Most of you have done, or at least heard of, Med Ball Rotational Throws. This is one of the first med ball exercises athletes learn, and it's a great move—if done correctly—for developing rotational power. But don't get stuck on doing Rotational Throws alone. Many, many other med ball exercises can make you a better athlete.
One of the most advanced med ball exercises is the Med Ball Crow Hop Overhead Throw, which I learned from Tony Gentilcore, Boston-based strength coach and owner of TonyGentilcore.com.
Wait, the med ball what? Are you hopping like a crow? Not really, considering this is how a crow hops around.
The Med Ball Crow Hop Overhead Throw gets its name from the fact that it looks like how a baseball player crow hops before throwing a ball. If you're unfamiliar—we wouldn't blame you if you are—a crow hop is when you take a few quick hops before unleashing a powerful throw. It's a way to add extra power to a throw. Here's what it looks like in action.
So what's so good about this weirdly named exercise? Read on, my friends.
It works the entire body
There's a lot going on in this full-body exercise. You hop off each leg, drive through your hips, tighten your core and powerfully throw a ball. Basically, it trains your body from the ground up to produce more controlled power (more on this below). As a result, you will become more powerful in your sport.
It improves core control and balance
Actually, it requires a decent amount of core control and balance just to do the move. If you don't have a strong core, you will be all over the place during the exercise. To perform it correctly, you must keep your core engaged and limit wasted movements, so all your power goes into the ball and does not throw you off balance. It can be a challenge to keep your core engaged in similar sports skills, so this exercise has a direct crossover to your in-game performance.
It develops coordination
This is the part I struggled with at first. It requires excellent timing and coordination to execute the steps with your lower body while throwing the ball with your upper body. You can't perform this move mindlessly. Although you won't perform the exact same move during a game, doing it in your workouts, when form is the primary focus, helps make complex skills easier to perform in a live game environment.
It improves deceleration
During most med ball exercises, athletes focus is on the throwing motion and neglect deceleration, which occurs on the tail end of the movement as the body slows down after the throw. For example, imagine a pitcher throwing a baseball. After he releases the ball, the remainder of his motion, his follow-through, is largely about slowing down in control. In sports, it's critical to be able to control your body after you perform an explosive movement. The last thing you want is to be out of balance and ill-prepared for the next play, or worse, sustain an injury because you moved too fast and lost control while trying to slow down.
It's not only for baseball players
At this point you may be thinking the Med Ball Crow Hop Overhead Throw is exclusively for baseball players, which makes sense. "It's an excellent, albeit advanced, med ball drill that more closely resembles movement within a baseball context," says Gentilcore. However, other athletes, especially overhead athletes like quarterbacks and tennis players, can also benefit, as it develops fundamental skills. The skills may be different, but the fundamental movements are the same.
How to Perform It
It's not easy. When we first filmed this exercise, I looked completely ridiculous trying to figure out the sequence of the steps. My colleagues had some good laughs at my expense. But once I got it down, it was a piece of cake.
Here's how to perform Med Ball Crow Hop Overhead Throws:
Step 1: Stand facing a wall about 10 feet away with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold a med ball in front of your chest.
Step 2: Hop forward off your left foot, landing on your right foot. As you hop, bring the med ball overhead.
Step 3: Once you land on your right foot, immediately hop up and land on your left foot. As you land, plant your foot and explosively throw the med ball at the wall. Your torso should finish just above parallel and allow your right leg to come up in line with your body.
Step 4: Catch the ball off the wall and repeat. Perform a set on your opposite side.
Perform only 3-4 sets of 2-4 reps on each side. Gentilcore cautions against using a med ball that's too heavy. "The huge mistake many athletes make is going way too heavy on these," he says. "The idea is to keep the ball on the lighter side [4-6 kg / 9-13 lbs] to better develop power and explosiveness and not deviate too far from the actual motion."
We advise starting without a med ball to master the pattern of the exercise. If it feels awkward, you are doing it wrong. There should be a nice flow from your first step to the release of the ball.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock