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In the world of practicing strength and conditioning, it all seems like we are always looking for a whole new and very innovative piece of equipment that is not only just going to unlock your athletic potential, increase your fat burning capacity but it is going to breathe new life towards your training goals.
Having some of these thoughts and seeking out something new is all human nature, and we all do this. You can go to a gym that has a bunch of different, unique equipment that all provide alternative variations of some traditional movements.
While variety can be the spice of your life, sometimes the classic basics can usually be overlooked and almost entirely forgotten.
Medicine ball training is known to have been a form of personal conditioning and strengthening for the ancient gladiators and Persian wrestling athletes this dates as far back as 1000 BC.
If we were to fast-forward to today’s world, and we find that the medicine balls are demoted to cute little abdominal exercises that could be done in your living room or, even worse, found as a dust collector that has been untouched for months on end. Unless your child somehow finds it and attempts to pick it up and play basketball.
It is time to start to re-familiarize yourself with some medicine ball training and bring this ancient form of exercise back into your daily training programs and watch your athletic prowess grow.
In this article, we will see all of the many unique benefits of medicine ball training along with some of our favorite exercises.
Some Benefits of Medicine Ball Training
If you didn’t sleep through your junior year physics class, you might not remember anything about Ampère’s Circuital Law, but you probably remember Newton’s second law where Force=Mass x Acceleration. This rule applies in the strength and conditioning world.
However, the primary focus over the years has been to lift more weight (mass) to get stronger (produce more force); however, acceleration has become an essential part of the equation and is often overlooked in training.
If we look closely at this scientific equation we can increase force production by increasing your speed or acceleration at which we can move an object; by training with moving weights faster, this can make you stronger and more explosive, and Medicine balls are an outstanding way to train acceleration for increased force production.
Multiple Planes of Movement
There is a freedom of movement with many vigorous medicine ball exercises that almost exactly duplicate the movements that are found in many sports that aren’t always found in other strength training movements.
The foundational movement exercises like squats, deadlifts and bench press are perfect for building your strength, but you become limited by their single plane of movement and ability to transfer power throughout the whole body.
Not to say you shouldn’t build strength with those foundational lifts, but when combining them with medicine ball exercises, you can enhance your force production through acceleration training and incorporate the whole body through various planes of movement.
You can project your power through a ball in a frontal, sagittal and even a transverse plane depending on how you decide to move the ball.
Safe, Versatile and Fun Benefits of Medicine Ball Training
Training force production in different ways has proved to be the best method for transferring over to sports performance. This is a huge proponent of preparing strength and conditioning programs that have lower risk exercises with higher rewards.
My goal is always to have my athletes be safe and get the most effective training available. I have found medicine ball exercises to be the easiest and safest way to train power.
For a young or new athlete, learning the kettlebell swing or even the more technically complex Olympic lifts requires a lot of technical ability.
The young and inexperienced athlete doesn’t possess a great foundation of strength, so, therefore, they are possibly setting themselves up for an injury if they are not able to perform these dynamic movements correctly.
Medicine ball training has proved to show that these athletes are still able to make force production gains safely by accelerating light medicine balls quickly.
With young athletes who are new to training, I can have them perform medicine ball training early in their training program where I usually wait a few weeks after some strength gain has been achieved, to teach a kettlebell swing.
Medicine ball training is also very versatile and can be trained for just pure power by using an appropriate weight for a particular amount of sets and repetitions, or they can be used for longer duration in a conditioning setting.
You can implement medicine ball slams for 30-second intervals which will train not only power but also train strength endurance which is a necessary energy system essential in most sports.
Lastly, it is hard-pressed to find someone, young or old, who does not like tossing the medicine balls. When the athlete is having fun, they will feel good and focus more on what they are doing because it is more enjoyable to them.
All of my athletes perform some medicine ball training either to enhance force production in a particular plane or to build their strength endurance.
Generally speaking, if I want to work on power I have the athlete perform them for a specific amount of repetitions closer to the beginning of the workout, or if we want to focus on strength endurance, we throw them into a conditioning circuit for time intervals at the end of the workout.
Remember all the physics behind using a medicine ball in your training. You want the acceleration to be high to produce maximal force.
If either the weight is too heavy or proper form is not allowing the medicine ball to rush, your energy production will be small along with your movement quality carry over to your sport.
This all brings us back to the origin of the name. The word “medicine” was long synonymous with the word “health.” The use of the word “therapeutic” in this case was to highlight how the exercises could be utilized as both a way of healing injuries and preventing them in the first place through general fitness.
Although devices we would recognize as being medicine balls have been commonplace for millennia, the word itself is only a couple hundred years old, being attributed to one, Professor Roberts way back in 1889. According to a Scientific American article from the time, Roberts coined the term “medicine ball” about the fact that using the ball “invigorates the body, promotes digestion, and restores and preserves one’s health.“ As “health” and “medicine” were considered to be synonymous terms at the time, calling it a “medicine ball” was natural enough.
Today, we always refer to the medicine balls as such, and commonly enough the terms “health” and “medicine” aren’t as synonymous as they once were. Hearing the phrase “health ball” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.