The MD ball has become a staple in almost every functional training program because it is one of the simplest and safest tools for developing total body power from the ground up. Regardless of whether you are performing rotary or overhead movements, the MD ball teaches summation of forces from the ground through the legs, through the core and finally out through the shoulders, arms and hands. With MD throws, the athlete learns how to transfer force from the ground to the ball, with the core as the vital link between the lower and upper body. MD ball throws can also be used to provide a total-body conditioning effect when proper work to rest ratios are utilized. The primary disadvantage to working with MD balls is the need for space. MD ball training, especially overhead throws require a lot of space.
Proper ball selection is also vital when performing MD ball throws. Many athletes believe that heavier is better. This is not true with MD ball training. The key to effective MD training is velocity; making speed of movement more important than ball weight. If the movement looks too heavy, it probably is. Any time an athlete struggles to throw a MD ball with good form and/or high velocity, the ball is too heavy or too big. For overhead throws when working with most baseball players, the ball should weight approximately 6 pounds. Larger, stronger and more experienced players might be able to go up to 8 pounds.
To perform the MD ball squat throw.
- Start from a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward.
- Position your hands under the ball so that you are holding the ball at chest level.
- Begin the exercise by squatting down until your thighs are parallel to the ground and your knees do not extend beyond your toes.
- Quickly extend your hips and legs and explode out of the squat and push (throw) the MD ball as high as possible to a partner. The ball should leave your hands in an arch so that it lands approximately 10 yards away.
- Your partner catches the ball on the first or second bounce and quickly drops down into a squat, explodes up and throws the ball back to you. Partners repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps.
- This is an explosive movement. The goal is full extension of the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, arms and hands through the full range of motion.
- Throw the ball up and out slightly so that it will land 10-yards in front of your body.
- Partners should avoid trying to catch the ball before it bounces in order to prevent jamming one or more fingers.
- Start with 2 sets of 5-6 reps and gradually build to 4-5 sets of 5-6 reps.
- Allow full recovery between sets to ensure max effort.
Jose Vazquez, PT, CSCS is Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Texas Rangers.