The Explosive Way to Improve Your Bench Press With a Medicine Ball

This med ball exercise is the key to adding weight to your Bench Press and becoming a more explosive athlete.

The Med Ball Explosive Press is one of the easiest and most effective exercises to build a more powerful upper body and increase your Bench Press strength.

This med ball exercise is a bit different from a standard Med Ball Throw, for which you hold a med ball at your chest and throw it. Rather, you have to decelerate the med ball to your chest and explode up to throw the ball. It's all about transition speed, not how much weight you can handle or how hard you can throw the ball against a wall.

According to Rick Scarpulla, strength coach and owner of Ultimate Advantage Training, the Med Ball Explosive Press has a number of benefits.

It Increases Reversal Strength

Reversal strength refers to your ability to quickly decelerate an object and fire it in the opposite direction. "Think of reversal strength as like a trampoline. If you lack it, you won't be as strong in a lift or while moving on the field," says Scarpulla.

Unfortunately, many athletes are so enamored with pressing as much weight as possible that they fail to train this aspect of strength. They would rather grind out slow reps over and over than lighten up the loads and build the "trampoline effect" that will ultimately make them stronger and more explosive.

The Med Ball Explosive Press is designed specifically to improve reversal strength. You use a light weight compared to how much you can bench press, focusing on decelerating the ball and firing it off your chest as quickly as possible.

The result is . . .

A Stronger Bench Press

The pressing portion of the Bench Press can be divided into thirds—bottom, middle and top. The middle third is typically what limits how much you can lift.

"When most guys come out of the hole [the bottom part of a bench rep], they go through the bottom third of the rep and stall in the middle third," Scarpulla explains. "If you fail on this portion of the bench, you are lacking speed on the bottom third because you don't have sufficient reversal strength."

The reversal strength from the Med Ball Explosive Press is akin to placing trampolines under your elbows. As you lower the bar and push it off your chest, your newly built reversal strength will drive the bar up with more speed and help you complete a rep with a weight that caused you problems in the past.

It Improves Performance

"Reversal strength builds explosive power. Without the ability to decelerate and re-fire in the opposite direction, athletes cannot be explosive," says Scarpulla. "Nearly all athletes—with the exception of some endurance athletes—need this ability."

Specifically, it will improve any pressing skill. For example, it will increase your power when driving away an opponent or help you get your hands from your hips to in front of your chest faster and with more force, helping to overwhelm an opponent.

And of course, a stronger Bench Press as a result of your improved reversal strength will make you a stronger athlete on the field.

How to Perform the Med Ball Explosive Press

Lie with your back on the ground with your knees bent. Have a partner stand over your hips holding a med ball. Have your partner lightly toss the med ball to your chest. Catch the ball, decelerate it to your chest and explosively throw it to your partner. Your partner should catch the ball and immediately toss it back to you for the next rep.

Sets/Reps: 3x15-25

Scarpulla's Coaching Points

  • You're doing it wrong if you're catching the ball over your shoulders or neck. Your arm path should be exactly the same as what you use in the Bench Press.

  • Focus on speed, not weight. A person who can Bench Press 225 pounds should use a 15-pound ball.

  • Decelerate the ball and re-fire it. Don't abruptly stop the ball.

  • If you only have access to lightweight med balls, have your partner throw it to you with a bit more force.

For more tips from Coach Scarpulla, follow him on Instagram of Twitter.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock