An Introduction to Medicine Ball Training

You have probably seen a medicine ball in the gym before, perhaps a gym member was using it to perform weighted crunches, or maybe they were throwing it at a wall. Many long-term gym goers will either love them or completely underrate them. However, the medicine ball, just like any tool is only as effective as the person using it is.

Medicine balls can be perfect for plyometrics training, resistance training, or cardio based circuits. They can increase power, the range of motion, and body composition – depending on what your goals are.

 

Benefits of Medicine Ball Training

There are many benefits to medicine ball training; the training is usually more enjoyable than traditional strength training exercises, meaning that you are more likely to stay motivated. You also can perform a full medicine ball workout with just one or two pieces of equipment – making it perfect for people on a budget.

Medicine ball training is fantastic for developing power, and many plyometrics exercises for upper, lower, and full-body power utilize a medicine ball. Think of the medicine ball chest pass, which can increase chest and shoulder power, or wall balls in CrossFit where you throw a medicine ball up in the air against a wall and then catch it while squatting down. Working the upper body during the throwing and catching part of the movement, while working the lower body during the squat.

You can also burn many calories while training with a medicine ball, as most exercises work the whole body. Medicine ball exercises are perfect for circuit training, as they take up a small amount of space and are really easy to set up.

 

Choosing the Right Size Medicine Ball

As with anything in the gym, the size of the medicine ball that you use is dependent on your goals, capabilities, and what equipment you have available to you. Nobody ever asks what dumbbell is the right weight for him or her, because everyone knows that a dumbbell can be used by many different people, for many different exercises, with many different goals in mind.

However, there is a difference between dumbbells and medicine balls, and that difference is availability. While most gyms will have 30-50 different weights available for dumbbells, there is usually only 2-3 different medicine ball weights available to you. For the majority of exercises, a 6 lb. ball (4-6 lbs. for women) is the best option. This is usually the middleweight, though stronger athletes may be more suited to an 8-10 lb. ball.

 

Programming Example:

Ideally, Medicine Ball work should be performed after your warm-up (see the Movement Prep link below) but before your strength training exercises. Below are two drills that you can incorporate into your current program to start to develop upper body and rotational power.

Movement Preparation:

A1) Chest Pass—Med Ball—Half Kneeling—Parallel Stance—Non-countermovement

  • Sets: 3-4
  • Reps: 4-5 reps/side
  • Tempo: 10X0
  • Load: 4-6 lbs. (women) or 6-8 lbs. (men)
  • Recovery: 45-60 seconds

A2) Rotational Throw—Med Ball—Half Kneeling—Parallel Stance—Non-countermovement

  • Sets: 3-4
  • Reps: 6-8 reps/side
  • Tempo: 10X0
  • Load: 4-6 lbs. (women) or 6-8 lbs. (men)
  • Recovery: 45-60 seconds

Note:

Perform one set of A1; rest 45-60 seconds; perform one set of A2; rest 45-60 seconds and repeat the circuit 2-3 more times.

One set = both sides.

Chest Pass—Med Ball—Half Kneeling—Parallel Stance—Non-countermovement

Primary Muscle(s):

  • Pecs
  • Deltoids
  • Triceps

Secondary Muscle(s):

  • Core

Starting Position:

  • Select the proper Med Ball resistance that will allow you to perform the prescribed number of repetitions.
  • Half kneeling on a mat or pad in a parallel position to the wall.
  • Be close enough to the wall (I.e., 3-4 feet) so that you can catch it on the rebound.

Execution:

  • Start with the arms close to your chest.
  • Extending both arms with force, throw the ball straight into the wall at chest level.
  • Catch, pause/reset and repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.
  • Switch sides and repeat with the other leg forward.

Coaching Tips:

  • Keep your hips tucked in and core braced.
  • Exhale as you throw.

Movement Regression:

  • Chest Pass—Med Ball—Tall Kneeling—Parallel Stance—Non-countermovement

Movement Progression:

  • Chest Pass—Med Ball—Half Kneeling—Parallel Stance—Continuous

Rotational Throw—Med Ball—Half Kneeling—Parallel Stance—Non-countermovement

Primary Muscle(s):

  • Glutes
  • Core

Secondary Muscle(s):

  • Shoulders
  • Arms

Starting Position:

  • Select the proper Med Ball resistance that will allow you to perform the prescribed number of repetitions.
  • Half Kneeling position with legs in a parallel stance to the wall, close enough to catch the ball on the rebound.
  • While holding the Med Ball in your hands, start with your arms extended and your torso and hips rotated toward the wall.

Execution:

  • Rotate your arms, torso, and hips away from the wall and then explosively rotate them back toward the wall and throw the ball into the wall.
  • Catch, pause and reset to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

Coaching Tips:

  • Keep your core tight.
  • Make sure you use your Glutes to help generate force.
  • Exhale as you throw.

Movement Regression:

  • Rotational Throw—Med Ball—Tall Kneeling—Parallel Stance—Non-countermovement

 Movement Progression:

  • Rotational Throw—Med Ball—Half Kneeling—Parallel Stance—Countermovement

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