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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Have a Ball

By: Chris Volgraf, CSCS

As the weather warms up, millions of people head outside to play golf, tennis, baseball, softball and other ball sports. The common denominator in these sports is the explosive rotational movement pattern to strike the ball. In recent years medicine ball training has made a comeback to become an integral part of training for any athlete interested in rotational power development. Medicine balls are often the missing tool in an athlete’s core training program and are an unparalleled tool for power development. Throws with the medicine ball are the key to developing the transfer of energy from the lower body to the torso for athletes involved in rotational sports. All it takes is a simple rubber medicine ball and a concrete/cinderblock wall or floor and you have limitless number of exercises to choose from. In rotational throws the athlete can throw as hard as possible against the wall with balls in the 4-5 kilo range to develop true power in the core and hips. Excellent imitative drills for any rotational sport can be developed once the athlete masters the basics.
The rotational progression begins with the athlete on both knees in what is called a “tall kneeling” position. Tall kneeling is a position with the athlete kneeling and the hips extended. Beginning with kneeling eliminates the ankle and knee joints and exposes weaknesses and compensation patterns in the core and upper body that may not be visible in standing throws. In addition “tall kneeling” teaches the athletes to use the glutes properly, which are always the foundation of any power movement pattern. Here is a Rotation Progression Model from Mike Boyle (one of the premier strength and conditioning coaches in the country) that focuses on mastering the basic movements before tackling the more advanced movements:

  1. Kneeling Front Twist- ( facing wall, 2-3 feet away)
  2. Kneeling Side Twist- ( 90 degrees to wall, 2-3 feet away)
  3. ½ Kneeling – front and side. Half kneeling is a one knee down position. These throws can de done with the inside knee up or down.
  4. Lunge Position- same throws as above, but without the knee on the ground. Throwing from the lunge position challenges stability, strength, and flexibility. In addition throwing from the lunge position develops isometric strength. Lunge position throws may in fact be may be harder than standing.
  5. Standing- front and side 
  6. Standing with one leg on step
  7. Single leg balance

Medicine ball training is particularly useful for athletes that are unfamiliar with Olympic lifts or have injuries that prevent them performing exercises like cleans or snatches. Let’s face it, not all fitness centers have a fitness professional with an Olympic lifting background, so medicine balls become an easy alternative that most fitness professionals have experience with. Some suggested throws are from a squat position forward/downward or overhead, a scoop type throw from a squat position overhead and behind, rotational throws from the lunge position,
Medicine ball throws should be treated like any other strength and power exercise. 12-24 throws (2-3 sets of 6-8 throws) of each type can be done twice per week. The progression model above is very simple to follow and as the athlete advances through the model, the link/power transfer from the lower body to the upper body will show rapid improvement. As far as the intensity of the movement is concerned, I often tell my clients to throw it like you are trying to put a hole in the wall or try to make the loudest sound possible when hitting the wall or floor with the ball.
Go have some fun and make medicine ball training a part of your program as you prepare for the warmer weather and the sports that come with it. Be sure to remember to start with basic movements before advancing to the advanced movements.


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