Medicine Ball Training: Strength Quality Classification

Discover strength quality classification in medicine ball training. Optimize coaching with exercises targeting aerobic conditioning to reactive strength.
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The various categories of MBT exist on the general training spectrum of strength qualities. There is significant overlap with work performed in other training modalities such as plyometrics, strength training, weightlifting and general conditioning. At times, these alternative tools may offer a more efficient stimulus depending on the level of the athlete and the training goal. The coach must use their judgement to identify the right tool for the intended outcome and assess what balance of training types is appropriate.

For example, if maximal strength in a given movement pattern or joint-action is the primary goal, then traditional strength training methods will often be the most effective option. However in many instances MBT can provide unique and effective training solutions for specific contexts and needs.

Intelligent coaching and exercise prescription should have precise intended outcomes. When a coach has a clear training goal, the resultant programs are more targeted and more likely to lead to positive transfer to sports performance. In modern S&C there are a myriad of different classifications and terms to describe training methods, outcomes and adaptations.

It is worth stating from the outset that all strength qualities are task specific and defined by the time constraints and technical execution of the task at hand. For clarity and consistency, in this article we will discuss the specific effects of MBT based on the following physical qualities:

  • Aerobic conditioning: General cardio-respiratory fitness. The ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to working muscle during sustained performance.
  • Muscular endurance: The ability of muscle groups to repeatedly produce force against resistance or during a given activity.
  • Tissue tolerance: The ability of the musculoskeletal structures in the body (bone, tendon, ligament, muscle) to tolerate higher intensity work and durations of work. Sometimes described as “anatomical adaptation”.
  • Hypertrophy: An increase in muscle fiber size and overall increase in muscular cross-sectional area. While hypertrophy is typically a component part of adaptation to strength training programs, in this article we refer to it as a specific desired adaptation or as a training method primarily aimed at increases in strength via changes in muscle morphology.
  • Maximal strength: The ability of a muscle (or muscle group) to produce the highest amount of force in a single, maximal effort. Maximal strength is task specific and is not considered to be time-dependent. Maximal strength is typically used to describe performance in very high force and low velocity activities. Sometimes termed “maximal isometric strength” or “maximal dynamic strength” depending on the movement types used in training or assessment.
  • Explosive strength: Explosive strength broadly describes the ability to produce high levels of force in short time periods against high external loads. We consider this the optimisation of the relationship between force output and execution velocity (shortening velocity) to maximise power output. Often associated with the ability to accelerate objects or act dynamically against external loads. Sometimes also referred to as “high-load speed-strength”. 
  • Rate of force development: Ability to maximise the rapid generation of force in short time periods. This strength quality has a strong emphasis on the rate of force application rather than the absolute maximum force output. Often associated with the ability to accelerate the body or the limbs themselves against low or minimal external load in fast time periods (<300ms). Often also referred to as “low-load speed-strength” or “fast dynamic strength”.
  • Reactive strength: Ability to maximise the reflex contributions of the fast stretch shortening cycle. Fast stretch shortening cycles involve short movement amplitudes, limited joint ranges of motion and very short contraction or contact times (<200ms). Reactive strength represents an athlete's ability to tolerate and use high stretch loads. This physical quality is also often considered as “plyometric ability” or “stretch-shortening cycle ability”.

Download the full Comprehensive Guide to Medicine Ball Training by Eamonn Flanagan and Cedric Unholz here!

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