Medicine ball exercises are great for improving force production and reinforcing stability within specific planes of movement. Follow these guidelines when prescribing medicine ball drills for your beginner or novice level athletes.
Keep It Simple
For a multitude of reasons, everyone wants to do new drills. They look fancy, they offer new challenges and patterns, or they’re complicated—and thus must convey a new “truth” in exercise science.
However, its best to recognize that some exercises use simple tools, and if you keep them simple, they will provide the intended physiological benefit—more force production, increased levels of core stability—along with the fun of slamming medicine balls.
Plane Specific Movements
Sagittal Plane Movements
Another aspect to focus on is a progression of plane-specific movements to move your athletes up the learning curve of multi-dimensional movement patterns.
The first order of business is to respect sagittal plane orientation, or up-and-down or back-and-forth movement patterns, before moving on.
Overhead Med Ball Slam
The Overhead Med Ball Slam develops rate of force production within the sagittal plane. It also works on triple extension; challenges core integrity as you fight to maintain rib and lumbar positioning during the “upward” portion of the movement; and works on the reactive nature of the exercise once you develop more power and speed.
Half-Kneeling Med Ball Scoop
The Half-Kneeling Med Ball Scoop can be viewed as a lateralization of the Overhead Med Ball Slam. It can be used to help with hip flexor stretching, lunge movement patterns, and improving core stability. Coaching cues include dipping back into the hips as you come backward and squeezing the hips through as the ball is scooped forward.
Increasing Specificity for Individual Athletes
As your athletes progress through these movements, the need for more specificity will depend on each athlete’s sport. When working with hockey, baseball or lacrosse players, moving outside the sagittal plane will be necessary.
Frontal Plane Movements
Side-Standing Rotational Med Ball Scoop
This drill focuses on hip drive and weight transfer from the back leg to the front leg within the frontal plane. By keeping his or her hands low, the athlete can replicate swinging patterns. Maintaining a low center of gravity will allow for a faster learning curve.
After progressing through the basic variations for the first 8 to 12 weeks of training, shift your focus to the reactive nature of med ball drills. Form and technique are universally emphasized within the first couple of weeks. Force production and intent become the focus as athletes get more comfortable. After form/technique and force production/intention are honed and improved, increasing the speed with which the exercises are performed will prove useful, as the energy demands on the body are increased with more speed and reactivity.
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