Home Posts tagged "Med Ball"

Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 37

This edition random thoughts from around the field of health and human performance is long overdue. Because of this week's sale on my Medicine Ball Master Class (30% off at www.CresseyMedBall.com), we're going to hone in on medicine ball work.

1. Above all else, medicine ball work is awesome because of the crazy frequency at which it can be trained.

One of the overlooked features of medicine ball work is that it's almost purely concentric in nature. Aside from a bit of quick preloading, there isn't a ton of deceleration work involved - and that means it's extremely rare for athletes to be sore after participating in medicine ball drills. To that end, you can train rotational power very frequently and athletes won't feel banged up.

In many ways, this parallels what you see with tennis players, baseball players, soccer players, and football quarterbacks, and a host of other rotational sport athletes. They can participate in high velocity rotation almost every day and not break down. All we're doing with medicine ball work is moving a bit further up on the force side and down on the velocity side of the force-velocity curve - and that probably actually makes it safer.

2. If the technique looks terrible, the first step is to lighten the weight of the medicine ball.

Let's get this out of the way: throwing medicine balls isn't lifting weights. You don't get bonus points for going heavier; rather, the intent is to move a given load as fast as possible to optimize power output. For most folks, in the context of rotational power work, the appropriate load is 4-8lb. Very rarely will you see someone throw a 10- or 12-pound medicine ball really fast. The reason is simple: gravity creates a vertical path for the resistance (up/down), while we're trying to project the ball horizontally (this is one key advantage of Proteus, but that's a conversation for another day).

Beyond just the plane/load mismatch, you'll often see athletes' technique falter when the load gets heavier. Rotationally, the head often dives in front of the body as the center of mass is projected away from the load (and outside the base of support) as a way to counterbalance the load of the medicine ball. This prevents us from staying back ("head behind the belly button"), which is key for us to work into the front hip. If the head has already drifted too far forward, front hip pull-back can't take place.

In overhead stomp variations, you can typically work much heavier with medicine balls without compensations - especially with bilateral variations. Once a staggered or split stance goes into place, though, athletes will often "run away" from the med ball: they laterally flex the spine away from the medicine ball. In doing so, they make it impossible to work into the front hip.

3. Experiment with "layering" your medicine ball drills.

An approach I’ve used more in the past year is “layering” medicine ball drills. Essentially, you transition from basic to advanced over the course of a few sets. Each progression builds on the key competencies fine-tuned in the previous sets. In this video example, the progression is:

1️⃣ Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss

2️⃣ Shuffle to Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss

3️⃣ Change of Direction to Shuffle to Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss

4️⃣ Double Play Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss

The possibilities are endless as long as you know where to begin and where you’re trying to end up - and you appreciate which athletes are actually ready for the progressions. Additionally, you can improve them even more by working in fillers between sets to address whatever movement limitation is the bottleneck to their performance.

If you're interested in digging in deeper on the topic of rotation, I would strongly encourage you to check out my new Medicine Ball Master Class. I created this new resource in collaboration with Athletes Acceleration and it includes over 50 exercise demonstration videos, as well as my rationale for including them. Just visit www.CresseyMedBall.com to learn more. It's on sale for 30% off the normal price through Sunday at midnight.

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Accidental Strength and Conditioning Success

I often joke that some of the biggest training successes of my career came about when I was trying to develop one athletic quality, but actually wound up accidentally developing something else that yielded a great return on investment. Medicine ball training might be the absolute best example of this.

Back around 2007, I started implementing high-volume medicine ball training: both rotational and overhead work at least three times per week with our baseball athletes. There was some decent research on how it could positively impact throwing velocity and bad speed, but I found the training protocols in those studies to be really underwhelming. It was just a lot of “three sets of 10 reps” monotony and relatively basic and unathletic drills. by getting more creative with exercise selection, I felt that it would yield bigger returns on power development while keeping athletes more engaged. And, it accomplished both goals.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was also simultaneously creating much better movers. You see, all that medicine ball training was chipping away at some important adaptations we needed in the fascial system to prepare athletes for elasticity in more extreme positions of rotation. By manipulating load, the extent to which we pre-loaded, and where we sat on the force-velocity curve, each rep was helping athletes to develop adjustability, something that’s crucial to withstanding the unpredictable nature of many sports.

And, the truth is that what we learned from training with medicine balls, gave rise to open mindedness in similar avenues. The Versapulley allows us to train higher load, lower velocity rotation with more eccentric overload. 

Proteus allows us to train both high and low load rotation with a concentric focus.

Rotational work on traditional functional trainers seems to be a happy medium between the two. I’ll have their place, but you just need to know what to train.

If you're interested in digging in deeper on the topic of rotation, I would strongly encourage you to check out my new Medicine Ball Master Class. I created this new resource in collaboration with Athletes Acceleration and it includes over 50 exercise demonstration videos, as well as my rationale for including them. Just visit www.CresseyMedBall.com to learn more. It's on sale for 30% off the normal price through Sunday at midnight.

 Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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Exercise of the Week: Heiden with Medicine Ball

Here is a good frontal plane power development exercise that Cressey Sports Performance - FL co-founder Shane Rye introduced recently. Because we aren’t very creative, we just call it a Heiden with Med Ball.

Important coaching cues:

1. The medicine ball (usually 6-10lbs) is held (but NOT bear-hugged) as a counterbalance that helps an athlete load back into the hips on the eccentric component. As such, this is an awesome drill for rotational athletes who tend to drift into the knee instead of loading back into the hip. This side angle should help you to appreciate it better:

2. You’ll notice that the arms still move side to side in conjunction with the lower body pushoff. If the arms aren’t moving, it’s a sign that you are holding the ball too rigidly. You should actually be able to see hip-shoulder separation.

3. Make sure that you are wearing sneakers that provide good lateral support.

4. We’ll usually program 3-6 sets of 4-6 reps, and perform these after a warm-up, but before more aggressive sprint and agility work.

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