We all get trapped into certain paradigms. It is not too uncommon to see our training restricted only to what we can do in the weight room. This is very unfortunate, as there are many fun and productive methods of training that can be done outside of the gym.
Training outside or using methods other than weight training can serve a variety of functions. It allows for a change of pace which many trainees need. You can move and load the body in a variety of ways in which with traditional weight training would be impossible. Since there are so many different exercises and tools one can use for outside training.
This article will cover some of what I feel are the most productive exercises with medicine balls. There is obviously nothing new with medicine balls, however, many people only know of a few exercises they can perform and don't even know why medicine balls are such a great tool. Let's look at the following reasons medicine balls are so useful and versatile:
Why Use A Medicine Ball?
1. There are three planes of motion, with most of our weight training exercises we only train one. However, we move in three in everyday life and in sport. So, with medicine balls we are able to train the other two planes of motion, which can result in a great reduction of risk of injuries such as the low back.
2. Medicine balls utilize a high level of trunk activity. Many theorize that all movement begins at the core (abdominal and low back) and all forces are translated through this region. This means that if your core is weak your ability to develop power or force through the extremities will be reduced. Powerlifters can tell you that if you don't have a strong core that one's deadlift or squat will suffer tremendously. Now, even though there are a variety of ways to train the trunk, medicine balls allow one to train these muscles in an explosive manner as well. In sport, most movements are very fast and powerful, so in the development of high school to professional athletes this can be a very useful method.
3. Explosive power development can have a positive effect for those that are looking for new levels of strength in their weight training or increased sporting performance. In sport there is no factor more important than rate of force development. Meaning, being just strong is not adequate. Like I mentioned in the above point, sporting activities will usually contain very fast and powerful movements. If one can not produce their strength in a minimal amount of time then they will not perform at their full potential.
Effective Medicine Ball Exercises
Since now you are excited to see how to incorporate medicine ball activities into your routine let's look at some of the exercises that I think are the most beneficial. I have selected these exercises as they utilize most muscles at one time. Our goal is to integrate muscle movement, not isolate.
Plyometric Push-up with Chest Pass
Start on your knees holding a medicine ball by your chest, partner is standing five yards away. Throw the ball to your partner (as in a basketball chest pass) and fall to the ground. Catch yourself in a kneeling push-up position and explosively push yourself back up. Once you are coming up, your partner will chest pass the ball back.
Start with the ball overhead. As quickly as possible swing the ball between the legs and your body will be in a position very similar to a deadlift. Reverse this motion as quickly as possible and thro the ball as far backwards as possible. Note: This is an explosive exercise for the whole body, however, try to utilize the hips as much as possible.
Woodchop Bounce Pass
Partners face the same direction. Start with the knees bent and feet slightly wider than shoulder width. The partner with the ball will bring the ball over the shoulder and shift their weight to the same side. Then as explosively as possible they will bring the ball across their body and shift their weight to the other side. Release the ball so that is bounces approximately two-thirds away from the thrower. The partner will catch the ball and reproduce the motion as quickly as possible.
With the ball against the chest dip down into a quarter squat position. Very quickly reverse this motion and try to jump and throw the ball into the air. You may let the ball bounce and repeat, catch the ball and repeat as quickly as possible, or perform a quarter turn while the ball is coming back and catch.
These are all fun and very useful exercises. It is important to note that since all these exercises have an explosive nature to them, it is required you spend time warming-up and carefully go through the motions before going full effort. The explosive nature of the exercises should not be loss by excessive fatigue. So, do not use too heavy of a ball, use inadequate rest intervals, or too many repetitions. Most importantly have fun with these new movements!