Medicine balls are those spherical, heavy objects traditionally
made from leather and often found tucked in the corner of a gym covered
in cobwebs. Newer versions are made of rubber or vinyl and are filled with
air, water or a gel.
Varying in size from a tennis ball to a small beach ball,
these are some of the most versatile pieces of equipment available.
Unlike the machine training rage of the 90s that concentrated
on isolating muscles in a specific plane of motion, medicine ball training
promotes integration of muscle actions and allows the exerciser to condition
the body in all planes of movement. Simply speaking, you can do things with
medicine balls that are just not possible on machines, or even free weights!
Let's suppose you want to develop explosive strength and power
for throwing a baseball. Following the Principal of Specificity of Training,
you'll get the best results when you overload the muscles in the exact pattern
of movement. Most gyms, however, will not appreciate your membership if
you start to throw dumbbells across the weight room. Compare this to training
with a partner or rebounder and a medicine ball.
In this case, an exercise like the medicine ball throw would
meet the requirements of the Principle of Specificity of Training (see Figure
1) and improve your throwing power greatly.
Or, if you are training quick, explosive movements, most weight
machines can be tricky, dangerous and generally not very effective. Remember
what happened last time you did an explosive hamstring curl on a machine?
Is the leg curl machine still in one piece, or is there a hole in the ceiling
of the gym?
Using a medicine ball can be more effective and you don't
necessarily have to be lying on your stomach (see Figure 2 for the standing
dynamic leg curl). Fact is, machines are neither designed, nor sensible,
for explosive high-speed resistance training but medicine balls are!
This sort of explosive training is extremely important. Explosive
medicine ball training integrated into a bodybuilding program will give
your nervous system a jump-start. I have seen weightlifters increase their
bench press by as much as 15 pounds in two days, after performing explosive
push passes and kneeling push passes in just one session (see Figures 3
Medicine ball training provides a much-needed stimulus for
the high threshold motor units and wakes up those fast twitch muscle fibers
– the ones responsible for greater strength and size. This type of
training also improves start strength, allowing you to get those big weights
moving more easily.
If your goal is to increase strength and size and you have
been lifting weights for over one year, you should vary the speed of movement
at least every four weeks for optimal strength or size gains. Medicine ball
training can be extremely helpful in making these changes in movement speeds.
Getting Faster, More Agile
Training with a medicine ball can be helpful for coordination
and speed as well. Have you ever seen a bodybuilder attempt speed, agility
or quickness drills with other athletes such as wrestlers, football players
or boxers? It becomes very obvious that too much machine-based isolation
training and not enough integrative exercise makes you slower and hampers
One of the favorite sayings of Al Vermeil (strength and conditioning
consultant for the Chicago Bulls) is "Train slow, be slow." If
you lift weights with the intent of improving sports performance, your speed
of movements in training must approximate those of your sport, at least
during some phases of your program.
By training exclusively on machines or free weights, you may
be limiting your ability to reach full potential.
In general, all good strength coaches cycle speed of movement,
contraction types, rest period length and exercise selection throughout
their athletes' programs, and almost always include doses of explosive plyometric
and medicine ball training to stimulate the nervous system and activate
fast twitch muscles fibers.
The oblique toss, squat push press and back toss (see Figures
5, 6 and 7 respectively) are three medicine ball exercises I use for this
purpose. Not only does this kind of training increase speed, but also allows
for increased strength during regular weight training.
Charles Poliquin, one of the world's most successful strength
coaches, uses medicine ball training and, as a consequence, has bobsled
racers weighing less than 220 pounds squatting more than 390 pounds. Strong
and fast is a winning combination in the sports arena.
Finally, while there are all sorts of in the gym benefits,
medicine balls have a definite leg up on other training equipment when it
comes to practicality. One of the great benefits of medicine ball training
is that it can be done practically anywhere.
You can pull out a medicine ball at the beach, in the park,
in a squash court – the choice is yours. This makes a wonderful change
from always training in the gym.
I highly recommend you add a medicine ball training session
to your workouts one or two times a week. After only four weeks, you will
be amazed at the difference in your lifting, sports performance and overall
For more equipment for and information on medicine ball training,
I highly recommend the following C.H.E.K products:
• Dynamic Medicine Ball Training, Vols. 1-3 (video)
• Paul Chek's Medicine Ball Workout (video)
• Dynamic Medicine Ball Training (correspondence course)
• Dynamax balls
Paul Chek, Holistic Health Practitioner and certified Neuromuscular
Therapist, is the founder of the C.H.E.K Institute in Vista, Calif. He is
also sought-after consultant to sports organizations, his services have
benefited numerous professional sports teams, athletes and individuals seeking
optimal health worldwide.
Paul has produced more than 60 videos, 17 correspondence courses
and is the author of several books, audio programs and articles.
For more information on Paul's popular "You Are What
You Eat" audio/workbook program, or for any of his other health/exercise
courses, videos and books, call 800/552-8789, 800/552-8789 (New Zealand
or Australia), 44 (0)1273-856-860 (Great Britain) or visit the CHEK Institute
Web site. To learn more about Paul and his upcoming Personal Professional
Spiritual (PPS) Mastery Program, visit his new Web site at www.paulchek.com.
About the Author
This article is reprinted from Mercola.com, the world's #1 most visited
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