Dumbbells and kettlebells are a great way to amp up any routine, but they’re not the only weights at the gym. If you’ve never picked up a medicine ball, there’s no better time than now.
This sandbag-meets-basketball is perfect for core training since it allows you to easily move and balance the weight in ways dumbbells may not.
Best of all, medicine balls come in different weights and sizes, so even if you’re new to working out, there’s one to suit you.
These 10 strength-building moves not only work the superficial six-pack muscles but also engage all layers of your core from the front to the back of your body.
Try incorporating three or four of these moves into your next workout. You can also do one round of all the moves for the prescribed number of reps for an extra core-focused routine.
1. Russian twist with medicine ball
Sit with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding medicine ball to your chest. Lean back slightly at a 45-degree angle to the floor, engaging your core.
Keep feet flexed with heels lightly touching the floor. Rotate to the right, keeping the ball at your chest, and twist from your low back.
Return to the starting position, then rotate to the left. Do 8–16 reps per side.
2. Medicine ball plank
Place both hands on medicine ball with arms fully extended and legs straight behind you. You’ll be in a high plank position but with the added challenge of balancing your hands on a ball.
Keep abs tight, hips level, and shoulders down and back. Hold for 30–60 seconds.
3. Medicine ball crunch
Lie faceup with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding medicine ball with arms extended overhead.
Curl head and shoulders off the floor and squeeze abs in. Raise the ball overhead and bring it in front of you as you sit up.
Allow the ball to gently fall overhead as you lower back down to the starting position. Do 8–16 reps.
4. Medicine ball woodchopper
Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, holding medicine ball with both hands. Bring ball up and to the left on a diagonal so arms are fully extended.
In one fluid movement, bring ball down and across your body to the right, allowing torso to naturally rotate. Bend knees and pivot feet slightly as you lower. Finish with ball about even with right knee, hips back, and knees bent.
Return to the starting position by bringing the ball up and across your body on the same diagonal. Do 8–12 reps on this side, then switch sides.
5. Medicine ball mountain climber
Start in high plank position with both hands on medicine ball. Draw right knee in toward chest, then re-extend right leg and draw left knee in.
Continue to alternate knees as quickly as possible while maintaining a tight core and level hips. Repeat for 30–60 seconds.
6. Reverse medicine ball plank
Start in a high plank position with medicine ball near your feet. Place one foot on top of the ball, then the other, so feet are balanced on the ball. Hold for 30–60 seconds.
Make it harder: From the high plank position with feet on the ball, bring right knee in toward chest, carefully return right foot to the ball, and bring left knee in (like mountain climbers). Continue to alternate as quickly as possible, maintaining balance.
7. Medicine ball boat balance
Sit with feet on the floor, knees bent, and medicine ball close at hand. Bring feet off the floor and legs into tabletop position so shins are parallel to the floor.
Balance the ball on your lower shins. Lean back slightly at a 45-degree angle and raise arms in front of you. Hold for 30–60 seconds.
8. Medicine ball twist
Start seated with knees bent and feet on the floor, holding the medicine ball to your chest. Raise feet off the floor into a low tabletop position. Twist torso to the right as you move knees to the left.
Rotate back to center, then over to the left, with knees dropping slightly to the right. Do not allow knees to touch floor.
Keep hips stable and core tight throughout. Alternate for 8–12 reps.
Make it harder: Lie faceup and straighten legs toward the ceiling. Curl up and rotate slightly to the right while allowing straight legs to fall to the left.
Without allowing left foot to touch the floor, bring feet back up. Allow them to drop to the right while you crunch up to the left.
9. Superman with medicine ball pass
Lie facedown, arms extended in a T, with right hand on top of a medicine ball. Lift upper back and feet a few inches off the floor and contract abs into a Superman position. Be careful not to put excess pressure on your low back.
Pass ball to left hand by rolling it in front of you. While still holding Superman position, roll ball back to right hand. Pass ball for 8–16 reps per side or for 30 seconds.
10. Medicine ball toe touch
Lie faceup, holding the medicine ball overhead. Raise legs toward the ceiling so your body forms an L shape.
Extend arms and crunch up, bringing ball toward feet and raising upper back a few inches off the floor. Make sure to contract abs and keep neck and shoulders relaxed.
Roll back down, allowing the ball to gently come overhead. Return to the starting position. Do 8–12 reps.
Special thanks to our model, Liz Barnet, a certified trainer in NYC. Barnet wears a top and pants from C9 Champion and uses a medicine ball from SKLZ.