Barbells and dumbbells are two of the most common pieces of equipment used in strength programming. And there’s nothing wrong with this. They’re the best tools for building strength and size.
If there is one other piece of equipment that should be used as often or nearly as often as these two, it is the medicine ball. Simply put, the medicine ball serves a wide variety of purposes, and is about as risk-free as it gets.
With this in mind, let’s look at how med balls should be used throughout your programs.
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When it comes to athleticism, maximal power is one of the main goals. Olympic lifts build great power, but they also pose great risks to athletes.
Enter the medicine ball. Like Olympic lifts, they can be used to develop explosive power. By performing something as simple as an Overhead Med Ball Stomp, you promote triple extension of the ankles, knees and hips, just like in a Power Clean. Because medicine balls weigh much less than the bar used in a Clean or Snatch, proper movement is reinforced with lower injury risk.
Medicine balls can also be used to develop rotational power, which isn’t possible with traditional barbell and dumbbell training. Performing movements like a Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss or a Half-Kneeling Anti-Rotation Med Ball Shot Put create rotational power in a healthy manner.
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At Cressey Sports Performance, medicine balls are used daily with many athletes instead of Olympic lifts. If you want to see more medicine ball exercises specifically for baseball players, look at Eric Cressey’s blog, Instagram, and Twitter, and read this recent piece by Matt Van Sumeren on med ball exercises for baseball players.
Dynamic Core Development
Traditionally, there are four ways to develop core strength—flexion, isometrics, rotation and extension (FIRE). Using a medicine ball in traditional ways to develop core strength includes moves like Crunches, Med Ball Walkouts and Russian Twists.
Rotation and extension also can be accomplished by avoiding those movements in anti-rotation and anti-extension manner. Forcing yourself to resist rotating or extending during a movement is just as, and if not more, beneficial than movements that promote extending or rotating, because it is less natural to resist movement than it is to move.
These movements include Dead Bugs, Anti-Extension Catches and Anti-Rotation Receive and Releases.
Using medicine balls to train the core statically and dynamically both to move and resist movement is great for anyone, especially athletes who play rotation-intense sports.
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Not everyone who goes to the gym wants to be there. Working out is not always fun. Even athletes and fitness professionals experience times when they don’t find the gym enjoyable and would rather not work out.
Adding medicine balls provides a way to make one’s time in the gym more fun. Seeing how hard one can slam the ball against the wall or the ground helps make tough workouts much more enjoyable. Using a partner to see who balances longer tossing a medicine ball is a way to add fun to a workout.
Bottom line: medicine balls should be a staple in any program. They develop power both explosively and rotationally with low injury risk, they strengthen your core in multiple ways, and they are just plain old fun.
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