Jan 3, 2013

Strength is the basis for all other facets in regards to training. The stronger you are, the better. But, what good is being strong if you can't produce that strength quickly?

This is where power training comes into play. The idea behind training for power is to teach your body to generate force quickly, making you more explosive. Being explosive is a MUST for athletes of any sport and can tremendously benefit the average gym-goer as well.

The initial thing that comes to mind when talking about power training and explosive exercise is Olympic lifting. If you've ever seen an O-lifter clean and jerk or snatch you know that they are some of the world's MOST EXPLOSIVE athletes. And don't get me wrong, Olympic lifting is a fantastic way to increase explosiveness and rate of force development, but it requires a lot of technique and hours upon hours of practice and critiquing. Those of us short on time or without a good coach to learn from may find tackling the O-lifts a bit of a hassle, not to mention those coaches who have large groups of athletes that all need individual attention. Trying to get a group of 10 HS athletes to clean properly is a daunting task.

Well never fear, medicine ball throws are here.

The Benefits of Medicine Ball Throws

Med-ball throws are a seriously dummy-proof way of achieving great explosive power as they can be taught in a matter of minutes and can be done in large groups without worrying about anyone getting injured or possibly injuring some one else. Unless of course some one decides to throw a 10lb ball at your head at high speed; could be an issue.

So not only are these exercises super easy to teach, they have a few benefits over Olympic lifts which bare mentioning. Above all else, med-ball throws allow for uninhibited triple extension (extension of the ankle, knee, and hip, during jumping, sprinting, throwing a punch, etc). What this means is that you never have to worry about decelerating the ball. When you're performing a power clean or snatch, for example, you always have to keep in mind that your hands will still be on the bar at the end of the movement. What this does is cuts your triple extension a little short because the weight must be absorbed after the movement is complete. During a throw, the ball completely leaves your hands and there is no break in the movement. Think about a boxer throwing a punch. Would a cornerman ever tell his boxer to stop the punch right as it hit his opponent? Hell no, he would tell him to punch right through the guy. This is the idea behind throwing the medicine ball.

Next on the list is the freedom of movement in all planes. Traditional O-lifts only develop power in the vertical plane. This is great but it's too one-dimensional. Sport, just like life, is chaotic and never happens according to plan, so the ability to generate power in all planes of motion is essential. Med-ball throws can be performed horizontally, vertically, and rotationally, hitting all 3 planes of movement.

Lastly, medicine ball throws teach the user to transfer power from the ground up. Our legs are our foundation and the foundation is where power is generated. Let's go back to our boxer. Have you ever seen a boxer just throw a punch with his arms and not use his legs at all? I think not. The rotation of the hip is what generates that knock-out punch. And where does the hip rotation start from you ask - the foot. It goes from the foot, to the knee, to the hip, through the midsection, and out by way of the arm and hand. Sounds like triple extension to me. And consistently performing throws (and proper punches if you're a boxer) will teach and reinforce your body's ability to transfer power from the ground up, making it work as a unit.

Types of Medicine Ball Throws and Programming

Here is a phenomenal video done by Chad Smith of Juggernaut Training Systems on medicine ball throws. It's basically a summary of everything I've gone over in this article with a tutorial of different kinds of throws. The actual throws are demonstrated from 2:04 to 9:56. Chad has an amazing program entitled The Juggernaut Method 2.0 which is a re-release of the original The Juggernaut Method and it covers everything from periodization of strength training and accessory exercises, programming for sprints, Olympic lifts, medicine ball throws, and energy system training, as well as a bonus manual on how to efficiently use the prowler or sled. Definitely a great reference to have in your arsenal if you're serious about strength and athletic performance. [I do not get paid to promote Chad's program, however I do feel it has been a huge asset in helping me develop as a lifter and as a coach.]

When incorporating throws into your program, as Chad states, the only variable that can be truly manipulated is volume. Sure you can grab a heavier or lighter ball but I'm pretty sure you don't have the time or the money to go out and buy a new medicine ball for every slight weight increase you would need to manipulate the load. So, every throw must be done at maximal intensity. Since the intensity is as close to a 100% effort as you can get, simply reduce the number of throws you're performing each week. This doesn't need to be complicated and can be as basic as doing 15 throws in week 1, 10 throws in week 2, and 6 throws in week 3. Take the 4th week off from throwing to provide a supercompensation effect. My only caveat is that you perform the throws immediately after your warm up and before any strength training. There is another technique called PAP, or Post-Activation Potentiation, which calls for utilizing a throw or jump immediately following a heavily loaded strength exercise, but that is for another article. I want you to be fresh when you're performing these throws.

Incorporate some med-ball throws into your program and reap the benefits of being more explosive. Now get throwing!!

In Strength,
Franco Crincoli


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Franco Crincoli
I am a personal trainer, strength coach, and all around iron addict, with a philosophy deeply rooted in old school methods. My training has been influenced by strongmen, powerlifters, Olympic lifters, gymnasts, and the Golden Era bodybuilders. I believe in reaping the greatest rewards the simplest (not easiest) way possible and having fun doing it.
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