Be a Big Boy and Take Your Medicine…Balls And Train!

By Brandon Richey

Having been a strength and conditioning coach for the past 12 years it would be easy for me to come on here and write more about lifting big weight with barbells, kettlebells, and an array of other heavy stuff, but today’s post isn’t going to be about that. Hell no, I decided to be the odd ball and talk more about the functional element of strength here as a guest on SEALGrinder PT and, by the way, I want to thank my friend Brad for once again giving me the opportunity to do so. So on with the mission now!

Medicine Balls + Movement=When The Smelly Stuff Hits The Fan Functional Strength!

Being that medicine balls are the topic of discussion I want to point out for the medicine ball novice that there are several different types of medicine balls in the marketplace that can serve many purposes all in the name of strength and conditioning. Many folks might ask “What is that medicine ball used for?” This is a perfectly reasonable question, but if you ask me it is kind of the wrong question to ask. In my opinion the better question would be to ask “What can it NOT be used for?”
Ok so now if I have your attention let’s take a look at some of the physical characteristics one can derive from some good ‘ole medicine ball training.

Here is a list of a few of the killer physical traits training with the simple medicine ball can offer:

  • Explosive Strength
  • Improved Reaction Time
  • Improved Hand/Eye Coordination
  • Hand Speed
  • Foot Speed
  • Core Stability
  • Enhanced Mobility
  • Accelerated Physical Learning
  • An Increased Work Capacity
  • A date With Actress Uma Thurman. (OK, maybe not this one, but then again who knows? Let’s keep hope alive, shall we?)

The point is that the medicine ball can be a powerful training tool to develop overall strength and athleticism as long as the user can effectively implement the right methods in order to do so. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to work with and train some of the greatest athletes on the planet and I can safely say that the medicine ball was a regular tool of choice in much of my programming for ALL of my athletes at various points during their training.

For starters, when examining the importance of movement I love drills that engage the shoulders and hips within a full ROM. If you have the right plan in place then certain medicine ball drills can allow you to do this in some very dynamic ways. Being that I work with a great deal of MMA, Muay Thai, and Jiu Jitsu fighters this is something that I love to take advantage of on regular basis.

One drill that I have my students implement for shoulder mobility, dynamic core stability, and power are woodchopper medicine ball slams.

Check out Brandon Richey’s Unconventional Conventional Method Of Strength!

As you can see the act of being able to circle about the shoulder girdle is essential for the execution of this drill. The beauty of this is that It gets the athlete used to “feeling” the pattern of extending and flexing at the spine all while maintaining control and generating force for slamming the medicine ball to the floor. For athletic purposes the rapid repetition of this is incredible for the development of a Thai fighter’s clinch and for greatly enhancing a grappler’s ability to move at the shoulders if they happen to be locked up with an opponent, or from the more common position of having to fight on their backs.

Note that the woodchopper medicine ball slams are performed with a more hard rubber medicine ball that is built for bouncing. I’m pointing this out not only because that little detail is essential for the performance of that particular drill, but also because I wanted to remind you of the initial statement I made in the beginning of this article about there being different types of medicine balls for different purposes.

Well this is also completely true for the following drill I’m about to demonstrate for you here. You see in addition to acquiring some rotational movement with the woodchopper med ball slams a more dense (sand filled) and less bouncy type of medicine ball is perfect for developing some explosive power and speed as well.

Power medicine ball slams are great for generating the type of speed strength I’m talking about because they also further engage the hips and knees during the execution of certain movements. Check out what I’m talking about with my demo here.

As you can see with these I’m getting double extension and flexion of the knees and hips when driving the ball into the ground. In addition to this the slams are meant to be executed in rapid succession which adds that nice little speed element I was talking about before. In order to perform these in rapid succession the ball must be caught on the first small bounce.

If I’m starting out with a beginner I usually just have them throw the ball with the “intent” to lower their hips to catch it on the first small bounce, but in the beginning the “catch” is not what’s most important. What is most important is that they learn to get that full flexion and extension of the knees and hips to generate as much power as possible. Essentially I want them to slam it like that want to hurt it, period!

This drill can also be varied by either adding a jump before each slam or by adding a slightly more advanced unilateral (single side) training element by slamming it into the ground with only one hand! Now you can see just how innovative you can get with medicine ball training especially if you have the availability of different types of balls along with a creative mind to match. The fact is that I could go on and on and on with many other drills incorporating throws, tosses, and even more reaction based exercises.

The point is that as a strength and conditioning coach I enjoy lifting a gazillion pounds underneath a barbell as much as the next guy, but the fact remains that at the end of the day when the smelly stuff hits the fan you’ve got to be able to move and move well! This is why I like to put my stamp of approval on the benefits of medicine ball training as long as it is implemented effectively.

Once again, I want to throw out a big thanks to SEALGrinderPT for letting me come aboard to entertain you folks. If you enjoyed today’s post then please don’t hesitate to get yourself a copy of my new ebook Brandon Richey’s Unconventional Conventional Method Of Strength!

Also don’t hesitate to check out the Brandon Richey blog.

I always like to remind my readers that most anyone can train hard, but only the best train smart! So keep training smart my friends.

Also—check out my 90-Day Strength and Conditioning Program for MMA and Combat Athletes. It’s great for anyone wanting a killer workout program.

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