenge.
- Quickly jump back up to your feet and land in a squat.
- As you rise to your feet, press your hips forward and return to the starting position.
- Do as many repetitions as possible in 45 seconds.
- Rest for 15 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Ryan Horton, sports performance coach, owner of HortonBarbell
Functional Fitness Trainer Trevor Wells, ASFA-certified personal trainer with Living.Fit