The medicine ball probably isn't the first piece of kit you'd think of for a thigh-blasting, butt-sculpting leg routine, but when equipment is scarce, medicine balls are a fine substitute for traditional weights. Medicine balls are typically used in strength and power programs, though they're also the ideal addition to your home gym. To get the most from your medicine ball leg workout, hit every part of your lower body and treat it in a similar way to a normal leg session.
You don't need to do anything fancy to feel the benefits of a medicine ball session -- just do with the ball what you'd usually do with dumbbells or a barbell. Simply by holding a ball, you make bodyweight squats and lunges harder. When squatting with the ball, touch it to the floor and then jump up on every rep, advises trainer Jessica Smith in "Shape" magazine. For lunges, switch between forward and backward steps, holding the ball over your head or passing it between your legs on each step. You can also perform alternate twists to the side during your lunges to increase the challenge. Burpees, where you put your hands on the medicine ball then hold it overhead as you go from plank to standing, are incredibly tough too, notes Smith.
Plyometrics are great fun and seriously hard work, and they work fantastically well with medicine balls. Plyometric training involves jumping movements -- the idea being that you don't use huge weights, but focus on being as explosive as possible, making medicine balls the ideal training tool. Try step jumps, where you stand over a bench, squat down until your butt touches it, then jump onto a low box. Jump lunges, where you jump between lunge positions, and medicine ball slams work well, too.
Sets and Reps
Look at your medicine-ball leg workout in the same way as any other leg workout. Start with one or two plyometric exercises for five sets of three to five repetitions. These warm you up, activate your muscles and get you feeling invigorated, thanks to their explosiveness. After your warm up, pick three other non-plyometric leg exercises and perform each for three to four sets of eight to 12 reps. Once an exercise gets too easy, either find a way to make it tougher -- by slowing down the tempo, reducing your rest time or switching to a harder variation -- or use a heavier medicine ball. While medicine ball leg exercises can build muscle and strength, they generally are more geared toward cardio and burning calories, so put your exercises in a circuit format to send your heart rate and calorie burn into overdrive and torch that stubborn blubber.
The weight of your medicine ball is definitely something to consider. You can get medicine balls in a variety of sizes and weights, from one to 50 pounds, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Start with a 10-pound ball and go from there. If you're new to training, you're better off staying at the lighter end of the scale, or if you're looking to grace the Ms Olympia stage, you might want to go a little heavier.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.