Get Explosive with Medicine Balls

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There are a lot of qualities that athletes need to develop.

They often need to get some combination of stronger, faster, quicker, more durable, better conditioned, or more explosive.

Now all of those qualities are related and build off of one another. For an athlete to improve their power development, they must have strength.

Power is being able to produce force, quickly. Strength is the ability to produce force. if you can produce a ton of force because you are strong, then using less force in a shorter amount of time is no problem.

Please check out this highly complex graph below that illustrates how as force goes down, velocity goes up. This graph, which must have taken some researchers many hours to create, is used as defense to everything training related ever.

force velocity curve

Take someone who can produce 4000 units of force total vs someone who can only produce 2000. Now ask both of them to produce 2000 as quick as possible. The second person in the scenario is going to be maxing out which is often the slowest. The first athlete will be working at about 50% which will be very easy to move quickly.

To get to 4000, strength training is the best method. It creates a bigger foundation to produce other qualities off of.

Once we have strength we can look to power development. I like to divide power into two general categories.

The first category is high resistance power. This would involve barbells and a decent amount of weight. The goal here is to move a heavier weight as quickly as possible. This is where cleans, snatches, and other barbell movements fit in. The force is high but time is a little bit slower than the next example.

The second category involves lighter weight. If using barbell movements, this would be speed work. The weight used is low but time should be much faster. Something like moving the bar as fast as possible with <65% on the bar. Squats, deadlifts, bench press all fit the bill.

We do not have to just use barbell movements here. Medicine balls, kettlebells, and jumping are all good ways to develop power with a light load.

The whole purpose is to move whatever tool we use as fast as possible with minimal resistance. Minimal is where people like to screw up.

I really like medicine ball work for training overhead and rotation. Too many of our athletes are terrible at rotating. If they never played a rotational sport then they struggle to turn their body.

The ones that are good at turning usually are not great at producing force through rotation. With either scenario, medicine balls slams and throws are a great choice.

The biggest mistake with medicine ball work is using too heavy of a weight. A light weight is the purpose of this type of training. But with the popularity of the new soft med balls and everyone’s ego, everyone wants to throw the heaviest ball. Rotational throws with a 20 lb med ball is just dangerous, never mind ineffective.

Med ball throws are going to be somewhere in the 2-6lb range. Yes, that is it. Too heavy of a ball means that the speed is not going to be fast. We have to be fast. Throwing the 2 lb ball as hard as humanly possible is much more effective than lobbing a 10 pounder at the wall.

Slams can get a little bit heavier since we are throwing towards gravity. We have med balls up to 12 pounds and there are a few older, bigger athletes that can slam those with good speed.

If there is no risk of your chosen med ball breaking in half then it is probably too heavy.

Here are some new videos on some med ball training.