Improve upper-body power and performance with these four medicine-ball moves.
Sure, you’re strong — but are you powerful? There’s a big difference: Strength is measured by your capacity to move an external load while power is your ability to produce the greatest amount of force in the shortest amount of time. Power is crucial in almost all sports, from beach volleyball to golf, and developing this skill set can lead to higher one-rep maxes, especially on dynamic lifts like the snatch and the clean and jerk. Yet, even the strongest of women rarely live up to their power potential — especially when it comes to upper-body training.
The versatility of a medicine ball makes it the ideal power-development tool. You can slam it, throw it, squat it, even curl it, and almost any movement can be made into a dynamic power exercise by using a med ball. Its value is also backed by research, and in a study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, women who participated in six weeks of resistance training using a medicine ball saw significant improvements in functional ability and upper-body power output.
Power up your next sweat session with these four moves using a nonreactive (e.g., large, soft Dynamax ball) medicine ball. Choose one of a moderate weight rather than the heaviest you can lift; according to the American College of Sports Medicine, power development comes from accelerating a load then releasing it, not from decelerating it as it returns.
Stand with your feet outside shoulder-width apart straddling the medicine ball. Keep your chest up and back straight as you squat and grab the medicine ball with both hands. Stand quickly and lift the ball up overhead. Once your arms are fully extended, slam the ball on the floor between your feet, using your core, hips and arms to generate as much downward force as possible.
Programming tip: Try a ball-slam Tabata (eight rounds of 20 seconds of work/10 seconds of rest) as a warm-up for your next strength session.
Wall Ball Thruster
Stand arm’s distance from a wall and hold the medicine ball at chest height with both hands, elbows down, feet outside shoulder-width apart. Drop into a low squat, keeping your chest lifted and your focus upward, then drive through your heels and quickly straighten your legs, using your momentum and arm strength to toss the ball to a target on the wall, about eight to 10 feet up. Catch the ball at chest height and go immediately into the next rep.
Programming tip: Use this in a 20-minute circuit, doing as many rounds as possible of 10 burpees, 10 wall ball thrusters, 50 single-under jump ropes (or 25 double unders) and 10 box jumps.
Stand sideways to a wall at arm’s length with your feet shoulder-width apart. Rotate away from the wall with your hips and shoulders, and hold the ball at your outside hip with both hands. Quickly rotate toward the wall, pivoting on the back foot, and throw the ball against the wall at hip height, catching it on the rebound and going right into the next rep. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Programming tip: Try this 10-minute EMOM (every minute on the minute) finisher: At the top of every minute, do 20 reps as fast as you can on one side, resting the remaining time. Alternate sides every other minute.
Stand about five feet away from a partner with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the ball at chest height with both hands, elbows down. Extend your arms quickly and forcefully to pass the ball to your partner. Catch it on the return with extended arms, bending your elbows to cushion the force and bringing it right into your chest to go into the next rep.
Programming tip: On chest days, warm up with three sets of 12 chest passes using a light medicine ball, taking 30 seconds rest between sets.