In sports performance training, medicine balls are one of the most useful tools to build upper body explosive power. This is for good reason, as medicine balls allow you to increase power in basic functional and sport specific movement patterns.
While medicine balls are a perfect fit for sports performance programs, our adult fitness clients can also benefit from this power development. Power production is one of the first movement qualities that adults start to lose with age. Think about how much we push on a daily basis as we age. We may push a grocery cart, a door open/close, or a wheel chair for a loved one. Our upper bodies are not really challenged as much unless we are doing something really specific.
Throwing a medicine ball helps our central nervous system build coordination and proprioception while teaching our muscle fibers how to stretch and contract quickly and powerfully. We must stretch and contract our muscle tissue to build and maintain power. The faster you can move a weight the better. When moving fast you have to control the momentum that is created which uses more muscle tissue. This additional stimulation makes you use more focused attention to detail so that you do not lose control.
The Science Behind Medicine Ball Drills
Power comes back to force production. In order to increase your force production you must either be able to move a certain weight fast, or keep the same speed and increase the weight.
By definition power is work divided by time. To build sport specific velocity, an athlete must continue to build strength and power. The stronger the athlete, the more mass he/she will be able to move. The more power the athlete has, the more speed he/she will be able to produce.
To be explosive you must move fast! This is the key to sports specific training. You must train your body to control many forces in a small amount of time. Therefore, your goal in medicine ball training should be to move the ball as fast as possible.
3 Medicine Ball Drills to Build Upper Body Explosive Power
Similar to strength training, you must build a foundation and then build upon it. The same goes for medicine ball work. Here are three medicine ball drills we commonly use at Git Right Sports Performance & Fitness. Regardless of the sport or activity, everyone can benefit from these three medicine ball drills to build upper body pushing, pulling, and trunk rotational power.
Medicine Ball Chest Pass
The chest pass is a great fundamental throw to teach an athlete to push and catch a weight with great speed. Controlling the ball is the most important factor. To produce a lot of power, you must be able to handle a greater amount of work, keep a good base with the ground (minimal movement in the hips), while explosively throwing the ball off the wall. Stand with your arms extended two inches from the wall. Maintaining a lower-body athletic position while bringing the ball all the way back to the chest. Extend the arms completely as you release the ball into the wall. Catch the ball with your arms extended and repeat explosively.
Medicine Ball Rotational Slam
The rotational slam is a great fundamental slam to teach an athlete to rotate and lower his/her center of gravity while contracting the muscles of the upper body and core. Controlling the ball is the most important factor. Stand with the ball to the left of your body. Squat down to grab the ball keeping your back flat and spine in alignment. Grab the ball and explosively drive your body upright, while swinging the ball overhead in an arching motion (rainbow), rotate your hips to the right and slam the ball into the ground. As you are slamming the ball to the ground you should be naturally lowering your body and end up in a kneeling position similar to a lunge. Make sure your knees are not over your toes because this puts unnecessary force on the joint. Now you have to grab the ball and swing it back up in that arching motion overhead and slam it back down to the left side rotating your hips accordingly. Complete 10 slams each direction for a great explosive and powerful movement.
Medicine Ball Chest Thrust
The medicine ball chest thrust is a great power exercise to challenge the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It will help increase your explosive power. Controlling the ball is the most important factor. Grab your ball and lay on a bench or ground if a bench is not available. Make sure your head, neck, and spine are in proper alignment. Plant your feet on the ground and keep the natural arch in your lumbar spine (lower back). Hold the ball with both hands equally towards the bottom of it so that you have great control on it. Thrust the ball toward the ceiling by contracting your chest muscles and extending your arms as fast as possible. Fire the ball up as high as you can without moving your body off the bench. Once the ball reaches its highest point, it will drop back on to you. Catch the ball equally on the sides and fire the ball right back up. There should be minimal time that the ball is in your hands. You are not punching the ball, but you are catching and thrusting the ball as high as possible with little rest in between. Complete 7 to 10 reps since this is a plyometric action to increase power.
There you have it. 3 medicine balls exercises that will challenge your upper body and increase your power production. Make sure you are technically sound so you do not injury yourself. You can call us at 855-734-4878 to get more information on additional medicine ball exercises or to perfect the exercises above.