Are Medicine Ball Slams Hurting your Power Training?
-Josh Henkin, CSCS
This past month I had an amazing opportunity to each present for one of the top fitness education conferences in Chicago. The Perform Better events always have great coaches, so Jessica Bento and I were very honored to be teaching again this year. While Jessica did a fantastic presentation about locomotion, I got the opportunity to present about power training for the first time.
This isn’t actually a post about power training, but maybe I’ll do one soon because people almost ALWAYS misunderstand what power training really means. However, for today, let’s just say that most people think about power development as explosively moving their own bodyweight and an external weight. While this is overly simplistic, for the sake of today’s post it will work as a reference point.
One of the main issues that I spoke about is translating power training for people that are not athletes. Yes, most people are NOT athletes and that is okay. I actually played Division I basketball and competed in Strongman and Olympic Lifting and today I can tell you I don’t consider myself an athlete.
It shouldn’t be a bad thing to say most people are not athletes. Having been an athlete I can’t tell you all the UNHEALTHY things I did in order to compete. Pushing through bad injuries, putting my body through risky forms of training, and much more. While I believe that being agile, powerful, mobile, strong, and resilient are all great qualities to possess, I think by calling people athletes we tend to rush them to forms of training they aren’t ready to perform.
Just the other day on social media I saw a popular fitness coach talking about having their 60 plus year old client do med ball slams, different jumps, and more power training type of exercises because she wanted to be able to pick up her grandchildren. While I admire the goal, I’m not sure if they needed to use all those exercises in order to achieve it!
For example, most people misunderstand like the research of people’s spines without pain as you see below.
You see, many fitness pros see that as we get older and have spinal changes without pain as a free pass to do whatever in training. That is the WRONG conclusion to take here. The point is that as we age, we do have considerable changes to our bodies. This should go into our consideration of the risk of exercise selection so that we don’t make people without pain become people WITH pain. When it comes to power training this needs to be even MORE thoughtful!
That is because while power training has many great health benefits as you see below, the forces acting upon the body are VERY high. We will use one example to help illustrate this point.
A very common exercise I see people use in their power training is a medicine ball slam. Physical therapist, Jessica Bento, shows great form below…
What people think is an easy exercise actually has A LOT of points to consider and exposes the body to SUPER high forces. That is why the following is needed before we use such exercises and using such movements could be a problem.
So, what are better foundations to start people to building power training that benefits their lives but doesn’t expose them to great injury risks?
Above is one of my very favorite drills because it accomplishes so much at one time. For one, it helps teach the hip hinge more effectively than just about any other exercise (yes, including the dowel rod exercise), it reinforces the importance of the feet, teaches core stability and the role of the lats, how we accelerate with our feet pushing down, and how to decelerate while not rounding all at once. This drill can eventually be taught more explosively.
It isn’t that exercises like medicine ball slams are bad power training exercises, it is more that A LOT has to be taught before people perform such exercises and actually reap their benefits. They are often taught WAY too soon and even if people don’t get hurt during their performance, most don’t get the benefits because they lack the foundation to see how effective such training can be. Examples like these are better ways to help people learn how power training can be such an essential part of a good fitness program while also keeping them healthy!
Josh is an international presenter and strength coach who has taught in over 13 countries worldwide and consulted with some of the top fitness and performance programs in the world. You can check out his DVRT online fitness educational certifications/courses HERE and get 20% off with code “pb20”