Medicine Ball Ab Exercises

Tamsen Butler
Contributor: Del Sandeen
woman doing situps with medicine ball

Incorporating medicine ball ab exercises into your fitness routine can help strengthen your core muscles without traditional crunches, and using a medicine ball adds variety to your workout. A medicine ball makes the workout feel more playful, even if you don't typically enjoy ab exercises.

Medicine Ball Exercises for Abs

Any time you need to balance or stabilize your body, your core muscles are at work - this is what makes a medicine ball a good choice for ab work.

Reps and Sets for All Exercises

Perform reps of eight to twelve in each set, doing three sets if your body allows you to complete all three sets without compromising your form. Listen to your body, especially when just starting out, and if the moves prove too difficult or if you experience pain, lower the weight of the medicine ball or reduce the number of reps/sets you do - you can always work up to the 12 reps/3 sets eventually when your body is ready. Twice or three times a week is a good goal for ab workouts as your muscles require some recovery from one workout to the next.

Crunch and Reach

Advanced exercisers can do this move with a heavier medicine ball and perform a full sit-up; beginners should aim for a crunch with a smaller medicine ball to get accustomed to the movement.

  1. Lie supine (on your back) with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Hold the medicine ball in your hands.
  2. After a forceful exhale, perform a crunch or sit-up.
  3. At the top of the movement, while your back is off the ground, reach the medicine ball up as if you're trying to touch the ceiling with the ball. If this proves too difficult, keep the ball in your hands close to your chest.
  4. Return to your original position, lowering the ball and slowly declining your back to the floor. This should be a controlled, resisted movement and not a plop onto the ground.
woman doing crunches with medicine ball

Medicine Ball Crunch Reach Pass

You might want to practice with a lighter medicine ball than you'd normally use until you're comfortable with the movement in this exercise:

  1. Lie on a mat on the floor.
  2. With arms and legs stretched straight out, hold the medicine ball in your hands.
  3. Contract your abs and lift your head and shoulders, while also raising your legs straight into the air, making a "V" shape with your body.
  4. Put the medicine ball between your feet and lower yourself to the starting position, but keep your feet a few inches above the floor.
  5. Repeat step three, but this time, place the medicine ball back into your hands.
  6. Lower yourself to the starting position and repeat.

Russian Twist

This classic exercise can be done initially without any weight at all for new exercisers trying to get used to the transverse motion of this twist.

  1. Sit on the floor, knees bent and feet flat on floor.
  2. Hold the medicine ball out in front of you and recline your back at about 45 degrees. Advanced exercisers can lift their feet off the floor for more challenge.
  3. Twist your body to the right, lightly touching the ball to the floor. Allow your gaze to follow the ball.
  4. Next, twist your body to the left, again lightly touching the floor with the ball.
  5. One twist to each side counts as one rep. It's important to keep your lower body still during this exercise.
Russian Twist with Medicine Twist

Reverse Crunches

This move is similar to a classic reverse crunch, but the weight of the medicine ball adds to the difficulty. Lowering and raising your straightened legs helps activate your lower abs.

  1. Lie on your back on the floor.
  2. Hold the medicine ball above you, keeping your arms straight.
  3. Raise your legs straight up, toward the ceiling.
  4. Raise your hips, squeezing your glutes. This should be a small, controlled motion.
  5. Hold for a count of one and lower yourself to the starting position and repeat.

Ball Toss

You need a partner for this exercise - it can be a fun move that reminds you of tossing a ball around as a child.

  1. Sit on the floor, knees bent and feet flat.
  2. Recline back until your back is about halfway between the floor and the upright position. Your partner is either in the same position facing you, or is standing in front of you.
  3. Have your partner toss the medicine ball to you. As you catch the ball, lower your back to the ground and hold the ball in front of your chest.
  4. Sit back up while throwing the ball back to your partner. Your partner will then lower their back to the ground and sit up and throw the ball back to you (or, if standing, while toss the ball right back to you).
Tossing medicine ball to one another

Weight Transfer Plank

The stability and strength required to do this move properly really challenges your ab muscles.

  1. Placing the medicine ball on the ground in between your hands, assume a plank position on your hands (not elbows) and toes. If this position proves too difficult, drop to your knees.
  2. Using your right hand, push the medicine ball over to your left hand. For best results, focus on not allowing your hips to rock.
  3. Use your left hand to push the medicine ball over to your right hand. Repeat, maintaining proper plank form throughout.

Ball Planks

This challenging plank variation kicks your ab muscles into high gear.

  1. Place the medicine ball in front of you and assume a plank position with your hands (or elbows) on the ball.
  2. Focus on keeping proper alignment in your body while not allowing the ball to wiggle.
  3. Hold the plank for 20-30 seconds before recovering and returning (the 20-30 second interval is your set).
woman doing ball planks

One Legged Stability Hold

Yoga enthusiasts already know: standing on one leg forces your ab muscles to work as your body tries to balance and keep you upright. Adding a stability ball increases the effort required to maintain the posture.

  1. With medicine ball in hand, stand on one leg, spreading the toes of that foot as wide as you can for more support.
  2. Your other leg can be propped onto the inner thigh of your other leg, like in tree pose, or wrapped around the other leg, or simply extended out and away from the floor.
  3. While standing on one leg, you can either hold the medicine ball close to your chest (easiest), extend the ball overhead (difficult), or extend the ball in front of you (hardest).
  4. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds.
Woman holding medicine ball over head

Effective and Varied

Strong abs make for a strong core, and a strong core protects your body from injury and makes you more capable of movement altogether. You can perform a variety of effective medicine ball ab exercises, which may seem more like play than working out. Having a good time while you workout is the best way to get in shape because you won't get bored.

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Medicine Ball Ab Exercises