The Medicine Ball: Make it Your New Best Friend

A Medicine Ball could be one of the single most important tools for developing power and strength for the ‘Basketball Big Man’. I used it extensively in my off-season training program as well as in my in-season maintenance program during my college and pro careers to properly coordinate and fine-tune multiple components of basketball performance in a coordinated effort.

In fact, and your gonna get a kick out of this, I actually lugged a 20 pound med ball around with me as I travelled the world! It wasnt easy to find a med ball that bounced. I used one in the summers that I just loved so I had to take it with me everywhere I went. Probably not the best idea as it cost me tons in terms of extra baggage on international flights! Add that to the space requirements of size 15 basketball shoes and you can imagine what I looked like coming to the airport with a mountain of bags! Anyway, just shows you how important my medball was to me.

It’s one of the ‘Old-School’ tools that is making a comeback in modern day sports training and because of its simplicity and versatility is a must for any developmental program for tall or oversized basketball players.

Sport Specific – With a medicine ball you can train basketball specific movements using your whole body in multiple planes and directions that you cannot train with any other weight implement such as a kettlebell , a barbell, or a dumbbell. Simply by substituting a med ball for a basketball you can perform all types of two hand and one hand passes that you would use in the game. Imagine trying to get away with passing a dumbbell around the weight room?

Core Power – Since core strength is best developed by performing full-body movements, the med ball is especially beneficial for training for core power. The med ball effectively allows you to use your shoulders, torso, and hips as you perform various throws, twists, and jumps. The ‘Big Man’ is only as strong as his weakest link. Because of the length of your limbs and your height, your weakest link is usually your trunk.

Med balls are relatively cheap and because of their growing popularity there is extensive information and access to med ball exercises and videos. Despite all of these benefits, I still get astonished at the way some coaches and athletes try and perform various exercises at the gym or during practice sessions.

Someone said “It is not the recipe but the cook”. It couldn’t be more accurate.

If wrongly implemented, med ball training could be an athletic catastrophe, injury prone.

Therefore, I would like to enumerate some of the guideline and safety techniques to consider when planning, running or/ and performing med ball exercises.

  • The principal problem is the lack of proper form brought on by most athletes using a ball that is too heavy. Most of the mindset of young athlete is to try and get the heaviest weights possible to realize the biggest strength gains. The weight of the ball should be light enough so that proper form is never compromised. Therefore quality of movement should be the focus instead of how many reps and sets you perform.
  • Since quality is key, always have available a light, medium, and heavy weight ball available and initiate each new exercise with a very light ball and progressively work up
  • Since the core is the focus of med ball training, concentrate on the athlete contracting the core muscles during the moves. Have them brace the abdominals as if they were going to get punched in the stomach.
  • Maintain good posture and alignment with the eyes forward and the chest lifted. During catching and throwing work at complete extension of the arms as you receive and release the ball.
  • With any bending movement to pick the ball up from the floor, to squat with the ball, or to lower and jump drop the hips back and down, bend the knees, keep the back straight, look forward and keep the chest lifted.
  • With overhead throws, be sure the athlete keeps the abdominals braced in order to fully support the lumbar spine. Do not over reach the ball excessively over and behind the head.

I will be posting some ‘Big Man Specific’ exercises and workouts with the med ball soon, so keep an eye out! Until then, be safe and shoot for good quality form on each movement rather than trying to do too much.

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