When it comes to developing power, whether it is for sport or for life, there are no better exercises then the Olympic lifts. With the O lifts you are incorporating a whole body movement. All O lifts will start with the legs, transfer up through the core, and finish with the arms. This is the same in sports; power starts at the legs and ends at the fingertips. O lifts do a great job at preparing the body to develop power, because they incorporate the whole body just like sports does.
With all this being said, I personally do not do a whole lot of Olympic lifting with my athletes. This is not because I do not see the value in them. It has more to do with me not being an expert in coaching the lifts. Also, they are very complex and require a lot of mobility throughout all the joints in the body as well as coordination, which most people do not possess.
This is why hang cleans and hang snatching has become big. These still allow for a hip hinge but do not require as much mobility in the ankle and hips as a power cleans does (starting from the ground). These lifts are still complex and still require that you have good thoracic spine mobility and shoulder stability.
In the case that one, a coach does not feel comfortable coaching the Olympic lifts and two, the athlete or client at hand does not have the mobility or coordination to perform such lifts, seems to leave a coach looking to train for power, out of options.
But as you can guess we have options, the title kinda gives it away. One of these options is the medicine ball. Medicine balls are not anything new; they have been around since ancient Greece. Much like the kettle bells they are just a long forgotten way of exercising that now is back in vogue.
Med balls can be used in many different ways. The one I will focus on is developing power. Unlike the Olympic lifts, med balls are easier to coach and require less mobility throughout the joints. This makes them more usable for most athletes and clients. There is also a seemingly endless amount of variations you can do with the med balls. You can throw from the side, the hip, overhead, from the chest, etc. From there, you can even make them more dynamic by adding lower body movements such as a crossover step or jump.
Putting Med Balls in Your Program
Where you place med ball work depends on what you are trying to get out of them. For the most part I will place them as one of my first few exercises if I am using them to develop power. To develop true power you need to take advantage of your muscles glycogen stores when they are at they’re fullest at the beginning of your workout.
Another place I will put them is at the end of my workout. They just seem to fit nicely there. Of course when you put them at the end you will not be developing as much power as you would be if you had put them at the beginning of your workout.
Selecting a Weight
Med balls come in many different weights, from 2 pounds to 200 pounds. Well I don’t know about 200 pounds but there is a large spectrum to choose from.
If you are going for speed and power, then for the love of all things holy, do not pick up a 14 pound med ball!
Power is work divided by time, so if this is the case, time has greater effect on power then work. If I use a 6 pound med ball and move it faster then a 14 pound med ball I am going to produce more power with the smaller weight, the 6 pound med ball.
Light is right, at least until you can move a 14 pound med ball as fast as a 6 pound med ball.
Use More Leg
A lot of times when people start out throwing med balls, they try to generate all the force from their arms.
Instead of trying to push the ball harder, think of trying to generate more power from the legs and hips. This will ultimately lead to throwing the ball harder.
I find it strange that I even have this as a point, but I feel it is necessary. As a guy I love throwing things, breaking things, seeing things explode… its fun, don’t know why but it is. So when I give an athlete a med ball that is designed to be thrown as hard as one can throw it, you would think they would do just that.
More times then not I need to explain that the goal is for you to throw that ball through the wall. Every rep should be thrown as hard as possible.
Next time you pick up a med ball, think of trying to throw it through the wall or floor.
If you do not have the training background to coach Olympic lifts, or you just don’t think that the risk to reward is worth it because of the nature of the lifts or the athlete is just not ready or capable do to movement or coordination problems, then start working in some med ball training. You will find that your athletes will still be able to gain power without the use of Olympic lifts.