Why You Should Use Medicine Balls

Before we get started with a few uses of Medicine Balls, let’s watch a video of how not to perform an Overhead Slam.

Okay, so we can laugh together at this fellow’s misfortunes.  Now let’s laugh at me, because I’ve done that before.  NOW, let’s get down to business.

While medicine balls can be used for a plethora of exercises and for many different reasons, I think that they can offer a major benefit to people when it comes to neurological adaptations.  What does this mean?  It means you can train your CNS, or Central Nervous System, to activate more of your muscle mass at a quicker rate.  To relate it to cars, it’s relative to getting more horsepower out of the same size engine.  If you improve your CNS activity, your body will get stronger without getting bigger.  Capishe?  Good.

When performing traditional resistance training, the weight must be decelerated at the end of each rep; you can’t throw or let go of the bar or weight that you’re using.  However, when training with medicine balls, you can throw them, which allows you to train acceleration through the whole movement.  When you throw the ball, you’re training this acceleration, and you’ll increase your power output.  For different athletes, this has huge carryover for essential activities to their sports; for example, rotational throws improve the abilities of rotatory athletes such as baseball players and golfers to generate power in their respective swings.

Personally, I like to program med ball work at two parts of a workout; the beginning and the end.

When placed at the beginning of a workout,  I’ll use ‘full body’ throws, for sets of no more than 4.  With full-body, sports specific movements, you perform ballistic throws of a medicine ball, either thrown at a wall, for a certain distance or height, or to another target.  The goal of these exercises is to throw the ball as hard or as far as possible.  Concentrating on technique, maximum power should be generated to achieve the benefits of this style of training.  Throwing as hard as possible is extremely demanding on the nervous system, and works to increase your neural drive while waking your body up for the rest of the workout.  The scoop toss is a great exercise for those who play a rotary sport; golf, hockey, lacrosse, baseball, even tennis.

While CNS intensive work should be placed at the beginning of workouts, I also like using less demanding exercises at the end of workouts for conditioning.  I find that medicine balls work well for timed-sets and metabolic work.  Examples of these would be performing a number of medicine ball throws for time; say, perform wall-chest passes for 30 seconds, rest for 15, then repeat.  As I stated in my last post, metabolic conditioning work requires a high power output for intensity to be truly demanding, and medicine ball circuits closely follow this rule.  The combination of exercises used in a finisher can be infinite; only your imagination will limit you.  If your imagination is already prohibiting your exercise creativity, you can turn to the example that I’ll be using in approximately an hour and 45 minutes:

30 seconds of med-ball chest passes, 30 seconds of Overhead Slams, 15 seconds rest.  Repeat 4 times.  That’s a 5 minute set, and it’ll light you up!

Now remember; Medicine balls can be used to create neurological and metabolic adaptations.  Keep your CNS-intensive work at the beginning of your workouts when you’re the freshest, and make sure you work as hard as you can during your conditioning work.  If you incorporate Med Ball work in your workouts, you’ll reap a number of benefits, from gaining extra yardage on your drive, hitting more home runs, or simply lowering your resting heart rate and burning some fat.  Please remember to use your hands to catch the ball, and not your chin like our friend in the red shirt!

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