Training design considerations for the medicine ball

As with any type of training, there are lots of factors to consider when putting together a training session with medicine balls. Some are general training considerations, while other factors are specific to the demands of medicine ball training. Below are nine medicine ball training design considerations I put together for my book Complete Guide to Medicine Ball Training.

» Related content: HMMR Plus members can stream Vern Gambetta’s Medicine Ball Training DVD for practical demonstrations of more than 75 exercises.

Progression – Begin with general workouts that work the whole body in order to develop mobility and strength and then progress to exercises that are more complex or imitate the skill of the specific event. Master the skill of the movement before attempting to progress to a heavier ball or to a higher volume. Go from lighter to heavier balls and from low volume to high volume. Also go from low intensity to high intensity only after a sufficient training base has been acquired.

Intensity – The intensity of a medicine ball exercise can be affect by various factors, including:

  • Weight of the ball – The weight of the ball can vary from one kilo to over ten kilos. Most exercises are done with the three and four kilo ball. The heavier the ball, the greater the intensity of the exercise.
  • Distance thrown – The farther the distance thrown the greater the intensity.
  • Limb involvement – One arm throws are of greater intensity than two arm throws. The less body parts involved the greater the intensity.
  • Speed of movement – The greater the speed of movement the more intense the exercise.

Volume – Sets and reps will make up the volume of a session. The basic rule is that the higher the repetitions in a set the fewer sets for a particular exercise. Generally most exercises will start with two sets and progress to five sets. The range of repetitions will vary from five to twenty depending on the intensity of the exercise. A good rule of thumb is that the heavier the ball the fewer the reps and the lighter the ball the higher the reps.

Density – This is the number of times a particular exercise or workout appears within a specific training cycle. Higher intensity exercises should be used less often within a microcycle.

Rest – Shortening the rest time between exercises will increase the physiological demand of the exercise and place a greater emphasis on the muscular endurance aspect of the training.

Amplitude – This is the range of motion over which the force is applied. Increasing the amplitude will increase the intensity and stress flexibility.

Change rhythm of the exercise – Working faster or slower will affect the training demand of the exercise.

Variability – This involves variations of exercises, sets, reps and intensity in order to force adaptation. This does not allow the body to adapt to a constant stimulus and become stereotyped in that movement.

Training age – This is how long an athlete has been training in a specialized manner for that particular sport. The older the training age the higher the volume and intensity and the more specific the work.