We play sports with a ball all the time. Using a ball for athletic development is hardly a novel concept, but it truly can bring a new aspect to athletic development training. The simple idea of training with a ball makes coordination essential to executing the exercises. It’s impossible to use medicine balls without using gravity and enhancing linkage through multi-joint movements.
Medicine ball training is also extremely versatile. It can consist of general or sports-specific movements. It can address all different energy systems depending on how the training is set up. And the full range of muscle actions from concentric to eccentric can be trained as well.
These are just some of the benefits of training with medicine balls. In my book Complete Guide to Medicine Ball Training I outlined some more benefits of medicine ball training. In essence, it all comes down to the fact that medicine balls can be used to train six key athletics qualities:
Dynamic Flexibility/Mobility Movement – This can be trained through extreme ranges of motion in all planes of movement. The weight ball forces the body through a greater range of motion while still exerting muscle control.
Strength – Strength is essentially work against resistance. Strength comes in many forms: general strength, special strength, or specific strength. Depending on how closely the medicine ball exercise imitates the actual sport skill (both in movement and weight) will determine what type of strength is trained, but the whole spectrum of strength can be trained with medicine balls.
Power – Resistance with speed, taking advantage of the naturally occurring stretch shortening cycle of muscular contraction. This has been recently termed the “plyometric effect.’ This phenomenon takes advantage of the normal elasticity of the muscle and the reflex potentiation to exert more force under stretch loads. This quality is highly trainable and greatly enhanced by most medicine ball training activities.
Strength endurance – The ability to repeat a movement with resistance while in a climate of fatigue. The volume of repetitions will greatly improve this quality.
Kinesthetic Awareness and Dynamic Balance – The bilateral nature of the activities and the movement throughout all planes of motion heighten these qualities and help to insure transfer to the specific sport skill.
Skill – The various weights and sizes of the balls enable sport skills to be imitated with resistance. Specific strength developed through medicine ball training will insure the transfer to skill.