Friday, January 3, 2014

Med Ball Exercises For Rotational and Lateral Power

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The goal of almost every athlete is to get stronger and more powerful, but the problem with developing power is it's often branched into just vertical or linear movements - Things like Olympic lifts, jumps, sprints, Kettlebell swings, and vertical/linear med ball throws.

But lost in this mess is developing power in lateral and rotational movements.  We work with mostly baseball athletes at BBA so rotational and lateral power is vitally important, but most sports heavily rely on rotational and lateral power.  Look at basketball, football, volleyball, field events, golf, hockey, lacrosse, boxing; they all require great amounts of power outside the sagittal plane.
(photo credit:

Strength and power in the sagittal plane (squats, deadlifts) do not always carryover to power in the frontal and transverse planes.  While they both heavily require hip strength and power, they also require different sequences and patterning to elicit power output.

One of our favorite tools to use when developing power in these planes is med balls.  Med balls are great because they allow you to mimic and breakdown the proper sequence of these patterns.  It's important to know that sequence - hips, torso, shoulders, arms, hands, implement - is vitally important.  The difference between lower level athletes (in golf, baseball, volleyball) and high level athletes is often this sequence.

The problem with most sports is that training using their implements (golf club, baseball, volleyball) isn't the best way to teach proper sequence.  The speed is too fast and athletes can't really feel the breakdown of the movement.  It would be like taking a 15 year-old out for driving their first time, and telling them to hit 100mph.  They don't even know how to put the car in gear, let alone drive at those speeds.

Same thing applies to many rotational movements in sports.  The speeds are soooo damn fast, that the sequence gets left behind.  These med ball drills allow us to breakdown and slowdown these movements and highlight correct sequencing and where the power should be derived from.

Now understand these are not strength exercises!  We are working to help transfer the strength we gained from the weight room and transfer it to our sport specific movement.  The ball only ranges from 4lb-16lbs, so we are really attacking power and speed.

Overall these are our go to methods of enhancing lateral and rotational power.  These are key in increasing throwing velocity, bat speed, distance in golf, spiking velocity in volleyball, hitting power in football, and change of direction in all sports.

The "model" in the video is a very good example of how these drills can help an athlete.  He attacks these drills like an animal and this has helped increase his throwing velocity from 86 to 93mph in the past 4 months.

With all of these drills we want great sequencing and hip involvement, but we also want to focus on trying to drive the ball as hard as possible.  Our favorite cue is "break the ball".  Try and break that sucker against the wall because it's thrown so hard; remember it's and aggressive movement, not passive.

Lateral Med Ball Punch

We like to start with a lateral med ball punch when teaching these movements.  A key understanding is to make sure this starts with lateral movement first and finishes with rotation.  If you really look at most rotational movements (swinging, throwing), they are actually more of a lateral movement first and rotational movement second.  So make sure the athlete is loading their back leg and getting some transfer of weight forward before rotating the hips through.

Linear Med Ball Punch

Now we face the wall with our punches.  This will emphasize more thoracic spine rotation and puts the hips in a good position to initiate the movement.  The hip rotation should be ahead of the shoulder rotation, making it easier to feel how they should lead the movement.

Lateral Med Ball Scoop

We want to show you scoop variations because all of the following videos can involve this scoop technique for added challenge.  The scoop takes the ball further from the body and lengthens the lever of where the ball will be released.  This is a good variation to visualize how all the moving parts should take place before the ball is put into a position to be released.

Linear Med Ball Scoop

With the linear version we like to cue to keep the ball on the hip.  This reiterates the need for proper sequence.  When the hands stay back, the hips, torso, shoulder all rotate first and finally lead to the ball.  Be on the look out for the hips and torso staying still and just having the shoulders and arms rotate.

Wide Stance Med Ball Punch

This is a more baseball specific variation we like to use to challenge some power and control in a wide stance that might be seen when throwing or hitting.  This helps add some adduction control/ROM and further challenges sequencing.

Lateral Lead Leg Split Med Ball Punch

Next we take a split position with the lead leg dropped behind.  Just looking at this you can see it challenges some balance, control, and stability.  We really like this one because it opens up the front side and allows for great hip movement through the whole range of motion.  It also stresses how to feel the hips loaded back and mimics the position of many rotation movements where the legs end up split.

Lateral Rear Leg Split Med Ball Punch

With the rear leg dropped back you get a little bit different stimulus.  Now you get more hip loading and a good follow through from the torso and arms.  Just another way to challenge a different position and total control of the body.

Linear Contralateral Med Ball Punch

Now we split our feet in a linear fashion.  This variation puts our opposite (contralateral) foot forward and challenges the body to transfer power rotationally to linearly.  With the contralateral foot forward you get a similar position to most rotational movements seen in sport and mimic a good "load and go" off the rear leg - over a planted front leg.

Linear Ipsilateral Med Ball Punch

Another challenging variation for control and the development of power.  Ideally we'd like to see more finish than seen in the video.  The athlete is stopping hip rotation early and substituting it more spinal rotation.

Reverse Shuffle to Med Ball Punch

This is a great drill to both attack some lateral agility, change of direction, and rotational power all in one!  Take 2 quick shuffle backwards, plant the back leg and drive the med ball into the wall.  Keep and eye on the back foot to make sure it's staying squared up and not opening.  We want it parallel with the wall in front of us.

Lateral Hop Med Ball Punch

The lateral hop adds some elastic or stretching shortening qualities to the picture.  This can help enhance the speed and power of the movement, but it is also a good way to overload the back leg and increase the need to drive off that leg.

Crossover Med Ball Punch

This is an old pitching drill that we like to use with med balls.  Crossing over puts more emphasis on staying back and getting separation from the lower half and upper half.  You can't create lateral or rotational power if you upper half is out over your lower half.  The better you can stay back and load the back leg, the more power created.

Shuffle Med Ball Punch

This shuffle is focused on brining as much speed as possible into the punch.  We still want to stay back and get good separation despite the increased speed of the movement.  We've reached this variation when the other the previous variations have been mastered.   Now we're focus on speed and power.  Punch that med ball as hard as you can!

Drive Stay Back Med Ball Punch

Here's another variation specific to pitching.  With a partner the athlete will go through his windup and drive into his pitch.  He will land, keeping his hands and upper body back, his partner will hand him the med ball and we will drive over the front leg into the wall.  The is great for teaching the upper have to stay back and proper sequence through the motion.

Drop Step Med Ball Punch

The drop step method is very similar to a shot put.  We like it because it involves a huge range of motion for the body to rotate through.  It's also a good variation to feel how the hips lead and the rest of the body follows.

Go Get 'Em

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