This is the third in a series of three articles on using medicine balls with your personal training clients. Please refer to the two previous articles to better understand the progressions described. As with any other training protocols, it is your responsibility as a personal trainer to understand your clients’ limitations, goals and needs in designing and progressing your programs.
We have explored using the medicine ball in several different exercises and movement patterns. When incorporating these ideas into your program, you may want to consider a few options:
- You can do a full body circuit using the medicine ball at the beginning of your training session. This will wake up the neuromuscular system and help your client tune into the entire body working together as a unit.
- You can also “super set” a single exercise using the med ball with another more traditional exercise that works similar muscle groups, and/or addresses similar movement patterns. For example, you can alternate sets of bench press with squats and chest passes. Bottom line: Your imagination is your limit!
In the two previous articles, the med ball was incorporated into movements including a squat, a lunge and core exercises. We increased the difficulty by asking the client to move faster, to focus on the deceleration of the movement and to do more repetitions. We also combined some upper and lower body movements such as a squat with an overhead lift for example. Some of these movements will be shown again, although other variables will be changed. We will add more explosive and powerful moves such as plyometrics and more demands on deceleration and eccentric control.
These progressions are presented with the understanding that your client has demonstrated proficiency in functional training, integrated movements, and plyometrics. Please refer to other articles on PTontheNET.com and additional references for more assessment information if necessary.
Squats and Overhead Moves
In Part 2, we presented squats and overhead moves. As your client progresses, you can add a medicine ball throw to this movement. Have your client squat once with the med ball, and as he stands up, cue him to forcefully bring the ball up over his head as if he is going to throw it. Be certain he understands he is not throwing the ball, merely pretending to do so! Then, as he squats and come up the second time, cue him to toss the ball to you. You toss the ball back to him as he descends into the third squat. One entire sequence would be like this:
- Client squats down and forcefully brings med ball overhead as he stands up.
- Client squats down and tosses the ball to you as he stands up.
- He catches the ball as he squats down the third time.
Start slowly with enough cueing for him to do the moves safely and in control.
When he is ready, challenge him more by:
- Cueing him to increase the speed of the squats and focus on the deceleration of the overhead lift (while maintaining posture and form).
- Stand further away from him as he throws the ball to you.
- Increase the force with which you toss the ball back to him, demanding more eccentric control from him as he decelerates the catching of the ball as he squats.
- These progressions require you to be totally focused and your client totally clear on your cues.
Jump Squats and Chest Passes
In the previous articles, we had your client holding a squat position while tossing and catching the med ball. We will progress that to having your client do jump squats and then tossing and catching the ball. To briefly review, a jump squat is where your client is standing in a semi squat position and then he jumps up and lands very softly, decelerating as he lands.
While holding the ball at chest height, your client does one jump squat, and then as he lands, tosses the ball to you. You throw it back to him before he jumps again.
Start slowly by having your client do one jump squat followed by one throw.
- Client stands in a squat position, holding the ball in front of his core with both hands.
- Client jumps up and lands quietly.
- As soon as the client lands, he tosses the ball to you.
- Throw the ball back immediately or as soon as the client is ready.
- Client jumps again and repeats sequence.
To increase the challenge:
- Have the client do the sequence a little faster or with less cueing.
- Have him do several jumps in a row, followed by one or more throws.
- Have him initiate the throw as he initiates a jump (see Forward Jump Squats and Throws below).
Be certain your client is being as quiet as possible while jumping and landing and focus on the eccentricity of the movement and deceleration of the catch.
Squats and Rotations
We previously had your client standing in a semi-squat position and rotating from the core while holding the med ball in front of him. We then progressed to having him throw the ball to you as he rotates toward you and then catching it again as he turns away. You can now progress this to having him do several core rotations before he throws the ball to you. This progression gives you the opportunity to have your client use more force without letting go of the ball, requiring him to slow the movement down as he turns from side to side.
- Stand on one side of the client.
- Client holds ball and starts by facing you.
- Client turns away from you and then turns back towards you without letting go of the ball.
- Client then turns away again.
- The third time the client turns towards you, he tosses the ball to you.
Another way to progress is to have your client do some jump squats in between the core rotations.
- Client holds ball in front of him and does one jump squat.
- He then does the rotations as described above.
You can work towards having him do several jump squats before he does the rotations.
Forward Jump Squats and Throws
Cue your client to jump forward into a squat as he throws or catches the med ball. Have your client stand in a ready position (i.e., feet a little wider than hip width apart, knees slightly bent and hands in front holding the ball).
- Cue him to jump by saying “jump” or “go.”
- As he jumps forward into a squat position, he throws the ball to you.
- Step back and repeat.
Make this more challenging by having your client catch the ball instead of throwing it as he jumps forward. Or you can challenge him by having him jump forward and catch the ball, then jump backward as he throws the ball back to you (or vice versa).
In the previous article your client stood in a lunge position, and did chest passes. You can now have your client do a lunge jump and then throw the ball to you as a chest pass. A lunge jump is when your client stands in a lunge position, with both knees bent. From this position they jump up, and land in a lunge position with the opposite leg in front. Start slowly with plenty of cueing. Then progress to faster moves, and then to several lunge jumps and one, or several throws.
- Your client starts in a stationary lunge position
- Client holds ball in front at chest level with arms bent
- Client jumps up and switches foot position, lands quietly
- Client throws ball to you as a chest pass as soon as they land in the new lunge position
- You throw the ball back to the client before they begin the next jump
To progress the sequence:
- Your client begins in a lunge position, holding the ball out in front in a chest pass position.
- Your client throws the ball to you at the same time as he does a lunge jump.
- Throw the ball back immediately and he catches it as he continues with the jumps. In other words, your client is continuously jumping and throwing and catching the ball in a timed or random fashion.
Another progression is to throw the ball to the side as the client jumps into the lunge, so that he has to rotate to catch the ball.
You can have your client do the same progressions with overhead throws. Your client starts by holding the ball overhead and does one lunge jump. As he lands, he throws the ball to you from the overhead position. You toss the ball back so that he has to catch it over his head. You can progress this the same way as you did above.
Many of our clients move too slowly! We have trained our clients and ourselves to move slower than we need to for real life situations. This is a fun drill to do with your clients to challenge their reaction time, their fast twitch muscle fibers and their ability to get off the floor and move their bodies through space. You client starts by doing traditional push ups. On your cue, you throw the med ball out in front of and away from him. As soon as your client hears your cue, he comes up off of the floor as quickly as possible and runs after the ball as quickly as possible. After he gets the med ball, he runs back as fast as possible.
To increase the challenge:
- Increasing the number of push ups before you cue the client to chase the ball.
- Have your client run backwards to the starting point.
- Have your client pick up the ball and do some squats before he runs back.
- Have your client pick up the ball and do other agility drills such as lateral runs before you start the next sequence.
Balance and Stability Movements
In the last article, we talked about your client moving and holding postures to challenge dynamic and static stability. Now your client may be ready to combine some of these movements and postures with other movements. Have your client begin by standing on one leg while holding the ball, then lean forward from the hip. Let the leg in the back extend, bring the med ball out in front and hold still. Cue him to hold this position for several seconds, then bring the ball back to the body and do a single leg squat. As he comes up from the squat, he can move back into the balance position as described above. Progress by having your client perform the squat while holding the extended position.
- Stand on one leg and holds ball with both hands at midsection.
- Lean forward from hip, keeping the natural curve in the low back and core engaged. As he leans forward, the rear leg lifts up and he brings the ball out in front of his body with one arm. Arm should be soft at elbows but relatively straight.
- Hold this position for five seconds.
- Bring ball back to the core, rear leg raises to starting position.
- Perform one single leg squat, keeping ball at core with both arms, progressing to one arm extended with the ball.
To increase the challenge:
- Increase the speed of movement.
- Bring the ball out to the side instead of straight in front in the extended position.
- Hold the ball in different positions with one or both arms during the single leg squat.
Single Leg Star Reaches
This movement is more for dynamic stability and balance. Place the medicine ball on the floor close to the outside of the client’s right foot. Cue the client to stand on the right leg, squat down and pick up the med ball with both hands. Then have him squat down and place the ball back to the same spot. You can then ask the client to put the ball back down to his left side on the next squat and pick it up again. As you client gets better at this movement, you can have him place the ball to either the right or the left side, depending on your cue. Challenge him more by having him place the ball further away from the foot. You can also ask him to move faster, challenging his dynamic stability.
Training Erectors With Tosses
Have your client do a traditional erector strengthening exercise, lying prone on the floor and lifting up his upper body. The med ball should be on the floor right in front of the client. Have your client hold the extended position and then lift up the med ball and toss it to you. Toss it back to him and then have him lower to the floor. As your client gets stronger with this movement, have him hold the contracted position while you do several tosses to him.
Using med balls with sit ups is a great way to challenge the abs and the entire core. Your client can start by tossing the ball slowly and keeping it close to his core. You can then progress by throwing it a little harder and further away from his core. You can also increase the difficulty by having your client rotate as he catches the ball.
When doing these exercises and movements, always watch for signs of fatigue, such as losing the core integrity, looking unstable at the joints and losing concentration.
Be careful and have fun!