How and Why You Should Use a Medicine Ball
Getting under a loaded barbell and doing a gruelling set of squats is a great way of building strength. It also makes you look and feel like a conquering hero of the power rack, which of course, never hurts.
When it comes to training for athletic performance, though, traditional powerlifting moves aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. What you need for general sports performance is the ability to generate great explosive power, and the endurance to keep doing it.
That’s where plyometric training comes in, and the science backs up its benefits. It just so happens that one of the best ways of getting an intense plyo workout is with a medicine ball.
Is This a New Age Gimmick?
By all accounts, medicine balls have been around for a long time in one form or another. The ancient Greek father of medicine, Hippocrates, is said to have used stuffed animal skins for his patients to toss around. Today, we’ve refined the design a bit, but the concept remains the same.
How Exactly Do You Use Them?
Medicine balls are basically used to spice up just about any plyometric exercise you might already be doing. Unlike dumbbells, they’re designed to be thrown around and bounced off surfaces without carrying a high risk of mortal injury or destruction of property.
Here’s a look at some basic, full-body medicine ball exercises:
Normal pushups are a great exercise – they engage the core fantastically, as well as the pecs, shoulders, and triceps. The only problem is they tend to be pretty bad at building raw strength or power beyond a certain point.
That’s why so many variations of the exercise exist to keep things challenging. Explosive clap pushups are all very well but if you really want to feel the burn, try doing explosive uneven pushups on a medicine ball.
The technique is pretty straightforward. Get into a regular pushup stance but with one hand resting on top of a medicine ball while the other rests on the floor. Lower yourself and then push up as hard and fast as you can. You’ll notice that the arm which is on the ball will get a much greater workout than usual. Switch the ball to the other hand and repeat.
If you really want to increase the challenge, try rolling the medicine ball from one hand to the other while you’re still up in the air.
Jump Squat Thrusters
Explosive thrusters with a medicine ball are a true all-body exercise if there ever was one. They will engage your entire lower body, your core, your shoulders and your triceps like you wouldn’t believe.
Begin by holding the medicine ball in front of your chest and lowering yourself into a deep squat. Then burst up to a standing position as explosively as possible, jumping at the top of the motion and throwing the medicine ball up into the air over your head. Catch it as it comes down and sink straight back into the squat. Repeat until you notice your speed slowing dramatically, or your legs quivering like jelly.
Overhead slams with a medicine ball will blast your lats and core muscles. As the muscles of the core are specifically the cornerstone of all explosive movements, getting them used to sudden contractions can transform your athletic performance virtually overnight. You’ll probably get a better six-pack, too.
Begin by holding the medicine ball behind your head in both hands. Then swing it overhead and hurl it towards the ground as fast as possible in one great arc, bending at the waist with the momentum.
The key is to slam the medicine ball as hard as possible into the ground. Keep your feet a good distance apart and be careful not to throw the ball onto your toes. This exercise is best done using a medicine ball without much bounce as you don’t want it flying straight back into your face.