Ballistic Training with Medicine Balls

Ballistic Training with Medicine Balls

Increasing your power and athletic performance starts with these medicine ball exercises.

Power is important regardless of what sport you play. The UFC fighter who delivers the knockout punch, the wrestler who hits the big throw, the baseball player who hits home runs, the defense lineman who explodes for huge loss tackles, they all share the trait of power. But if you never train for max power, you’ll never deliver that “knock out punch” on the field. So what’s the best way to improve functional power and athletic performance?

There are actually many different ways to train for power. Oftentimes strength exercises like the squat and deadlift can be used if done with the appropriate load, but the problem is, at some point, the load has to slow down. Granted, there are special devices like bands and chains to combat this, but not every gym has this equipment.

So then what’s the ideal solution? Ballistic training in which you lift, accelerate, and then release the weight (rather than lowering it slowly) will maximize your power better than any other method and the tips below will help you incorporate it into your strength training.

Ballistic Variations: Medicine Ball Training

Medicine balls works great for the Ballistic effort method because the ball can be released when thrown. Medicine ball training is a total body workout that allows you to exert an all out effort without ever slowing down. Not only will this form of training teach you how to involve your entire body weight and recruit as many motor units as possible, but it’s also a great way to learn how to teach your lower body to transfer force through the core into the upper body. I recommend starting off in a kneeling position and working on hip extension, before delving into more advanced techniques. This hip extension is crucial to start all medicine ball throws in order to generate as much power as possible

Kneeling Chest Pass

While people generally think of medicine ball training as throwing a ball against a wall for several repetitions at a fast pace, this in not ideal for power production as it only trains the reactive component. Throwing medicine ball for distance is actually a much better option for increasing absolute power as you’ll be able to accelerate through the entire range of motion, recruiting as much muscle mass and motor units to do so. Just make sure to do these at the beginning of your workout as they’re high demand on your central nervous system. Having mastered the kneeling variation, progress into standing variations like those shown below.

Standing Med Ball Chest Pass

Standing Med Ball Scoop Throw

When to Use the Ballistic Effort Method

Because ballistic training is extremely intense on the nervous system, it’s important, depending on your training goals, that you use this technique properly. For lower volume they can be used as part of a warm up to excite the central nervous system before a heavy strength session. This will activate those high threshold motor units necessary for a heavy squat or bench press variation.

They can also be used in conjunction with a strength exercise, as mentioned in my contrast training article, or for conditioning at the end of the session. When used as part of conditioning this would work more power endurance than absolute power. Knowing that, here are some of my favorite movements for power endurance. To perform properly just make sure that you’re putting max effort into every throw.

Standing Overhead Chest Pass

Standing Med Ball Slam

Partner Supine Chest Pass

Programming the Ballistic Effort Method

Medicine ball throw volumes should be moderate to low, and the intensity high. Typically we use low rep, high set schemes like 3-5 reps of 5-8 sets. It’s important to fully recover between sets to ensure optimal power production. If the speed or distance of the movement starts to drastically diminish, cut the set and move on to the next phase of the workout.

Ballistic Training Options

If you don’t have access to medicine balls, you can throw other types of objects such a dumbbells, kettlebells, plates, sandbags, or even Kegs. Of course, I recommend throwing these implements outside as I can’t imagine any gym owner being cool with you launching a keg in their facility.

Serious athletes should be incorporating med ball throws into their training. This type of ballistic training helps you learn to load your hips and create a powerful hip extension yielding optimal force transfer from the lower body through the upper body. For while I agree all athletes should aim to be agile, it’s power training and power production that separates the good athletes from the great ones.

To maximize your power and explosiveness using these medicine ball exercises, 1R would recommend the following supplements:

  1. Optimum Nutrition AmiNO Energy - This preworkout supplement contains vital amino acids and beta alanine to get you ready for any workout that may come your way
  2. Cytosport Creatine - By increasing your body's ATP production creatine will help you become more explosive, more powerful, and more athletic when taken before or after workouts
  3. Cytosport Whey Isolate – Naturally rich in glutamine, BCAA’s and other important nutrients, this protein supplement will help you build lean muscle mass when taken after training sessions
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About the Author

Coach John Gaglione is a Sport Performance Specialist out of Long Island New York. He is a certified "Underground" Strength coach who specializes in training combat athletes. An avid strength sport athlete, John also competes in powerlifting and kettlebell strong sport competitions. If you would like to learn more about John you can reach him at www.gaglionestrength.com or e-mail him at gaglionestrength@gmail.com.