When it comes to training, people like to debate about what is the best way to increase an athlete’s power and explosiveness. Some people believe Olympic lifting is the best tool to increase an athlete’s power output. Others believe CrossFit or kettlebell training are the most effective way at increasing an athlete’s power. We can argue this point all day long and the reality is I don’t believe that there is one single way to increase your power. However, I do believe that there is a very effective tool for athletes to use when it comes to increasing power output and that tool is a medicine ball.
Most coaches know that in order to increase power a lot of factors must go into the equation. Here are just a few of the things that we need to do in order to increase power output:
- Increase your force into the ground.
- Increase total body strength.
- Increase the speed of movement.
- Ensure proper alignment while we train.
- Focus on ways to properly decelerate our body.
- Maintain proper breathing patterns.
- The ability to stabilize under load.
As much as I like Olympic lifting and kettlebell training, I believe the best tool for teaching power output at the beginning of a training program is to use a medicine ball. A few reasons why I prefer to use a medicine ball at the beginning of an athlete’s training program are:
- For most people throwing an object comes natural.
- It’s fun. People like to throw things and this gives them the license to throw an object as hard as possible once they have good form.
- It’s safe. Instead of lifting a weight over your head with the fear of dropping it on your head a medicine ball is a great tool to teach the mechanics of several more advanced lifts.
- You can take the medicine ball anywhere and train on your own.
- With this one tool I can work on speed, power, deceleration, change of direction, endurance, proprioception and mobility.
These are just a few examples of why I like to use medicine balls in a training program. The reality is a number of elite athlete’s use these in their everyday training program. As I stated above, I use this at the beginning of a training program with new athletes, however, elite athletes use these daily for incredible results.
When it comes to training with medicine balls there are so many exercises to choose from. You are only limited by your imagination. Below are five exercise video clips that I have put together for you to review. As always ensure that you use proper form and start slow. If you have any pain (shoulder, back, etc.) back off of these exercises and consult with a medical professional.
Regardless of your sport medicine ball training is a fantastic way to increase your power. Athletes from every sport can benefit from the rotational power as well as well the increase in aerobic output that they will see from this type of training. If you have kids this is a great way to slowly introduce them to the world of training. I guarantee that if you start slow and use a very light medicine ball kids will enjoy this type of training. Adults, if you are looking to drop a few pounds or increase your running speed implement medicine ball training into your routine.
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave it in the comments below.
Okay, it’s time for a fitness check-up. We are nearing the halfway mark of the summer and it’s time for all of us to be honest with ourselves in terms of our summer training. Over the past several weeks I have had the pleasure of sharing with you my philosophy when it comes to training. I have offered you a handful of tips that, if implemented, can improve your overall health. If you have been following the suggestions that I have been making I hope that you are starting to see the gains that you want. Whether your goal was to fit into a certain swimsuit, run a 5k or simply feel better I hope that you are happy with your results.
If, on the other hand, you have been delaying the start of your program I have good news for you. You still have time to make some dramatic changes to both your body and your mind. I understand that we have a tendency to be afraid and procrastinate the start of something new. So for those of you who are still on the fence as to whether or not you should take the plunge here are five tips that can improve your health as well as your athletic performance.
Tip No. 1: Eat a salad every day
A fantastic way to improve your overall digestion as well as increase the vitamins and minerals that you absorb is to eat a large salad every day. The great news about this is that it requires no cooking and is rather easy to make. Let’s face it most of us don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Try this salad out for size and see how you like it.
- 1-2 cups of mixed greens
- 1 avocado
- ¼ cup of red onion
- ¼ cup of cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup of macadamia nuts or almonds (raw)
- ¼ cup of cucumber
- ¼ cup of strawberries
- ¼ cup of red peppers
- ¼ cup of yellow peppers
- 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil (FYI, spend some extra money and get a high quality olive oil)
Note: If you like to cook add in some chicken, steak, etc. Also a key point to remember is that you should add some fat (i.e. olive oil, avocado, nuts, etc.) to your salad to allow the nutrients to absorb into your body
Tip No. 2. Cut back on your portion size
We live in a society where more is better. I love to eat and a pet peeve of mine is when I leave a restaurant and I am still hungry. However, some of us are simply eating too much food in one sitting. Next time you sit down to eat try implementing this strategy.
- Eat proteins, fats and carbohydrates at every meal. This will help control your blood sugar levels which will help to satisfy you.
- Slow down. Most of us inhale our food rather than chew our food. One of the hardest things our body has to do is digest food so why don’t we slow down and actually chew the food rather than shoveling it down.
- Your plate should have several different colors on it. Add vegetables to the mix in order to increase your fiber and nutrient content.
- After you finish your meal wait 15- 20 minutes before you go back for seconds. Most of us are walking back to the line while we are still eating food off of our plate. Relax, digest and then go back if you are still hungry.
Tip No. 3. Train hard then train easy then hard again.
Most people who start a training plan get very excited and they go to the gym and they do two hard workouts back to back. On the third day they go to get out of bed and they can’t walk. Instead of walking they shuffle and they find muscles they never knew that they had. Remember one workout does not get you in shape. You need to be consistent and listen to your body. I always recommend to most people that they follow a plan like this: Monday (Hard), Tuesday (Easy), Wednesday (Hard), Thursday (easy), Friday (off), Saturday (Hard), Sunday (off). By doing this you will allow your body time to recover and repair the damage that has been done.
Tip No. 4: Get your vitamin D levels checked
Dr. John Cannell states in his book that more than 75% of all Americans are deficient in Vitamin D (FYI, Vitamin D is actually a hormone not a vitamin). As an athlete if you have sufficient Vitamin D in your body this is what you can expect per Dr. John Cannell's book: "Athlete’s Edge: Faster, Quicker, Stronger with Vitamin D."
- Reduce chance of stress fractures
- Increase in speed, strength, endurance and power
- Reduction in body fat
- Increase in your recovery time
- Plus much, much more
If you are going to get a test I would recommend that you speak with your doctor or visit www.leg.org (Life Extension). It’s very important that you get the correct form of Vitamin D checked 25(OH)D. In terms of vitamin D levels, Dr. Cannell recommends that you maintain a level of 50ng/ml. Dr. Michael Smith of Life Extension recommends that you maintain a level closer to 80 ng/ml per. Research is still being done but one thing that we do know is that lower Vitamin D levels are associated with an increase risk in several internal cancers. The good news is that if you are low, the supplement for Vitamin D is rather inexpensive and easy to take.
Tip No. 5: Body weight training
When all else fails it’s hard to beat body weight workouts. The reason being is because it requires little to no equipment and the return that you see in your body is impressive. I will always recommend that people lift weights but 20-30 days of nothing but body weight work can be a great place to start for people looking to jumpstart their fitness program. Start the with the basics (push-ups, squats, sprints, rolling patterns and band assisted pull-ups).
As I stated in the beginning of this post, we are nearing the half-way point of the summer. Don’t delay the start of your training program. Get started today and start feeling great! If you have been training for the past six weeks, congratulations.
Now keep it going!!!
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave it in the comments below.