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Medicine Ball Training

The ability to generate strength and power is essential for success in many sports, particularly those involving explosive movements. Medicine ball training, in conjunction with a program of weight training and circuit training, can be used to develop strength and power. Specific medicine ball exercises can also be used as a plyometric training program to develop explosive movements. Medicine ball training is appropriate for all levels of ability, age, development and sport. For the program to be effective, it should contain exercises that match the pattern of movements of the sport.

Planning a program

The following are some guidelines (Jones 1997)[1] in planning and running a medicine ball session:

  • Always ensure the athletes carry out a thorough warm-up and cool down
  • Before starting a session, explain the procedures for each exercise with your athletes
  • Partners who feed the medicine ball on specific exercises should be well drilled on what is required
  • Medicine ball exercises must precede high-intensity work
  • Start sessions with lighter, less dynamic exercises, then progress to heavier exercises
  • The program should have exercises that match the pattern of movements of the sport
  • Plan the program to exercise alternate body parts (legs, upper body, torso)
  • You will need to have several different weights of ball available - heavy, medium and light
  • Initially, athletes should use a lightweight ball and gradually progress to heavier ones
  • Check there is sufficient space (including ceiling height) and that the structure of the walls is safe if any rebounding exercises are used
  • Maintain good discipline as medicine balls can be dangerous if used incorrectly
  • An effective workout with medicine balls can be achieved in about 30 to 40 minutes if the athlete works efficiently
  • Quality of movement is more beneficial than the number of exercise repetitions or sets

Technique and Safety

To ensure personal safety and good technique while doing medicine ball exercises, the following points should be remembered (Jones 1997)[1]:

  • Complete throws with full extension of the arms
  • On standing exercises, plant your feet before beginning to throw the ball
  • Always use the full joint range in the correct sequence in carrying out each exercise
  • Maintain technique - do not sacrifice control for distance
  • Inexperienced athletes should not take the ball too far back behind the head when carrying out overhead throws
  • When picking up a ball, ensure the knees are bent and the back is kept straight
  • When carrying out exercises lying on your back, ensure the lower back always remains in contact with the surface
  • Before a catch, ensure you:
    • keep your arms extended
    • keep hands together
    • keep eyes on the ball
    • reach out to meet the ball before making contact
    • do not attempt to catch balls thrown wildly

Example Program

The following is an example of a program of general medicine ball exercises. These exercises and many more are detailed in "Strength Conditioning with Medicine Balls" by Max Jones:

Standing torso twist

  • Stand back to back 1 metre apart
  • Keep your hips facing forward and legs slightly relaxed
  • Pass the ball to one another by only twisting the torso

Two sets of ten repetitions (2 x 10)

Torso Twist Torso Twist Torso Twist

Hamstring curls

  • Lie flat on the ground
  • Roll the ball along the back of legs
  • On reaching the heels, the ball is flicked up

Two sets of eight repetitions (2 x 8)

Hamstring Curl Hamstring Curl Hamstring Curl

Chest push

  • Feet together
  • Hands behind ball and elbows out
  • Step forward and push the ball upwards and towards your partner

Two sets of eight repetitions (2 x 8)

Chest Push Chest Push  

Vertical extensions

  • Stand back to back approx. 60cm apart
  • The ball is passed overhead
  • The ball is returned between the knees

One set of ten repetitions (1 x 10)

Vertical Extension Vertical Extension Vertical Extension

Lay back double-arm throw

  • Support your back with a large medicine ball
  • Throw another medicine ball to your partner
  • Partner returns the ball to an overhead position

Two sets of eight repetitions (2 x 8)

Arm Throw Arm Throw Arm Throw

Double leg kicks

  • Lie on your back
  • Soles of feet facing partner
  • Partner stands 3 metres away
  • Partner throws the ball in a looping path onto your feet
  • Bending your knees back to your chest, the ball is then kicked back to your partner
  • Do not lower your legs to the ground

Two sets of ten repetitions (2 x 10)

Kick Back Kick Back  

Straight arm standing throw

  • Place one foot 50 cm behind the other
  • Take the ball back, ensure hands are high, shoulders stretched and chest out
  • Step forward and throw the ball to your partner, keeping the arms straight

Two sets of eight repetitions (2 x 8)

Standing Throw Standing Throw  

Abdominal curl

  • Sitting up slightly, resting on your hands
  • Knees bent
  • The knees hold the ball
  • Draw knees up to the chest
  • Return to the starting position

One set of twelve repetitions (1 x 12)

Curl Curl  

How much?

An effective workout with medicine balls can be achieved in about 30 to 40 minutes if the athlete works efficiently. Each session should consist of 8 to 10 exercises, with the athlete performing 2 to 3 sets of each exercise. If the athlete is to improve strength and muscular endurance, conduct 6 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. If the athlete is to develop muscular endurance rather than strength, then perform12 to 30 repetitions. Carry out two or three weekly sessions with a recovery period of 36 to 48 hours between sessions.

The medicine ball's weight - start with 3Kg for boys and 2Kg for girls.


  1. JONES, M. (1997) Strength Conditioning with Medicine Balls. Leeds: The National Coaching Foundation

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1997) Medicine Ball Training [WWW] Available from: [Accessed