Medicine Ball Training: What To Progress and Why?

Refine medicine ball training progression with expert strategies. Tailor your approach based on goals, skill development, and athlete intent.
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Considering the training goal, the intensification variables, and the inherent flexibility of MBT, a near infinite number of possible progressions exist. While this can be overwhelming, there are some simple rules of thumb which coaches can follow to understand what to progress and how to intensify depending on their athlete’s needs and their training goals.

Skill: When sport specific skill and technical development is the primary goal and coaches wish to keep neuromuscular and musculoskeletal load to a minimum, then increasing the skill complexity of MBT can be an appropriate intensification route. While intensification of skill demands may reduce neuromuscular or musculoskeletal demands, the cognitive load of training is likely to significantly increase.

Load: When postural or technical abilities are well developed and maximal or explosive strength is the primary training goal, then increasing intensity of load is an appropriate intensification approach. Coaches must be mindful to ensure that increases in load do not lead to breakdown in appropriate exercise technique.

Posture: Intensifying via changes in posture and position is a good approach when coaches want to develop the stability and isometric strength expression in sport specific positions. This approach is most suitable when “high output” variables such as explosive strength or RFD are not the primary aim.

Intent: Increasing intent of effort is the key intensification variable as MBT progresses from extensive to intensive in focus and when high output variables such as explosive strength, RFD or reactive strength are the goal.

Exertion: Increasing the exertional intensity of MBT is key when “capacity based” qualities are the training goal such as aerobic conditioning, muscular endurance, tissue tolerance and/or body composition. Increases in exertional fatigue levels are accompanied by increases in cardio-respiratory, musculoskeletal, and metabolic demands.

Exercise combination: Combining throws with an additional higher intensity task such as an acceleration or jump (complex-elastic method) is a suitable method to intensify training especially when the aim is to maximise training “efficiency”. This method of intensification is also appropriate when the aim is to increase high level outputs (explosive strength, RFD or reactive strength) in a highly sport specific manner. Exercise combinations can significantly increase the cognitive and neuromuscular demand of training. To offset this, it is recommended to reduce intent of effort and intensity of load in early phases of developing and learning exercise combinations.

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

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