20-Minute Workout: Medicine Ball

That pyramid of med balls gathering dust in the corner of the gym? Go get one.

While you can carve a tantalizingly toned body in less than a half hour, we're here to tell you what you likely already know: To reap the rewards–increased calorie burn, strength, power, blissful endorphin high–truncated workouts must be insanely intense. So, we asked a team of Equinox trainers and group fitness instructors what they would do if given just 20 minutes to have at it. Here is the latest in the series


The Pro: Todd Anderson, Tier 3+ Fitness Manager, former Division I and professional football player

The Club: Chicago Loop

The Workout: The medicine ball is one of the oldest tools in the gym. It's refreshingly low-tech, versatile and provides a dynamic workout. "You get improved performance in three-dimensional movements, it's an efficient workout, plus it's easy to adjust your goals," Anderson says. "You can manipulate load, speed, reps, sets, stance, direction and ball type to make the session fit your goals." If you're new to med balls, pick a lighter weight (around 4 lbs for women and 10 lbs for men) and maintain it throughout the 20 minutes, rather than getting fried halfway through and dropping to a lighter ball. Last piece of advice from Anderson is to bring along a friend: "Med ball workouts are great partner workouts, since a partner can make it easy to arrange the tosses and also bring some extra energy to the workout environment." Plus slamming med balls on the gym floor can be a noisy affair. It's always nice to have an accomplice. 


Complete ten reps of each movement, resting 30 seconds between each of three sets. Rest 1 minute between circuits 1 and 2. 

Circuit 1–Upper Body

Alternating overhead throw: Holding med ball overhead, activating abs and maintaining good posture, throw the ball at a 45 degree angle either to the ground or to a partner. Alternate the stepping foot for each rep.

Overhead ball slam: Holding med ball overhead, hinge hips back and slam ball just in front of toes. Squat to pick up ball and repeat.

Chest pass: With feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent, use both hands to push med ball to a partner or against a wall. Throwing the ball at a 90 degree angle will activate chest and triceps muscles; throwing it slightly above shoulder height will activate deltoid muscles.


Circuit 2–Lower Body

Overhead reverse lunge: Holding medicine ball against chest, maintaining a straight back, step back with left foot and drop left knee to just above the floor; activate quads and glutes, press through right heel and return to stand. Repeat using right foot to complete one rep.

Squat to overhead toss (wall balls): Holding medicine ball at the top of your chest, hands toward the bottom of the ball, feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, keep chest up and squat. In one fluid motion at the bottom of the squat, activate glutes, press through heels and explode upward, tossing the ball at a wall about 8’ to 10’ up (or toward the ceiling if no wall is available). Catch ball at about face level and use the momentum to start your next squat.

Med ball step-ups: Using a 12” to 18” box and holding med ball against chest, step up on the box, bring other foot up and stand up fully. Step down to return to start.