How to use Medicine Balls to become a better athlete
In just about every sport, developing muscular power is absolutely crucial to improving performance. Muscular strength is defined as your ability to apply maximal for submaximal force on a load. Muscular power is defined by how rapidly that force can be applied. Jumping, running, shooting, throwing, and passing all depend on muscular power. Developing muscular strength is extremely important as well, but if you can’t rapidly apply the strength you’ve developed, it is pretty much useless. Utilizing medicine balls, and specifically doing medicine ball slams, is an excellent way to develop muscular power, and we will outline some great medicine ball exercises for power development in this article. Much of what we’re going to outline here is discussed in great detail in an article that Eric Cressey wrote for his blog. Eric is one of the most well respected strength and conditioning coaches in the professional baseball world, and consistently works with some of the MLB and MLB’s elite players.
The first and simplest step in medicine ball slam progressions is any slam that happens in one plane of motion and is stationary. Overhead med ball slams, rotational med ball slams, and split stance rotational med ball slams are some of the more popular first-step slams. In these slams, thoracic rotation is the main point of emphasis. These slams also do not include any loading and rotation at the hips. Next, we can progress onto med ball exercises in a single plane of motion that also include hip loading and force transfer. Standing rotational med ball slam variations are a major exercise in this progression, and can include many different small tweaks to change up the emphasis of the movement.
After these two first progressions have been mastered, it is now safe to move onto slams that use body movement to create more power. Progression #3 is any medicine ball slam that uses momentum and body movement in one direction. Eric Cressey’s “step behind rotational med ball shot-put” is a good example of this progression, and you can watch that here. In progressions #4 and #5, we want to focus on utilizing the stretch-shortening cycle before each slam. Often times, this will include some sort of quick step away from the target in which we load the back hip, and then quickly explode back towards the target. Here we see a great example of this type of movement. Finally, you can progress many of these slams by adding multi-directional movement. Medicine ball slams can be progressed in endless ways, and are only limited by your creativity.
It is important to always progress slowly, and only move onto the next progression when the athlete (or yourself) has earned it. Always use relatively light medicine balls, anywhere from 4-8lbs. Following this progression style, or something similar, can and will transform your athletic capabilities in a big way!
Cressey, Eric. “Making Sense of Rotational Medicine Ball Progressions.” Eric Cressey | High Performance Training, Personal Training, 17 Nov. 2018, ericcressey.com/making-sense-of-rotational-medicine-ball-progressions.