As far back as 3000 years, the Greeks used medicine balls to help post-injury stages of recovery. Nowadays, medicine balls (MB’s) have become popular among athletic trainers, sports performance coaches, and athletes themselves due to the major benefits this equipment provides.
Using MB’s can increase the rate of force development, neural recruitment, coordination, balance and provides an effective plyometric movement that ads some variety to an athlete’s training regimen.
Throughout the article, we will expand on the benefits and highlight important factors of MB training.
Develop Explosive Power and Strength
Explosive power is the ability to produce a maximum amount of force in the quickest amount of time.
The more energy an athlete can release when they tense their muscles, the stronger the force they can produce at a faster rate.
This explosive power relies on the body strength in specific parts and movements in which the training controls. Any sequences that combine movements and MB’s, like squats and ball throws, will emphasize these dual benefits.
Improve Speed and Movement Precision for Physical Readiness
While prepping before a competition, practicing with MB’s can help athletes advance their speed and the correctness of their movements.
By reproducing certain actions with these weighted balls, athletes can move their bodies in a versatile way, proactively react, and position their bodies while interacting with teammates.
Provide Multipurpose, Full-Body Workouts
MB’s activate the core muscle groups, regardless of the primary muscle group being the focus. This way you can get more of a full-body workout. So, mixing up and varying training forms will help you unlock your overall body capability.
Moreover, training with a partner so the MB’s can be thrown and caught will increase hand-eye coordination, body awareness in space, and flexibility while improving reaction time.
Important Medicine Ball Training Aspects
Intent and Focus
An important factor with any type of training is making sure the exercise or drill has clear intent. That way any trainer and/or their athlete(s) will have a clear goal, allowing the ability to focus heavily on the task at hand.
For example, during a MB overhead throw, the trainer may have marked a distance they want the MB to travel.
This informs the athlete that they will need a certain amount of load and explosive extension while using their upper body to toss the ball far enough.
With this clear intent, the athlete will need to focus to meet or exceed the goal, not to mention this particular exercise is a full-body explosive movement that can help vertical, speed, and upper body ballistic power production.
Program with Intent and Clear Direction
When selecting exercises or drills, the trainer should give major thought to the desired result providing clear intent.
It is key that each training session has a clear direction and goal. For an athlete’s sport that requires large amounts of rotational power, like a baseball player’s bat swing the regimen should have different variables.
First, the trainer will incorporate heavy weight rotational MB tosses against a wall to build up strength and power output.
To improve the speed of the movement, the trainer will implement lighter weight lateral MB toss with the goal of minimal time spent between the toss and catch.
Work capacity and stamina should also be addressed to help keep peak performance throughout a game or match. The trainer will prescribe more sets and reps with minimal rest periods.
This type of training benefits the ball player with training that can translate specifically to the movements their sports require, while also providing dynamic movements that are not technically demanding as to alter an actual swing or develop bad habits.
Featured MB Drill
Medicine Ball Handball
This drill from Martin Bingisser of HMMR Media for High Performance, is easy to implement, clearly defined intent drill that provides a highly complementary exercise that will benefit athletes of varying sports.
It delivers a competitive situation to elicit increased focus with maximum effort that requires high levels of neural requirement for hand-eye coordination, balance, and reactive changes in direction that elicit fast-twitch muscle fiber activation.
- To perform the drill, set up a square on a wall with tape.
- Two athletes alternate throwing the MB in the square.
- Each athlete must catch the MB off of one bounce before throwing it again into the square.
- The object is simple, force the other athlete to need two or more bounces before they can get to the MB. If that happens the other athlete gets a point.
- Make the contest up to 10 points.
Bingisser, Martin. “The Value of Medicine Ball Training” High Performance West Part I, https://www.highperformancewest.com/blog/2018/3/21/the-value-of-medicine-ball-training-part-i March, 21 2018.
Bingisser, Martin. “The Value of Medicine Ball Training” High Performance West Pat II, https://www.highperformancewest.com/blog/2018/3/22/the-value-of-medicine-ball-training-part-ii March, 22 2018.