One of the staple qualities of sport dominance is an athlete’s ability to demonstrate explosive strength throughout the entire body.
What Is Power – (POU-er) – /’pou(e)r/ ?
Power is defined as moving with great speed and force. Power = Force x Distance / Time. An easy way to understand this complex attribute is to think about it being a pure combination of both speed and strength.
If you think of absolute speed as moving at the highest velocity possible and absolute strength as moving with the highest force possible, you can then understand power as the perfect blend of both high velocity and high force. Power is moving really fast, with great strength behind it.
Balance Between Patterns
Total body explosive power can be broken down and trained in three major movement patterns; extension, flexion, and rotation. Extension can be easily understood by thinking of creating power up, as in the case of a vertical jump or broad jump. Flexion in it’s simplest form is creating power down, while rotation is perhaps the easiest to imagine, which is creating force in a circular motion. If we can develop a significant amount of power within these three movement patterns during training, an athlete will be able to express power on the field, no matter how varied and chaotic the competitive situation.
One thing to note, is that we don’t try to mimmic specific sport skills with these movements. For example, you should NEVER see a lacrosse stick with a rubber band attached to it as an athlete simulates a shot. The goal instead, is to enhance sport skills as a result of power gained through training these movements. Athletes develop the ability to express total body power and then during sport practice the athlete can apply the power gained to the specific skills. It is sport like but not specific, and it enhances but does not mimmic.
Why Med Balls?
When we use medicine balls, it offers us the ability to create and train power with extremely high velocity, force, and full expression of movement. There is no need to slow down and maintain control at end range, which allows full follow through as it happens on the field. They are extremely versatile which allow you to quickly progress and regress exercises and train several different patterns all with the same piece of equipment. They also provide a very low learning curve. Within a few minutes, you can have athletes safely and effectively training for ruthless power.
What Size Ball?
The goal is power, which we know as a blend of both speed and strength. Therefore, best effect for most athletes is going to be had with a ball weighing between six and eight pounds.
What about jumps? Olympic lifts? Single Leg Explosiveness?
Yes, yes, and yes. All of those things are fantastic options for developing power and can one hundred percent be incorporated into the overall training program but are outside the scope of this post.
Sample Medicine Ball Based Power Development Program
When: Following speed work and/or prior to strength training
Exercise 1: Extension – Tall Kneeling Chest Pass
Execution: The athlete will begin in tall kneeling position with hips fully extended and the ball at their chest. The loading phase will have the athlete sit their hips back onto their heals, which will result in them having a forward angled torso. They will then immediately extend their hips and drive the ball directly in front of them with full follow through. Their body will carry forward slightly after releasing the ball.
Cues: Hips back, hips in. Pop. Speed. BREAK THE WALL.
Exercise 2: Flexion – Tall Kneeling Slam
Execution: The athlete will begin in kneeling position, sitting their hips on their heals, with a slightly forward angled torso, and the ball at their chest. The loading phase will have the athlete ‘get tall’ by extending the hips and elevating the arms to bring elbows next to ears. There should be a relatively straight line from knee-hip-shoulder-elbow. To finish, the athlete will throw their hips back as they snap their elbows down to their ribs, returning to the forward torso position as they follow through and slam the ball into the ground just out in front of them.
Cues: Get tall, throw your hips back. Snap your elbows to your ribs. PUT A HOLE IN THE FLOOR.
Exercise 3: Rotation – Half Kneeling Rotational Throw
Execution: The athlete will set up in half kneeling position with the outside leg down. Be sure to maintain a vertical front shin and a straight line from back knee-hip-shoulder. The athlete will remain stable from belly button down throughout the movement. Next, load the ball on the back hip with a slight rotation from the thoracic spine and point the lead shoulder at the target. Rotate and explode as you follow through into the wall.
Cues: Pull through the front heal and squeeze your glute on the back leg to keep a stable base. Pop. Drive.
These throws provide you with an excellent option for developing power in each of the three patterns outlined above. Breaking down the patterns into their kneeling options allow the athlete to ‘feel’ their hips and get a better understanding of how to link together their lower and upper body to create huge amounts of force that can be utilized on the field. These variations put the athlete in the correct posture and positions, ironing in quality movement while still building and improving power. From here, we quickly transition into standing throws to develop total body synchronization and continue improving the on field expression of power.