Over the past two decades, medicine balls have become essential equipment for any health club or studio and even in many home gyms, with a range of types and sizes. This ubiquity and variety present a terrific opportunity to provide your clients with workouts designed around the ACE Integrated Fitness Training® (ACE IFT®) Model using the three most commonly available medicine balls.

Unlike previous workouts in this series, this workout incorporates both components of the ACE IFT Model: Functional Movement & Resistance Training and Cardiorespiratory Training. A brief overview of each component is provided below, followed by the specifics of a fun and challenging medicine-ball workout featuring some great new moves.

Medicine Balls and Mindfulness

Reactivity and coordination are a feature of most medicine-ball exercises. Whenever you throw, catch or move a medicine ball, there is very little other than your own body that is responsible for controlling the speed and direction of the movement.

These characteristics of medicine ball training inherently create a higher level of focus and sense of being in the moment—the essence of mindfulness. This type of fitness experience may leave participants with a more favorable opinion of “exercise,” which can lead to a more enjoyable experience, which, in turn, can lead to more effort, better results and greater consistency.

In a study where exercisers were instructed to select a workout they either “enjoy doing” or is “useful for your health goals,” the participants who chose a workout they enjoy performed more sets on average (3.74) than the “useful workout” group (2.70). The researchers concluded that immediate rewards are stronger predictors of activity persistence than delayed rewards.

However, many clients use extrinsic motivators (such as “useful for health goals”) rather than intrinsic motivators (such as “this is fun and enjoyable”) as the basis for their choice of exercise or reasoning for why they should exercise. Thus, anything we can do alter the exercise experience to make it more enjoyable can provide a powerful shift in perspective regardless of the modality.

Even if someone has never used medicine balls before, they have, at some point in their lives, played with a ball. This subtle and sublime connection to a familiar, fun and playful experience and movement memory has the potential to enhance the subjective experience of exercise for people.

ACE IFT Model: Functional Movement & Resistance Training Overview

The ACE IFT Model provides a framework for movement-based training where we develop stability or mobility as appropriate in a specific area of the body (phase 1), integrate it into a full-body movement (phase 2), adding external load and creating a stimulus for strength gains (phase 3), and increase movement speed to develop bodily control (phase 4.) This workout focuses on phases 2 through 4.

The ACE IFT Model features five foundational movements:

  1. Bend and lift: A bilateral hip or glute-dominant movement (e.g., squat, deadlift, glute bridge)
  2. Lunge: A unilateral or asymmetrical lower-body movement (e.g., single-leg squat, lunge)
  3. Push: A vertical or horizontal pushing movement, either bilateral or unilateral
  4. Pull: A vertical or horizontal pulling movement, either bilateral or unilateral
  5. Rotation: A limb, torso or whole-body axial rotation

ACE IFT Model: Cardiorespiratory Training Overview

The four phases of the cardiorespiratory training model are as follows:

Aerobic Base (phase 1): A time for building duration in moderate-intensity exercise with a focus on establishing a pattern of consistent exercise (not used in this workout)

Aerobic Efficiency (phase 2): Targets the body’s first unique metabolic marker of fuel use, developing efficiency of aerobic energy pathways for better use of fats during exercise and in every day activities

Anaerobic Endurance (phase 3): Targets the second unique metabolic marker of fuel use, developing tolerance and capacity for sustained higher-intensity exercise; relevant to performance goals in endurance activities

Anaerobic Power (phase 4): Targets high-intensity interval training to develop anaerobic energy pathways to build speed and power

This Model moves away from programming based on maximal heart rate and allows for a more individualized approach to exercise intensity using an individual’s unique metabolic markers for changes in fuel sources during physical activity.

Ideally, this is done by knowing two specific metabolic crossover points: the first and second ventilatory thresholds (VT1 and VT2). These two thresholds provide the boundaries for three training zones.

In zone 1, fat is the primary fuel source for physical activity. As intensity increases, it will eventually reach the first crossover point (VT1). At this point, the fuel source for physical activity is equally divided between fats and carbohydrates, and the first difficulty in talking comfortably becomes noticeable. As intensity increases through zone 2, the contribution of fuel for physical activity from carbohydrates continues to rise and talking becomes increasingly difficult. At the second crossover point (VT2)—often referred to as the anaerobic or lactate threshold—and further into zone 3, speech is limited to single words and exercise can only be sustained for short intervals. Exercise intensities just below VT2 represent the highest intensity an individual can sustain for approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

Note: For the specific talk-test protocols to determine the heart rates for these thresholds, see the ACE Personal Trainer Manual). The absence of measurements for these thresholds does not prevent participation in the workout. A summary of the experience each participant should have in each training zone is provided in the table below.


Zone 1

Zone 2

Zone 3

HR relative to VT1 and VT2


HR ≤VT1 to ≤VT2


Talk Test

Can talk comfortably

Talking is somewhat uncomfortable

Cannot talk comfortably

RPE (1-10 scale)




Intensity Terminology



Vigorous-to-very vigorous

Note: HR = Heart rate; VT1 = First ventilatory threshold; VT2 = Second ventilatory threshold; RPE = Ratings of perceived exertion


The Medicine Ball Workout

This workout uses three types of medicine balls available through Power Systems and is designed to offer a practical movement experience, especially for the upper body. Exercisers have the opportunity to use high-demand (power), lower-demand (load) and everyday movements.

The Equipment

  • Oversized ball (Power Systems 12-pound Wall Ball): This ball is ideal for passing and catching—just about everything but slamming, which will cause equipment failure with a ripped seam.
  • Dead weight ball (Power Systems 25-pound Mega Slam Ball): This ball is used for the following moves: pick up, press, carry, slam or drop with no rebounding.
  • Slam ball (Power Systems 8- and 12-pound Elite Power Med Ball Prime): This ball is designed to slam with rebound and is used for throw-to-slam progressions.

Catching Rule

You touch the ball with your hands, but you catch the ball with your body. The hands contact the ball, but you absorb the energy and momentum of the moving medicine ball with the rest of your body. Much like a car, your hands use the steering wheel to tell the car where to go, but the energy comes from the engine, represented by your torso and legs in this analogy. 

Coaching Tips

When working with clients who are new to exercise or new to using medicine balls, put the ball in their hands to let them feel the weight of it so they know what to expect when catching the ball. This is especially helpful with slam balls, which can look like a kickball or basketball, but are much heavier. 

During this workout, the goal is to perform 45 seconds of work and stay in zone 1. As such, be certain to coach clients accordingly. Many participants will potentially go all out on these exercises. When going all out, 45 seconds is an impossibly long period of time and performance will degrade as the body progresses into zone 2 and eventually to zone 3. Specific notes for each exercise are provided in the workout details below.

If your workout space does not feature a wall timer, the GymBoss Interval Timer (an actual physical timer) allows multistage timers and is a great way to keep phones out of the workout space. If you do use your phone for timing, GymBoss also offers a free timer app, which allows you to create and save a timer (which you want to do for this workout.) For this workout, you would create a 45-30-30-30-15-30-second timer and have it repeat 15 times. The bold times are the work intervals.


Application of the Workout to Everyday Life and Training Zones

Training Focus

Everyday Life


Cardiorespiratory Focus (Zone/Phase)

Work Interval



Oversized Ball

Aerobic Efficiency

(zone 1/phase 2)

45 seconds



Dead Weight Ball

Anaerobic Endurance

(zone 2/phase 3)

30 seconds



Slam Ball (with Bounce)

Anaerobic Power

(zone 3/phase 4)

15 seconds


The Exercises

Complete three sets of each row of exercises—a volume, load and power exercise (in that order)—until all three are complete. Rest for 30 seconds between each set.


45 seconds (Volume – Oversized Ball)

30 seconds – (Load – Dead Weight Ball)

15 seconds (Power – Slam Ball)


Squat and Wall Press
(alternating top hand each rep)

Rainbow Deadlift

2-bounce Squat Thrust 


Backward Wall Ball

Slam and Shifted Overhead Press (1:2 rep ratio)

180-degree Lunge Slam


Lateral Wall Ball

Backpack Squat (switch sides every 2 reps)

Chop-slam Shuffle


Distance Wall Ball

Single-arm Chest Press

Single-arm Slam


Overhead Throw-Clap-Catch 

360-degree Plank

Jump Slam with Apex Catch


Individual Movement Notes

Oversized Ball Exercises

  • Backward Wall Ball – This exercise requires practicing impulse control, as instincts tell a person to duck down and forward (and subsequently get hit by the ball). If you do nothing with your head after releasing the ball, there is no danger.
  • Lateral Wall Ball – This exercise can get very tiring if done at too fast and intense a pace. Focus more on rhythmic, smooth and high-quality movement. (In a shorter work interval, this exercise can be performed more intensely.)
  • Distance Wall Ball – Use a distance that is challenging yet makes it possible to catch the ball without going into a full spring. Also, feel free to let the ball bounce for anyone who is uncomfortable with catching it.
  • Overhead Throw-Clap-Catch – With the longer work interval, start with one clap each toss, then two, and so on up to the individual’s limit, and then have him or her count backward to one. (As with the Lateral Wall Ball exercise, if you use this in a shorter work interval in a different workout, you could perform it at a higher intensity and start with a higher number of claps and try to keep repeating.)

Dead Weight Ball

  • Slam and Shifted Overhead Press – The “shifted” here refers to alternately shifting the ball over one shoulder to mimic the asymmetrical pressing we often find ourselves doing in everyday life.
  • Backpack Squat – This exercise is designed to simulate slinging a backpack over your shoulder.
  • 360-degree Plank – The aim of this exercise is to keep the ball as far from the body as possible, preserve the horizontal nature of the plank and allow very little rotation.

Slam Ball

  • 2-Bounce Squat Thrust – Two bounces is simply the goal—if the ball bounces three times, don’t stress. Don’t stop. Just keep going.
  • Jump Slam With Apex Catch – The slam naturally should pull the exerciser into a squat. Jump out of the squat and catch the ball at its highest point—the apex—and them slam again on returning to the ground.

ACE IFT Model Movements for Each Medicine Ball Exercise


ACE IFT Model Movements

Oversized Ball

Squat and Wall Press

Bend and Lift, Push

Backward Wall Ball

Bend and Lift, Pull

Lateral Wall Ball

Bend and Lift, Push, Pull

Distance Wall Ball

Bend and Lift; Push, Pull, Lunge

Overhead Throw-Clap-Catch

Bend and Lift, Push, Pull

Dead Weight Ball

Rainbow Deadlift

Bend and Lift, Pull, Push, Rotate

Slam and Overhead Press

Bend and Lift, Pull, Push

Backpack Squat

Bend and Lift, Pull

Single-arm Chest Press

Push, Rotate (anti-rotation)

360-degree Plank

Push, Pull, Rotate

Slam Ball (with bounce)

2-bounce Squat Thrust

Bend and Lift, Pull, Push

180-degree Lunge Slam

Lunge, Pull, Push

Chop-slam Shuffle

Bend and Lift, Push, Rotate

Single-arm Slam

Bend and Lift, Push, Rotate

Jump Slam

Bend and Lift, Push