You can use a medicine ball in many creative ways during your workout, including balance training, plyometrics, slams and strength training. So choosing the right medicine ball weight means first deciding how you'll use it.
Learn how to use a medicine ball to improve your overall fitness level and the best weights to get you started.
What Is a Medicine Ball?
Although the name may be a little deceiving, medicine balls don't actually have anything to do with medicine. They're large, weighted exercise balls with a rubbery, firm outer surface. You can find medicine balls in a variety of sizes and weights, just like dumbbells.
Medicine balls are a piece of functional exercise equipment you can use to strengthen and condition your whole body, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). They're especially useful in short workouts, because you can use one to train multiple muscle groups at once.
Plus, they're versatile — you can do nearly endless exercises using just a medicine ball. You can keep it simple with medicine ball squats or try a challenging exercise, like medicine ball halo lunges. And you can choose heavier med balls over time to build muscle.
Medicine Balls vs. Other Exercise Balls
There are plenty of medicine ball alternatives out there, like slam balls and therapy balls. The main difference? Medicine balls have a firmer outer shell, compared to slam balls, Swiss balls and most therapy balls, which are softer on the outside.
Plus, medicine balls are a little more convenient for fast-paced, explosive exercises, as they rebound quickly.
How Do I Choose a Medicine Ball?
As mentioned above, finding the right medicine ball weight for you depends on how you'll use it. Before you buy a medicine ball, it's best to test a few sizes with exercises you may want to try. You want a ball that provides resistance but isn't so heavy that it limits your motion, recommends the Dynamax blog, a popular medicine ball company.
"The best weight for you depends on your fitness level," says Carolina Araujo, CPT, a California-based strength coach. "Adults with some strength-training history can probably start with a 7- to 8-pound ball. Above all else, you should be able to do all your exercises with good form."
Medicine Ball for Beginners
Those tackling medicine ball exercises for the first time should start with a relatively light weight. After all, exercise balls don't exactly feel or move the same as standard dumbbells or barbells.
Because medicine ball exercises may involve rotation, jumping, throwing or other speedy movements you're not used to, take the time to learn those new movements with a lighter ball.
Start with a 4- to 5-pound ball. Once you can do all your exercises with good form with that size, gradually opt for larger options. Below is a chart with general guidelines for medicine ball weights. Remember, always err on the side of lighter to begin with to make sure you don't injure yourself.
Medicine Ball Weight Chart by Fitness Level
Medicine Ball Weight
4- to 5-pound ball (or less)
7- to 8-pound ball
12-pound ball (or more)
Medicine Ball for Strength and Speed Training
For strength-focused exercises, like medicine ball squats or lunges, a heavier ball (around 12 pounds) is probably the best choice, Araujo suggests. But for more explosive, cardio-focused moves, you want a lighter ball that you can throw around (around 7 pounds).
Medicine Ball Weight Chart by Workout Type
Medicine Ball Weight
Wondering What Size Exercise Ball to Get?
Size isn't always a good indicator of a medicine ball's weight — you'll see small fitness balls that are quite heavy and large ones that are quite light. Always check the actual weight of the ball, which will be printed somewhere on its surface.
Medicine Balls to Try
3 Medicine Ball Exercises to Try
Once you have the perfect size medicine ball, then what? Here are a few exercises to try.
1. Medicine Ball V-Up
- Lie face-up on the ground and hold the medicine ball with both hands, your arms extended overhead.
- Squeeze your core, then pull through your core to simultaneously raise your upper body and lower body off the ground.
- At the top of the movement, place the ball between your ankles and squeeze your inner thighs to grip the ball.
- Lower your legs and upper body back to the ground with control.
- On the next rep, pass the ball back to your hands. Repeat.
You can also try this move with knees bent.
2. Medicine Ball Squat to Overhead Press
- Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, and hold the medicine ball with both hands between your legs.
- Sit back into your heels and lower your hips back and down into a squat, bringing the ball to touch the ground while keeping your chest lifted.
- Press your heels into the ground and drive through your legs to raise the medicine ball overhead, finishing with your biceps by your ears.
- Lower back down to the squat position and repeat.
You can also separate out these two moves into an overhead press and squat.
3. Medicine Ball Push-Up
- Get into a high-plank position with one hand on top of the medicine ball and the other hand on the ground. Make sure to keep your shoulders directly over your wrists.
- Keeping your core, quads and glutes tight, lower your body toward the ground. Bend your elbows to 45 degrees until your chest taps the ground.
- Push yourself back up to the high-plank position with your body in a straight line.
- Roll the ball to the other hand and repeat.
If you'd like, you can also perform this exercise from your knees.
Tips for Building a Medicine Ball Workout
Medicine balls are functional, which means you can use them in a variety of workout styles, including strength and cardio-focused training. Just make sure you choose a weight that you can comfortably handle.
You can add a medicine ball to your existing workouts by swapping a few dumbbell or barbell exercises with a ball. Or, add resistance to a non-weighted exercise, like medicine ball sit-ups.
And there are plenty of challenging, medicine-ball-only exercises out there. On days you want to shake up your workout routine, you can do your entire workout using only a medicine ball.
- Aspen Medical Group: "Bands and Balls: When and Why to Use Them"
- American Council on Exercise: "4 Full-Body Medicine Ball Exercises to Boost Your Calorie Burn"
- American Council on Exercise: "A Medicine Ball Workout for Your Clients"
- American Council on Exercise: "8 Creative Ways to Use a Medicine Ball"