The University of Tennessee men's basketball squad no longer plays second fiddle to the men on the gridiron. In the past two years, they've averaged 25.6 wins, racked up an SEC championship and earned back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances.
Not only is the Vols' run-and-gun style fun to watch, it's effective in capturing the most important thing—Ws. With help from Troy Wills, UT's strength and conditioning coach, the players have adapted their training to match their style of play—and to fuel the evolution of their game. "These young men are so strong and powerful," Wills says; "[but] they have to be able to translate all their power up through their hips to their upper bodies, so they can effectively gain position and fight through screens on the court."
Wills helps the Vols accomplish this power transition by incorporating med ball exercises into workouts twice a week in the off-season. "Our med ball exercises allow them to work different planes of motion while strengthening their hips and upper bodies at the same time," he explains.
If you don't want to get pushed around the court like a rag doll this season, try Wills' med ball exercises.
1. Kneeling Med Ball Partner Throw
Partner Position: Five to eight feet to your left, partner kneels on left knee
• Kneel on right knee
• Hold med ball in front of chest with arms extended
• Rotate upper body right; then, coming across left knee, explosively throw ball to partner
• Receive pass back from partner
• Perform 5 reps
• Switch kneeling knee; perform same reps
Coaching Points: For whichever knee is up, make sure the ankle, knee and hip are in a straight line throughout the movement // Keep your chest and head up, and don't sway when throwing the med ball // Don't turn your knee in the direction you're throwing; keep it as straight as possible
2. Med Ball Lunge Throw
Partner Position: Six to eight yards to your left, partner stands to receive pass.
• Standing in lunge position with left leg behind, hold med ball in front of chest with arms extended
• Rotate body right; then explosively drive left leg and knee up and throw ball to partner
• Finish standing with left leg flexed and arms extended to left
• Return foot to ground and receive pass from partner; repeat for 5 reps
• Switch sides; perform reps on opposite leg
Coaching Points: Keep arms extended throughout exercise // When coming out of the lunge, drive through your right heel // Make sure you drive your left leg straight up // Hold your final position, and avoid moving your body forward after throw
3. Med Ball Wall Throws (See diagram for set-up and weight of med balls)
• Begin in athletic stance to left of Med Ball 1
• Squat; pick up med ball; rotate upper body right
• Moving ball left across body, explosively throw ball against wall
• Repeat for Med Balls 2, 3, 4 and 5
• Throw next set from right side
Coaching Points: Rotate med ball back and through as hard as you can // Focus on generating power from your heels through your upper body // Fully extend your arms on throw // Keep head and chest up throughout exercise
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