Remember those rubber balls that used to get hurled at you during those violent games of dodge ball? Well, the fitness industry has found a creative and less dangerous way of using them to improve your health. Of course, they are not quite the same. These balls have some weight to them—lots of weight in many cases. You can choose from a two-pound medicine ball to a fifty-pound medicine ball depending on your fitness level.

If you have seen these weighted orbs in your gym, but were not sure what to quite do with them, here are five great exercises you can try:

  1. Ball Slams: If you have any pent up anger, this is the exercise for you. Grab a medicine ball, hold it high above your head and then slam it to the ground as hard as possible. Sounds easy? Well, there are a few things you need to remember when performing ball slams. First, make sure to squeeze your abdominals as you throw the ball down. Second, always catch the ball as soon as it starts coming back up. Do not wait for it to get to chest level to grab it. Third, as soon as you catch it, immediately take it back overhead and slam it down again. This should be a quick, fluid motion. Do three sets of fifteen to really get the heart rate going. You can even add a jump every time you slam it for an extra cardiovascular burst.
  2. Wall Balls: The name may sound funny, but there is nothing funny about this popular CrossFit exercise. Take a fairly heavy medicine ball (ten pounds or heavier will really do the trick), find a high wall and throw the ball against it as high as you can and then catch it in a squatted position. The trick here is to make sure you catch it in a squat and then use all your lower and upper body strength (not to mention your abs) to throw it back up. Try performing this for a minute straight and make sure you keep reaching the same high spot on the wall.
  3. Push-ups: Just when you think push-ups were not tough enough, a medicine ball takes the challenge up a few notches. Perform a push-up while one hand is on a medicine ball. As soon as you come up from the push-up, roll the ball over to the other hand and do another push-up. Keep going until you cannot do anymore. If you want to add some core work to your push-up, place the medicine ball under your toes while doing push-ups. This takes great balance and coordination that will really test your core strength. As you get better, try putting a medicine ball under each foot.
  4. Russian Twists: Sit down while leaning back onto your tailbone and holding a medicine ball out and away from your chest. You can either lift your feet off the floor or keep your heels down. Take the medicine ball and twist side to side making sure to completely touch the floor with the ball and keeping your arms straight. You can make this more challenging by sitting on a bench and throwing the ball down on each side and catching it as it comes back up. The intensity is up to you.
  5. Figure Eights: This is another great core exercise that requires a bit of coordination. Sit down, lean back onto your tailbone and hold the medicine ball in one hand. Lift one leg straight up and pass the ball under the leg that is opposite of the hand you are holding the ball in. For example, if you are holding the ball with your right hand, lift your left leg and pass the ball under it and grab it with your left hand and then lower your left leg while raising your right leg at the same time. Keep scissoring your legs while passing the ball underneath them. This movement may require some time to get used to, but it is well worth it as it will hit your core from all angles.

The medicine ball is a versatile piece of gym equipment that can be used in place of weights for a change in your routine. You can press it overhead, swing it like a kettlebell, do burpees with them, or balance your hands on them for mountain climbers. Get creative with it and see how an everyday looking toy can become your greatest fitness challenge.