Home Posts tagged "Medicine Ball Exercises"

Variation Without Change

I can recall the late Charles Poliquin speaking many years ago about the concept of "Variation Without Change."

When I first heard this phrase, I believe he was referring to the stimuli needed to induce muscular hypertrophy. If you wanted bigger lats, you might do chin-ups (supinated grip) for a month, then neutral grip pull-ups for a month, then regular (pronated grip) pull-ups for a month. Simultaneously, the focus might shift from sets of 8-10 reps to sets of 4-6 reps.

The principle was simple but effective: if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten. However, subtle variations to the approach - without throwing the baby out with the bath water - were important for providing for longer term adaptation while not developing overuse injuries or mind-numbing boredom.

To me, "variation without change" is a subcategory of periodization. The overall training priority might be adjusted from one mesocycle to the next, but some of the exercise categories can remain relatively consistent. Medicine ball work is a good example; we use it in a variety of ways throughout the year.

In-season, for a right-handed pitcher, we might do left only rotational med ball scoop tosses to counteract some of the crazy imbalances that can emerge in such a unilateral dominant sport.

In the early offseason, we might utilize anti-rotation drills to give athletes reminders on where to find rotation without being so aggressive that it beats them up at a time of year when they should be recovering.

As the offseason progresses, we can get to more drills where we attack rotation - and then build in sequencing that incorporates momentum.

Finally, as the season approaches, we can make the drills more open-loop by having athletes either respond to a "go" command or have to "receive and release:"

As you can see, all of these exercises fall under the same broad heading, but are each categorized slightly differently. In our recent podcast with Bill Parisi, we discussed how pronounced fascial changes take 18-24 months, so you need variety to keep athletes engaged while still incorporating these long chain, multijoint movements at varying speeds and loads.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll have a few new articles to dig deeper on the topic of rotation. In the meantime, however, 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’s on sale for 20% off through this Sunday at midnight. It includes over 50 exercise demonstration videos, as well as my rationale for including them. Just visit www.CresseyMedBall.com and the discount will be automatically applied at checkout.

 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!

Name
Email
Read more

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.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll have a few new articles to dig deeper on the topic of rotation. In the meantime, however, 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’s on sale for 20% off through this Sunday at midnight. It includes over 50 exercise demonstration videos, as well as my rationale for including them. Just visit www.CresseyMedBall.com and the discount will be automatically applied at checkout.

 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!

Name
Email
Read more

Creative Conditioning: Installment 1 – Medicine Ball Medleys

It's important to have plenty of tools in your training toolbox to challenge energy systems development. With that in mind, I wanted to kick off a Creative Conditioning series for you. Hopefully, some of these options give you some variety to not only keep clients/athletes engaged, but also to help them stay healthy and continue to move well in the process.

One of the downsides of traditional cardio is that you typically get stuck in repetitive patterns through small ranges of motion. So, while you might be challenging energy systems in the ways you want, you may simultaneously be creating unfavorable biomechanical challenges. With that in mind, I always like to have higher-amplitude, less repetitive options for our clients.

Medicine ball circuits are one such option. In this version, I use the 6lb med ball for shuffle to scoop toss (5/side), side-to-side overhead stomps (5/side), and reverse lunge to shotput (5/side) - and it works out to right about a minute of work.

A few notes:

1. Medicine ball work is awesome because it won't make you sore (very little eccentric overload), offers endless variations/combinations, and provides a more significant functional carryover to the real-world.

2. Medicine ball medleys won't absolutely bury your lower body like sprinting or cycling can, so it can be an approach that fits into your overall programming a bit more "conveniently."

3. You can keep it simple with in-place options, or - as I do here - add more excursions with side shuffles, sprints, etc. to add a bit of complexity.

4. I wouldn't use medicine ball medleys with true beginners for conditioning because fatigue negatively impacts technique, and you can wind up seeing some ugly rotational patterns as sets progress. The last thing you want to do is chew up a lower back while you're trying to get heart rate up.

5. We use the Extreme Soft Toss Med Balls from Perform Better. I've found them to be the best blend of ideal rebound and durability.

Try them out - and remember that the only limit is your imagination. 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

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.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

The Best of 2018: Strength and Conditioning Videos

With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2018" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year.

1. Supine Banded Shoulder Flexion on Roller - I love this exercise for building thoracic spine mobility, shoulder flexion, and scapular posterior tilt.

2. Split-Stance Hip Abduction End-Range Lift-off - CSP coach Frank Duffy contributed this awesome hip mobility challenge as part of a guest post this year.

3. Landmine Lateral Lunges - This is an exercise I thought up on the fly while working with three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, and we liked it so much that it's become a mainstay in his offseason programming.


4. Rhomboids Functional Anatomy - this webinar is an excerpt from my popular new resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

5. Knee-to-Knee Rollover Medicine Ball Stomp - this new medicine ball drill was a power training exercise thought up by my CSP-FL business partner, Shane Rye. The knee-to-knee approach encourages the athlete to stay in the back hip longer.

I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2018!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Making Sense of Rotational Medicine Ball Progressions

If you've followed our work at Cressey Sports Performance for any length of time, you know that we're big fans of training rotational power with medicine ball variations. With that in mind, I wanted to use today's blog to outline some of our strategies for introducing and progressing these exercises in our programs.

Step 1: Stationary Anti-Rotation - These exercises teach bracing on the front leg and emphasize thoracic (upper back) rotation. The split-stance anti-rotation medicine ball scoop toss is a good example.

Step 2: Stationary Rotation: These exercises emphasize hip loading, force transfer, and thoracic rotation delivering the arm, but the base of support doesn't change much (if at all). The rotational medicine ball shotput is an example.

Step 3: Momentum Rotation - These exercises teach athletes to create and utilize momentum as they work into the front hip (imagine riding a bike into a curb). The step-behind rotational medicine ball shotput is an example.

Step 4: Eccentric Pre-Loading Rotation: These exercises teach athletes to get in and out of the back hip while better making use of the stretch-shortening-cycle (think of keeping the head behind the belly button as long as possible). The step-back rotational medicine ball scoop toss is an example.

Step 5: Eccentric Pre-Loading with Momentum Rotation: These exercises combine the previous two categories to try to make things as athletic as possible. The 2-hop to rotational medicine ball scoop toss is a good example.

With this progression in mind, it's important to recognize that athletes need to earn the right to move from one step to the next. Steps 3-5 are far to advanced for 13-15-year-old athletes who have very little body awareness or foundational strength. And, aggressive progressions may be potentially harmful in even advanced athletes if they aren't prepared for the extensive hip-shoulder separation that takes place. Even with our professional athletes, I'll start athletes with the earliest stages in the progression during their initial off-season training programs.

Also, whenever I post about medicine balls, I invariably get the question: what brand do you prefer? I'm a fan of the Perform Better Extreme Soft Toss medicine balls, as they provide the right blend of durability and rebound. The overwhelming majority of our rotational medicine ball work is in the 4-8lb range.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Exercise of the Week: Knee to Knee Rollover Medicine Ball Stomps

If you've followed my writing for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a big fan of using medicine ball training for power development with our athletes. We have both rotational and overhead variations - and sometimes, we have drills that combine the two. Enter the knee-to-knee rollover medicine ball stomp.

Key Coaching Points:

1. Don't rush the back hip rotation; rather, sit into that hip for what seems like an uncomfortable long time. This allows hip-shoulder separation to occur.

2. Minimize lower back arching.

3. Be firm into the ground on the front leg. Some individuals will stiffen up on that front leg with more knee extension, while others will be slightly more flexed.

4. Perform 3-4 reps per side.

5. We utilize this exercise several months into the offseason after we've had a chance to optimize overhead and rotational medicine ball technique with less complex drills. Athletes have to earn this one.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/18/17

It's a short week on the content front, as I posted last week's recommended reading a few days late. We are still making things happen, though!

Eccentric Overload with Flywheel Training and Rehabilitation - This is an awesome article from the power couple, Jennifer Reiner-Marcello and Brandon Marcello. We've been using the Versapulley more and more in our training, and this delves into some of the mechanisms that make it so great.

Brian St. Pierre on the Fundamentals of High-Performance Nutrition - Brian has been a friend, employee, and trusted resource for over a decade - and podcasts like this show why that's the case. He delivers some excellent content.

11 Ways to Make an Exercise Harder - Earlier this week, on social media, I shared this old article of mine from T-Nation. It's a collection of important programming progressions and regressions that anyone writing strength training programs should understand.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Random Thoughts on Sports Performance – Installment 25

As we wind down to the holidays, here's the last installment of Random Thoughts on Sports Performance for 2016.

1. One of the most overlooked benefits of medicine ball training might be the frequency at which it can be trained.

Before I get to this point, check out this old video of mine on the Absolute Strength-Speed Continuum (if you haven't seen it already):

One of the things I've been thinking about is that medicine ball training doesn't absolutely crush people the same way that absolute speed work (whether it is sprinting, jumping, throwing a baseball, or something comparable), strength-speed (Olympic lifts, jump squats), and heavy lifting does. You could likely train it every day, and while it wouldn't be optimal, people could handle it and still derive some benefit.

More than likely, it's just a sweet spot in the "Force = Mass x Acceleration" equation. The mass is pretty low (especially since there really aren't huge ground reaction forces like we see in sprinting), and the acceleration drops off quite a bit. This likely parallels what we see with baseball vs. football throwing; the football is just much less stressful. 

This doesn't help us a lot in the quest for developing peak power, but it does give us a really good option for training power - especially rotationally - more frequently.

2. Good thoracic positioning will help you make the most of your overhead medicine ball training.

Speaking of medicine balls, check out this side-by-side comparison of two athletes that I recently posted on my Instagram account. On the left is one with a "normal" thoracic curvature and set of movement capabilities. He can get into thoracic extension at the top, and effectively flex at the bottom to deliver the scapula to the correct position for ball release. On the right, though, notice how flat the upper back stays at the ball release position. We'd like to see him able to round a bit more to ensuring a good convex-concave relationship between the scapula and rib cage.

3. Narrow exercise selections make for impressive lifters, but less impressive athletes.

With our typical minor league baseball player, we may actually have time to get through six 4-week programs over the course of an offseason. In six months - especially if we happen to have an athlete who is genetically gifted for strength development - we *could* get guys freaky strong on a few big lifts. We choose not to, however. Why?

A narrow exercise can lead to some very impressive weight room performances on a few lifts: squat, bench press, deadlift, clean, etc. This specificity can be great if you want to be a one (or three) trick pony (powerlifter), but not quite as helpful if you're an athlete who actually needs to change directions. To this end, a few thoughts:

a. I'd much rather see an athlete with a more versatile "strength portfolio." Show me a 200-pound athlete who can front squat in the mid-300s, deadlift in the mid-500s, turkish get-up in the 80s, and do axial-loading single-leg work in the mid-200s, and I'll show you a guy that has a great foundation to really move well.

b. These strength numbers aside, eventually, your priority needs to shift from just building strength to actually using that quickly. Simply chasing a number on one lift can quickly leave you unprepared in a particular movement/plane or in the context of creating more usable strength. I out-deadlift all of our pro baseball players, but many of them can broad jump longer than I can; who is using their force more efficiently? 

c. If you do insist on this narrower "main" exercise selection can be offset by variety in warm-ups, sprint/agility work, and assistance strength training drills.

d. I think narrower exercise selections have the most benefit in beginning lifters and teenage athletes who need to build a solid foundation and awareness of putting force into the ground. I'd honestly have no problem with sticking with the same 3-4 "main" exercises for 3-4 months straight in this population, although you have to be sensitive to the fact that some athletes will get really bored quickly. For this reason, we'll try to simple incorporate subtle changes; as an example:

  • Month 1: Trap Bar Deadlift (6-8 reps per set)
  • Month 2: Trap Bar Deadlift (4-5 reps per set)
  • Month 3: Trap Bar Deadlift vs. Band or Chains
  • Month 4: Low Setting Trap Bar Deadlift

Obviously, we don't rigidly adhere to this, but it gives you a feel for how to add some variety without overhauling things and having to completely re-groove a new skill.

That's all for 2016; happy holidays!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

10 Ways to Remain Athletic as You Age

Back in my early-to-mid-20s, my focus shifted into powerlifting and away from a "traditional" athletic career. While I got a ton stronger, I can't say that I felt any more athletic. In hindsight, I realize that it was because I trained strength at the exclusion of many other important athletic qualities. Since then, I've gone out of my way to include things that I know keep me athletic, and as a result, at age 36, I feel really good about taking on anything life throws my way. With that in mind, I thought I'd pull together some recommendations for those looking to remain athletic as they age.

1. Stay on top of your soft tissue work and mobility drills.

Without a doubt, the most common reason folks feel unathletic is that they aren't able to get into the positions/postures they want. As I've written in the past, it's much easier to do a little work to preserve mobility than it is to lose it and have to work to get it back. Some foam rolling and five minutes of mobility work per day goes a long way in keeping you athletic.

2. Do a small amount of pre-training plyos.

I think it's important to preserve the ability to effectively use the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). That's not to say that every gym goer needs to be doing crazy depth jumps and sprinting full-tilt, though. A better bet for many folks who worry about tweaking an Achilles, patellar tendon, or hamstrings is to implement some low-level plyometric work: side shuffles, skipping, carioca, and backpedaling. Here's a slightly more advanced progression we use in The High Performance Handbook program:

The best bet is to include these drills right after the warm-up and before starting up with lifting.

3. Emphasize full-body exercises that teach transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body.

I love cable lift variations to accomplish this task in core exercises, but push presses, landmine presses, and rotational rows are also great options.

4. Emphasize ground-to-standing transitions.

Turkish Get-ups are the most well-known example of this challenge, but don't forget this gem:

5. Get strong in single-leg.

Squats and deadlifts will get you strong, no doubt, but don't forget that a big chunk of athletics at all levels takes place in single-leg stance. Lunges, 1-leg RDLs, step-ups, and split squats all deserve a place in just about everyone's training programs.

6. Use core exercises that force you to resist both extension and rotation.

Efficient movement is all about moving in the right places. The lower back isn't really the place to move, though; you should prioritize movement at the hips and upper back. With that in mind, your core work should be focused on resisting both extension (too much lower back arching) and rotation. Here are a few favorites:

7. Train outside the sagittal plane.

It's important to master the sagittal (straight ahead) plane first with your training programs, but once you get proficient there, it's useful to progress to a bit of strength work in the frontal place. I love lateral lunge variations for this reason.

8. Chuck medicine balls!

I'm a huge fan of medicine ball drills with our athletes, but a lot of people might not know that I absolutely love them for our "general population" clients as well. I speak to why in this article: Medicine Ball Workouts: Not Just for Athletes. Twice a week, try adding in four sets at the end of your warm-up and prior to lifting. Do two sets of overhead stomps and two sets of a rotational drill, starting with these two variations in month 1:

In month 2, try these two:

Trust me; you'll be hooked by the "8-week Magic Mark."

9. Be fast on your concentric.

If you want to stay fast, you need to keep a fast element in your strength training program. This can obviously entail including things like Olympic lifts, jump squats, and kettlebell swings. Taking it a step further, though, you can always just make a dedicated effort to always accelerate the bar with good speed on the concentric (lifting) portion of the movement. 

10. Play.

In a given week, on top of my normal lifting, I might catch bullpens, sprint or condition with my athletes, play beach volleyball, or run a few football receiving routes at the facility. The old adage, "Variety is the spice of life" applies to fitness and athleticism, too. Don't be afraid to have some fun.

The longer you've been training, the more you realize that your strength and conditioning programs have to be versatile enough to preserve your athleticism and functional capacity while still keeping training fun. If you're looking for a flexible program that's proven effective across several populations, I'd encourage you to check out my flagship resource, The High Performance Handbook.

HPH-main

 Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 2 3
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series