Medicine Ball Side Throws – Benefits, Muscles Worked and Common Mistakes to Avoid

medicine ball side throw exercise

Ready to add a *twist* to your workouts?

Then it’s time to talk medicine ball side throws.

This dynamic twisting exercise not only packs a punch when it comes to strengthening your core, but it also activates your chest, shoulders, lats and lower body.

We discuss how to perform the movement properly, benefits, common mistakes and potential alternatives that work similar muscle groups.

Quick Summary

  • Medicine ball side throws are a great exercise to improve rotational power and core strength.
  • Keep your back straight and chest up throughout the movement and bend the knees.
  • They’re a beginner-friendly exercise that can be incorporated into all sorts of workout plans.

How to Do Medicine Ball Side Throws

To do medicine ball side throws:

  • Stand next to a wall, feet shoulder-width apart, with your knees slightly bent.
  • The type of ball (medicine or slamball) will influence the appropriate distance, but start roughly 2 ft away.
  • Hold a medicine ball with both hands, elbows bent and the ball close to your hip.
  • Twist your torso away from the wall, then quickly twist back towards the wall, using this twisting motion to throw the ball against the wall.
  • Catch the ball on the rebound and repeat the movement for your desired number of reps.
  • Perform an equal number of reps on both sides to ensure balanced training.

Coach’s Tip

Selecting an appropriate weight medicine ball will make all the difference. If it’s too heavy, you may struggle maintain good form… and if it’s too light, you’ll find you’re not challenging your muscles enough. Start light and work your way up until you find that sweet spot.

Muscles Worked

Medicine ball side throws primarily work the obliques and abdominals. They also activate the chest, shoulders, back, arms and lower body muscles, making it a great exercise for full-body workouts.

Here’s a detailed look at the biomechanics of the movement and the specific roles each major muscle group plays.


Your chest muscles (the pectoralis major and minor), play a key role in the forward throwing motion.

As you twist back towards the wall and release the ball, these muscles contract, helping to propel the medicine ball with force.

Their secondary role is stabilizing your upper body throughout the movement.


The shoulders, including the deltoids and rotator cuff muscles, work alongside the chest muscles in the throwing motion. They facilitate the extension and abduction of your arm as you release the ball.

Additionally, the rotator cuff muscles stabilize your shoulder joint, ensuring safe and controlled movement.


Your core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and the deeper transverse abdominis, are the true stars of this exercise.

As you twist your torso, these muscles contract dynamically, generating the rotational power necessary for the throw.

The obliques, in particular, are essential for lateral flexion and rotation of the trunk.


Your latissimus dorsi, or ‘lats,’ are large muscles in your back that contribute to the control and power of the throw. When you draw the ball back for the throw, your lats contract.

This not only stabilizes your torso but also aids in the rotational movement necessary for the powerful release of the ball.

Lower Body

While it may seem like an upper-body focused movement, your lower body plays an important role in medicine ball side throws.

Your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles work together to maintain a solid base, providing stability and balance throughout the exercise.

Your glutes and quads, in particular, contribute to the rotational force by extending and stabilizing the hips. This multi-muscle engagement turns the side throw into a total body workout.

Increasing the Range of Motion

We like to include a small twist away from the wall before twisting towards the wall because this increases the range of motion of the movement, contributing to more muscle activation.

Medicine Ball Side Throws Benefits

Core Strength

The dynamic and explosive nature of medicine ball side throws provides an intense challenge for your core muscles.

Core strength is essential not just for defined abs, but also for everyday activities that require bending, lifting, twisting, or even maintaining good posture.

A strong core serves as a foundation for all physical activities, improving your balance and stability. It can also help prevent injuries and back pain, often associated with a weak or imbalanced core.

As you twist and throw the medicine ball, your core muscles – the abdominals, obliques, and the deep-lying stabilizers – work in unison to control the movement and generate power.

Rotational Power

Rotational power is the force produced by twisting movements, as seen in a golf swing, a tennis shot, a baseball swing, or even when opening a door. Medicine ball side throws are excellent for building this type of power due to the forceful twisting action involved.

By enhancing your rotational power, you’ll not only boost your performance in sports and activities requiring this movement but also improve your overall functional fitness.

Hand-Eye Coordination

The ability to throw the ball at the wall and catch it on the rebound trains your hand-eye coordination.

This skill is vital in many sports, such as basketball or tennis, but it also has everyday applications. It enhances your reflexes and response time, which can benefit tasks such as driving, cooking, or even typing.

Over time, practicing medicine ball side throws can help your brain, eyes, and muscles communicate more efficiently, leading to improved coordination.

X” Marks The Spot

To add another element to the exercise, chalk an “X” on the wall and try and hit this same spot with each repetition.

Dynamic, Functional Movement

Functional exercises mimic movements we do in everyday life. The twisting motion in a medicine ball side throw, for example, resembles the motion you might use to pick up a bag of groceries from the floor and place it on a high shelf.

Not to mention, if you become skilled enough with your side throws, you could start impressing your family by lobbing cereal boxes into the pantry from across the kitchen. Although, we should note, not all family members or fragile items may appreciate this new skill!

By training these movements in a controlled manner, you can prepare your body for real-life scenarios, improving overall mobility, balance, and strength.

This way, functional exercises like side throws can enhance the quality of your daily life and reduce the risk of injury.

Athletic Performance

Medicine ball side throws engage multiple muscle groups and joints in a single, coordinated movement.

Whether you’re a swimmer who needs powerful arm strokes, a soccer player who relies on core stability for strong kicks, or a martial artist who requires quick rotational power for strikes, side throws can help you become a more robust, agile, and efficient athlete.

Redefining What Strength Training Looks Like

Strength training doesn’t just have to mean Olympic weightlifting and using barbells. Medicine balls, sandbags, and other functional fitness equipment, are great tools for increasing strength.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Not Enough Rotation

One of the most common mistakes is insufficient rotation of the torso. This exercise isn’t about a simple push from the arms; it’s about engaging your entire body, particularly your core.

If you’re not rotating enough, you’re short-changing your core muscles and missing out on the main benefits to your core and rotational power. Remember, the real power behind the throw comes from the twist, so rotate your torso fully with each throw.

Using the Arms Too Much (& Not Using the Core Enough)

Some people focus on the arm movement and end up turning this exercise into a push workout. While your arms and shoulders are indeed involved in throwing the ball, the primary driver should be your core.

Make sure you’re not just moving your arms back and forth. Engage your abs and obliques, and use the rotational force from your core to power the throw.

Not Bending the Knees

Standing too rigid or with straight knees is another common mistake. A slight bend in your knees helps keep your lower body engaged and maintains balance during the movement.

It also aids in the rotational movement by allowing your hips to turn freely.

So, keep your knees relaxed and slightly bent, and think of your legs and glutes as the stable base from which the power of your throw originates.

Medicine Ball Side Throw Alternatives

Russian Twists

To perform Russian twists, sit on the floor with your knees bent and lean back a few inches while keeping your back straight. to make it more challenging, lift your feet off the ground.

Hold the medicine ball in your hands at chest level, and then twist your torso to the right and then to the left to complete one rep. This exercise primarily targets your core, especially the obliques.

It’s less dynamic than side throws, as it doesn’t involve the throwing motion, but it offers a great rotational core workout.

Overhead Marches

Testing core strength and shoulder stability, overhead marches are a great addition to any strength training routine.

Hold a weight overhead with one hand, keeping your arm straight. Start marching in place, lifting your knees high.

The weight imbalance created by only holding the weight in one hand means it is a great way to fire up the obliques.

Suitcase Carry

Suitcase carries are one of our favorite ways to activate the obliques and midsection.

Hold a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand, like a suitcase, and walk.

The goal is to keep your shoulders and hips squared and avoid leaning to one side. The suitcase carry primarily targets your core, especially the obliques, and also improves grip strength.

It doesn’t offer the explosive, rotational component of side throws but is excellent for building core stability and unilateral strength.

Wood Chopper

The wood chopper exercise shares a lot of similarities with side throws.

Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell with both hands and stand with your feet hip-width apart.

Twist your torso to one side and raise the weight above your shoulder, then swing it down diagonally across your body towards your opposite knee, like chopping wood.

This exercise targets the core, similar to the side throws, with an emphasis on the rotational movement, making it a good alternative.

Bottom Line

Medicine ball side throws are a dynamic, compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, including the chest, shoulders, core, lats, and lower body.

They enhance core strength, rotational power, hand-eye coordination, and promote functional movements. These benefits aid in improving athletic performance and everyday tasks.

Common mistakes, such as insufficient torso rotation, excessive arm usage, and straight knees, can be avoided for an effective workout.

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