Are Med Ball Tosses and Passes a Part of Your Routine? They Should Be

Med balls are a lot more versatile and effective than many people might think.

Power is a difference-maker for athletes.

Olympic lifts and jumps (plyometrics) deservedly get a lot of love when it comes to talking about how to develop power. They can do a lot for an athlete. But one tool that often gets overlooked is the medicine ball.

Many people possess a limited view of the versatility and impact medicine balls can have in an athlete's training. But knowing the right weight to utilize and the right movements to perform is key to unlocking their full potential.

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Power is a difference-maker for athletes.

Olympic lifts and jumps (plyometrics) deservedly get a lot of love when it comes to talking about how to develop power. They can do a lot for an athlete. But one tool that often gets overlooked is the medicine ball.

Many people possess a limited view of the versatility and impact medicine balls can have in an athlete's training. But knowing the right weight to utilize and the right movements to perform is key to unlocking their full potential.

What Weight Medicine Ball Should I Use?

Power work is not meant to be done with very heavy loads. It should feel fast and explosive.

To illustrate this point, there's something called the strength-speed continuum:

Photo Credit to DIME Performance

All the way on the speed side, you will find movements performed with no extra load at a very rapid pace. Think an all-out sprint or a Box Jump. As you move across the curve, the load will gradually increase, and the speed of the movement will gradually decrease. Once you're all the way to the strength side, you're talking about moving very heavy loads at a very low speed, such as a one-rep max Squat or Deadlift.

For medicine ball power work, we want to stay in the speed-strength zone. For most exercises below, you'll find that means anywhere from a 4- to a 14-pound med ball. If your gym's medicine balls are marked in kilograms (kg), just know that 1 kg = 2.2 pounds.

Exactly what weight you should use will of course depend on the move in question as well as your body weight, training age and strength level, but odds are you should be going lighter than you think. Yes, I know there are 20- and maybe even 30-pound medicine balls at your gym, but those should not be your default weights for any med ball movement.

My two big recommendations to keep in mind when determining med ball weight are:

  1. Start lighter than you think. It's better to go too light than too heavy.
  2. The movement should feel very fast and explosive, never slow and clunky.

What are the Best Medicine Ball Exercises?

The med ball is much more than a tool whose sole purpose is limited to the Russian Twist.

If you're looking to develop power, you'd be wise to include some or all of the following Med Ball exercises in your routine.

1. Standing Med Ball Hip Toss

What it Trains: Explosive rotational power through the hips and torso as well as deceleration.

How to Do It:

  • Set up with a wall or a partner to your left. If you're using a partner instead of a wall, give yourself a few extra yards of space.
  • Start the medicine ball at about belly button height with a slight bend in the knees and a slight bend in the hips.
  • Load the movement by taking the ball to your right hip and slightly shifting your weight to the right foot.
  • Turn the hips and feet first as you explosively rotate and toss the ball to the wall or your partner as hard as possible. Done correctly, your hips should lead the way in rotation, followed by your upper body.
  • Catch the ball on the rebound or toss back and repeat.
  • Perform 3-6 reps from each side.

2. Standing Med Ball Shot Put

What it Trains: Explosive rotational power through the hips, torso and upper body in conjunction with deceleration.

How to Do It:

  • Set up with a wall or a partner to your left. If you're using a partner instead of a wall, give yourself a few extra yards of space.
  • Start with the medicine ball at your right shoulder with a slight bend in the knees and a slight bend in the hips.
  • Load the movement by taking the ball to your right hip and slightly shifting your weight to the right foot.
  • Turn the hips and feet first as you explosively rotate followed by a push with the upper body in a shot put motion. Toss the ball to the wall or your partner as hard as possible. Done correctly, your hips should lead the way in rotation followed by a push from the upper body. You want to push the ball as opposed to throw it.
  • Perform 3-6 reps from each side.

3. Tall Kneeling Med Ball Chest Pass

What it Trains: Explosive upper body pushing motion as well as deceleration.

How to Do It:

  • Set up in a tall kneeling position facing a wall or a partner. If you're using a partner instead of a wall, give yourself a few extra yards of space.
  • Make sure your hips are locked out and start the medicine ball at chest height.
  • Explosively press the ball away from your chest as hard and fast as possible.
  • Try to rely just on your upper body (not your hips) to generate power.
  • To progress the movement, catch the ball on the rebound as your hands return toward your chest and press it away again as fast as possible.
  • Perform 4-8 total reps.

4. Tall Kneeling Overhead Medball Throw

What it Trains: Overhead explosiveness, deceleration and a surprising amount of musculature through your torso.

How to Do It:

  • Set up in a tall kneeling position facing a wall or a partner. If you're using a partner instead of a wall, give yourself a few extra yards of space.
  • You may also want to use a lighter ball for this movement. In the above video, I'm using a 6-pound ball.
  • Make sure your hips are locked out and start the medicine ball at chest height.
  • Bring the ball overhead and reach it behind you a bit.
  • Explosively throw the ball toward the wall. Think of it like a soccer throw-in. If done correctly and with enough explosiveness, your body will come forward a bit. This is expected and totally OK.
  • Perform 4-8 total reps.

5. Backwards Med Ball Overhead Toss

What it Trains: Hip extension. (Sprinting, jumping, etc.)

How to Do It:

  • This is a fun one. I recommend utilizing a slightly heavier ball.
  • Start in a standing position with your arms relaxed and your hands underneath the ball.
  • Hinge at the hip, bringing the ball between the knees. Think of it like a Kettlebell Swing.
  • Explosively, drive the hips forward and swing the arms overhead. You should release the ball above eye level and toss it high and far behind you.
  • If you're doing this outside, you can throw it at a higher trajectory.
  • The goal of this movement is to generate most of the power through the hips; Your hips should lock out at the moment you release the ball and you should come up on the toes into triple extension (simultaneous extension of the hips, knees, and ankles).
  • Chase it down and repeat.
  • Perform 3-8 total reps.

6. Around the World Slam

What it Trains: Rotational power through the hips, torso and upper body as well as deceleration.

How to Do It:

  • Start standing with the ball at chest height.
  • To initiate the movement, move the ball in an arc toward your right shoulder then up toward the head.
  • As the ball reaches the forehead, rotate onto the ball of your trailing foot and turn your hips as you slam the ball into the ground just outside the left foot.
  • Catch the ball on the rebound and reverse the motion, moving the ball in the same arcing motion, but turning the feet and hips back toward the right.
  • Keep the chest and chin up. Don't let your chest and face come forward, as the ball will bounce straight back up. You can imagine what could happen there.
  • Repeat for 6-10 total reps.

Med balls are a lot more versatile and effective than many people might think.

These are just some of the many power-oriented exercises one can perform with a med ball. Remember to resist the urge to go heavy and instead prioritize speed and explosiveness.

If you have any questions in regards to what is best for you specifically, shoot me a message on Instagram @johnpappfitness. Have fun!

Photo Credit: Kanawa_Studio/iStock

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Topics: UPPER BODY | WORKOUTS | POWER | MED BALL