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Supplementing Velocity Development with Med Ball Training 

By Mike Lidge, MS, RSCC, Philadelphia Phillies

 

One of the ways the body is able to generate considerable torque during the hitting or pitching motion is through the elastic energy created through the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) of the anterior oblique sling (internal and external obliques and adductors) at hip-shoulder separation (1,2). While elasticity is an important factor in generating rotational power, adequate core stiffness is also required to resist rotation into foot plant, as the energy created from the ground up travels through the tendons and muscles. Once the hips begin to rotate, co-contraction of the anterior core and posterior chain musculature result in a posterior pelvic tilt posture, a very important position essential for effective transfer of power through hip extension and a front leg brace. A properly implemented medicine ball training (MBT) program can be used not only to augment the previously mentioned factors, but also the timing and coordination of the main segments as they accelerate through the rotational sequence (1).

Research indicates that peak angular velocity is related to pitching velocity (2). MBT has been shown to produce the highest peak average angular velocity in athletes during training compared to other exercises (2). While similar to the movements and speeds involved in throwing and hitting, MBT has been shown to be most effective when coupled with an effective strength training program (3,4). Posterior chain exercises such as the squat and deadlift that produce high ground reaction forces through the sagittal plane that can be transferred into rotation in the weight room are often used in combination with MBT.

Suggestions:

  • When designing a MBT program for athletes, it is important to keep in mind total volume and workload, especially in-season.
  • Incorporating a micro-dosing approach in-season is a good way to avoid overtaxing athletes.
  • MBT exercises need to be performed with the intent to throw or slam the ball explosively. Movements at half-speed will not yield optimal results.
  • Med ball exercises are on the velocity end of the force/velocity curve. Coaches should emphasize max ball speed, correct postural control and proper sequencing rather than the total weight of the ball being thrown.

Exercise Routine:

  • Half-Kneeling MB Shot Put (Inside knee up)
  1. Assume a half-kneeling position with the left side of the body parallel to and approximately 3 feet away from the wall.
  2. Place the right hand and fingers on the back of the ball.
  3. Place the left hand and fingers on the outside of the ball for stability.
  4. With the right hand, elbow and shoulder in-line behind the ball, stay tall and rotate the body to the left, i.e., away from the wall.
  5. Set the core, and leading with the palm and fingers of the right hand, forcefully rotate the trunk, shoulder, arm, and hand to the left and push / drive the ball into the wall with a shot-put type movement.
  6. Perform 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps, switch sides and repeat from the left side

  • Standing Underhand Scoop Toss
  1. Stand with your left side parallel and approximately 4 feet from the wall.
  2. Hold the ball in both hands with the right hand behind the ball and left hand in front and under the ball.
  3. Set the core, rotate to the right and load into the rear (right) hip.
  4. Forcefully uncoil the hips, drive the back knee forward throw the ball against the wall using an underhand scoop toss.
  5. Catch the ball as it rebounds off the wall, reset and repeat the sequence.
  6. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps to each side.

  • Standing Forward Hip Toss
  1. Stand slightly more than arms-length away and facing the wall with feet shoulder width apart and toes facing the wall.
  2. Set the core and rotate the trunk, shoulders, arms, hands and ball to the right and hinge into the hip and place the ball into the right back pocket.
  3. Explode through the hips and trunk and forcefully release / drive the ball using an underhand scoop toss.
  4. Catch rebound, re-set and repeat the sequence.
  5. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps to each side.

 

  • Standing Diagonal Wall Toss
  1. Stand with your back to the wall and approximately 2-feet away.
  2. Head and chest are up, hips are flexed slightly and hands are on opposite sides of the ball.
  3. Set the core and rotate to the right and load into the right hip.
  4. Keeping the hips square, rotate through the trunk and make an explosive underhand scoop toss diagonally over the left shoulder into the wall.
  5. Follow the toss with the eyes.
  6. Catch rebound, re-set and repeat the sequence.
  7. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps to each side.

  • Standing Rotational Side Slam
  1. Stand erect with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart holding a ball at waist height.
  2. Set the core, shift the weight to the right foot and rotate the ball back and to the right until it is over the right shoulder in a “sledgehammer – type” position.
  3. Lift the left foot off the ground and open it about 45-degrees, then rotate through the back hip and slam the ball straight down in front of the left foot.
  4. Pick the ball up, re-set and repeat the sequence.
  5. Perform 2-3 sets of 4-6 reps on each side.

  • Skater to Scoop Toss
  1. Stand about 4-feet away from a wall with the left side facing the wall.
  2. Set the core and perform a skater jump towards the wall.
  3. Upon landing, explode back by performing a skater jump away from the wall.
  4. Upon landing again, rotate the hips explosively and perform a forceful underhand scoop toss to the wall.
  5. Catch rebound, re-set and repeat the sequence.
  6. Perform 2-3 sets of 4-6 reps each side.

References

 

  1. Hirashima, M., et. al.Sequential muscle activity and its functional role in the upper extremity and trunk during overarm throwing.J Sports Sci, 20(4): 301-310, 2002.
  2. Szymanski DJ, et. al., Effect of torso rotational strength on angular hip, angular shoulder, and linear bat velocities of high school baseball players. J Strength Cond Res. 21(4): 1117-1125, 2007.
  3. Raeder, C., et.al., Effects of Six Weeks of Medicine Ball Training on Throwing Velocity, Throwing Precision, and Isokinetic Strength of Shoulder Rotators in Female Handball Players. J Strength Cond Res, 29(7): 1904-1914, 2015.
  4. Newton, R and K McEvoy, (1994). Baseball Throwing Velocity: A comparison of med ball training and weight training. J Strength Cond Res. 8(3):198–203, 1994.

 

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Michael Lidge, MS, RSCC, CSCS, is a minor league strength and conditioning coach for the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

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