Throwing Medicine Balls
By: Jim Giroux, Perform Better
Many people never learn to throw properly! Movements that require shifting, bending, rotating and balance are important in athletics and in life. For example, by learning to transfer momentum from rear to front a golfer reduces risk of injury and improves performance. Due to poor movement skills, many have not mastered patterns to complete these tasks in a coordinated, efficient manner. Learning to throw helps establish or reestablish these movement skills. Throwing medicine balls, which incorporates expressions of speed, strength, flexibility and coordination, allows you to see measurable improvement rather quickly.
What equipment is appropriate? A medicine ball weighing 2-3 kilos (4-7 lbs.) is appropriate for most people.
When executing standing movements that involve rotation, the backside foot should turn, allowing a wider range of motion and a shifting of the center of mass over the front leg. By doing this, the integrity of the low back is not compromised. Cueing these actions from day 1 sets up patterns that will be used in future exercises. When bending and rotating, remind your clients/athletes to use as many joints as possible. As you can see, these exercises have a balance component. Ultimately, throwing requires single leg balance.
Many movements in life and sports involve acceleration while shifting or moving weight from one side to the other to complete a task. Work towards standing on one leg and decelerating or blocking one side of the body.
This is a big part of throwing. To properly finish throws, takeoffs and many swinging movements, the body must fix one side to achieve greater acceleration of the free or moving side.
Next we will do a three-step teaching progression for rotational throws. Remember, it may take a few weeks of work to get to modified hammer throws. When progressing through the sequence, keep the previous exercises in the program. You can reduce sets/reps in Russian twists and side throws as you get to modified hammer throws. Using a few throws can add a skill-based component to your workouts.
Sets and reps can be anywhere from 1-3 sets of 6-12 reps. These exercises fit well into a warm up and can be used to awaken the nervous system. Throws are excellent when doing a speed/strength session because they are a summation of forces activity. Let throwing medicine balls help you develop better movement skills. References available.
Step 1: Basic Rotation
Russian Twists: Start the ball close to the torso and work out. Note the turned backside foot with noticeable shift in body weight. Cueing footwork to initiate movement is important. References like "turn your right foot" or "turn your belly button" are good reminders. Later you will see the connection to the hammer throw. The next step involves starting to throw the medicine ball.
Step 2: 90 Degree Rotational Throw
Side Throws: Starting point! The thrower is positioned 90 degrees either to a wall or a partner. The ball is behind the right hip and arms are slightly bent. The thrower is 3-5 feet from the wall, perhaps further from a partner.
Initiate the throw by swinging the ball to the start position (loading that side) and putting more weight on the right side.
The thrower should start to think about right side movement a little before the ball is completely decelerated. This will eventually get the right side ahead of the ball, teaching a whipping or elastic delivery.
When all of this starts to happen, the thrower will note that the effort is easy, and they will be "getting to their left side". Progression for this exercise is for a faster loading and switching. Although walls allow this to happen best, good results can also be achieved with a partner accurately delivering the medicine ball back to the thrower. By the way, the partner doesn't need to be doing the same exercise.
Step 3: 180 Degree Rotational Throw
Modified Hammer Throw: The final exercise in this progression involves adding 90 more degrees to the range of movement. The thrower will then be facing 180 degrees away from the wall or partner, three to five feet away. Movement to initiate this is the same, with a swing of the ball into position and loading of the right side. Similar cues can be used. In this exercise, the thrower will sense the delivery position and really be able to accelerate through the fixed left side. The ball will end up being delivered closer to shoulder height with arms on the upswing at the finish. The reception of the medicine ball (from wall or partner) will set the next rep.