There’s nothing quite like slamming a medicine ball into the ground. It’s a chance to build muscle, power, and strength. It lets you feel badass. And it just might relieve a little stress and anxiety, too.
Medballs are among the most versatile tools in the gym. You can use them indoors and out, and you can use them for a variety of training effects. They can be used for power training or athletic performance, and they can also enhance your core stability (translation: abs!) too.
The medball seems like a basic tool (essentially, it’s a heavy ball, right?), but it can be used in a complex manner that challenges your biomechanics. The applications are endless. You can hone rotational power, tap into full-body output, work end-range strength in extended positions, or do stability work.
Even better, you can get out of the gym easily. A medball works just as well against the wall in your gym as it does against a wall outdoors, making this a great option to train anywhere.
The Versatility of the Medball
Here’s the thing with most pieces of equipment in the gym: You can use them one way for each motion, with little room for variability. It’s hard to make subtle changes to the way you initially load, say, a dumbbell biceps curl. That can limit the variation in the training program.
Medballs aren’t like that. They adjust to what I call “footprint” and “handprint”. By footprint, I mean your stance. You can change the space between your feet as you set up to throw a medball, or stagger the feet (a split stance) or keep them parallel to each other (bilateral stance). That change lead to adjustments in how your core, glutes, and shoulders must act on the medball.
Handprint is hand positioning, which alters the force potential and torque that other joints apply to the medball. Grip a medball with both hands in similar positions, for example, and you’ll likely have to finish each throw with your shoulders square. That’s very different from the way you’d finish each medball throw if you gripped the medball more like a basketball, with one hand behind it and one hand along its side. Explore these different positions, depending on your training goals.
How You Can Train For Power
Explosive moves are a great way to tap your body’s power potential. It’s easy to brush off power training and think you don’t need it, but power training is more relevant for everyone than you think.
To build a well-rounded body, your training should be a mix of what you need to do everyday and what you need to do on occasion. Even if you’re not tapping the power you build in power training daily, the explosive strength you build helps in even the smallest tasks, delivering just a little bit of bounce even when you walk.
Training your power has plenty of virtues. It can preserve tissue integrity, improve joint health, and hone your basic ability to move. And medballs allow you to do that.
Most fitness training theory includes a discussion of planes. Your body can move in three planes. There’s the sagittal, which is essentially when you move directly forward. Movements like walking and front raises occur in the sagittal plane. There’s also the frontal plane, which essentially occurs when you’re moving laterally. Lateral shoulder raises are a movement in the frontal plane.
Finally, there’s the transverse plane, which essentially encompasses twisting motions. Imagine cutting your body in two, and having your hips turn in one direction and your upper body in another. That twisting motion occurs in the transverse plane.
Many traditional gym exercises occur in one plane, but medball movements are unique in that they’re multiplanar. You’ll get to move in multiple planes, with some parts of your body moving sagittally, some moving in the transverse plane, and some moving in the frontal plane, all in one motion. That’s real life — and it prepares you for real life, too.
View this post on Instagram
Partner medball abs fun! (Wish I could do this more, but hard to find good medballs and enough room.) This isn’t just toss the ball back and forth and do some decline sit-ups; that’s sleepwalkish. Some rules here to make your core faces a longer lever, train coordination, and create some challenge. —— 1) the thrower’s gotta work. the throws back are quick and they should make you really extend for the medball. Thing I see people waste on this is being conservative with the tosses. The thrower should lay the ball out there; if it’s not laid out there, you miss the anti-rotation challenge. And you shouldn’t catch too early either. Force yourself to have to reach back and get that full rectus abdominus stretch. —— 2) make your partner throw back quickly. Don’t let yourself relax after each throw. Keep the tempo high and fast. —— 3) don’t toss the ball back. Think about trying to take your partner’s head off. A faster throw (and a scared partner) means you used your rectus to explode upward and forward. (Partner, set up 2ish yards away from the person on the bench, so you can react.) —— 4) think of your waist as the key pivot point, not your shoulder. Yeah, you can throw hard with your shoulder, but we are working abs here. Think of your waist as the initiator of a slingshot motion: explode from the core first and foremost. ——- 3 sets of 20 alternating reps, resting between each set long enough for your partner to do work, will rock you. Wrap up with two sets of hollow-body partner pallofs (There’s a good vid of that on this page a few months ago….the vid we took during this ab workout was…not good) for a well-rounded ab workout that’s got stealthy challenge. #abs #fitness #training #coreworkout #sixpack
Biggest Training Mistake
It’s easy to get into a habit of doing medball work for only metabolic gain, piling up tons of reps. This has benefit in enhancing your work capacity, but don’t let it be the only way you use medballs. When you pile up those reps, your explosive ability in the workout gradually diminishes and you fail to truly train power. Spend some time using medballs for shorter, more explosive sets to get the most out of them.
The Best Medball Moves For You
Add these medball exercises into your routine, or do them as a full workout. However you do them, don’t always think about reps. Instead spend some time working for only short bursts of time. Your goal on every rep is to be as explosive as possible, and working for too long will lead you to compromise form and waste each rep.
Think of doing each move for 3 to 4 minutes, working for 20 to 25 seconds, then resting for the rest of the minute.
Rotational Medball Throw
View this post on Instagram
“Use your legs!” – often said, rarely understood by baseball coaches. Creating lateral force is the initial movement that occurs, but creating effective hip internal rotation and efficiently bracing the front leg are two huge factors in creating energy transfer from the lower body. Here are two variations of the medicine ball rotational scoop toss that can help address front leg bracing. A Bounding or shuffle start to the movement creates a lot of momentum that the front leg must brace against. Make sure to keep the front knee from “leaking” when the lead foot plants in the floor. This helps to transfer that kinetic energy efficiently though the upper body and medicine ball. #rotationalpower #baseballtraining #baseballpower #rotatingmedballthrow #rotationalmedballthrow #medballscooptoss #medicineballworkout #medball #baseballpowerdevelopment #billmillertraining
Why: One of the key functions of your core is to rotate your torso, and this exercise will teach you to do that explosively. It does so in a way that’s natural to your body, involving your hips and glutes as well.
How To: Stand with your side a few feet from a wall, holding a medball. Your feet should be in athletic stance. Rotate your shoulders away from the wall (your hips may rotate too), then explosively rotate toward the wall. Release the ball into the wall as fast and powerfully as you can. It should bounce. Pick it up, reset, and begin another throw. Work for 6 to 8 minutes, switching sides every set.
Why: Athletes frequently train something called triple-extension, the idea of straightening (or extending) at the hips, knees, and ankles all at once. This contributes to upwards explosive moves like jumps and, to some extent, faster running. The opposite of triple-extension is something called triple-flexion, bending at the knees, hips, and ankles all at once. You’ll train both triple-extension and triple-flexion with the medball slam, while revving up your heart rate and stimulating your abs, too.
How To: Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, knees bent, a medball held in both hands. Explosive stand onto your tiptoes, raising the medball high and throwing your arms over your shoulders. (You should be in triple-extension now.) Now explosively bend your knees and hips and throw the ball straight at the ground. Catch it on the bounce, reset, and begin another rep.
Why: This is another great core exercise that’ll hit your abs and obliques and force you to do so in a natural, explosive way. It also incorporates coordination, getting you moving from a high position to a low one.
How To: Start in athletic stance, with a medball over your right shoulder, arms extended. Breathe in. Then exhale and “chop” the ball across your body and downwards toward your left knee; let your torso and hips rotate as you do this. Be explosive as you do this; your knees and hips will rotate. Return to the start position and repeat.
Why: This move will fire up your legs, glutes and core, and it’s another great example of triple-flexion, challenging you to explosive bend at the hips, knees, and ankles all at once while blending in a rotational component. It’s a great way to build coordination. The workout below incorporates rainbow slams and crushes your core.
How To: Start with the medball on the ground near your right foot. You should be in athletic stance, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees bent. Keeping your feet facing forward, grasp the medball with both hands; your torso will have to rotate for this to happen. Explosively lift the medball overhead, standing onto your toes (triple-extension). Your torso will rotate as this happens. Continue that rotation and the movement and explosively throw the ball into the ground near your left foot. That’s 1 rep; grab the ball on a bounce (or off the ground) and rainbow slam the ball onto the other side.
By David Otey, C.S.C.S. and Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.