Plyometric training is a key component to developing explosive power that can be applied to the throwing motion. This revelation is nothing new – coaches have been using medicine ball drills for years, but a vast majority of athletes miss the boat when it comes to performing these movements properly, losing out on some of the biggest benefits of these exercises. Not only that, many athletes have no clue how to progress medicine ball throws once they have mastered the basics – do you add weight? Do more reps? Let’s cut through the crap and make you an expert on one of the most effective medball drills for pitchers that you’ve probably been doing wrong:
What We Know:
- Elite level throwers effectively transfer their bodyweight from back leg to front leg, while minimizing energy leakage up the kinetic chain.
- Front leg bracing and upper body extension out over the front leg are positively correlated with elite velocity.
- The more seamlessly leg drive can transition into hip rotation > lead leg bracing > explosive torso flexion/rotation out in front, the higher the exit ball velocity will be.
- Maxing out each segment in the kinetic chain not only requires a certain level of mobility at the ankle, hip, thoracic and shoulder segments, but it involves the athlete feeling comfortable enough getting in extreme positions that often test the end ranges of their mobility.
Enter the overhead medball throw:
This overhead medball progression is not a substitute for actual skill practice, but it will help teach basic weight shift, full extension of the rear leg and torso at release, along with training the throwing specific musculature in coordinated and ballistic fashion.
–A properly performed medball throw does these 3 things–
- At some point, all of the weight should be over the back leg. The torso should be “stacked” or in a slightly extended position
- During weight shift, the hips lead the way. The torso should lag behind until foot plant, as energy flows from the ground up, “one vertebrae at a time,” with the goal of releasing the ball out over the front foot.
- While accelerating the ball forwards, keep the elbows flexed to 90 degrees or more, palms facing in. It should look like an overhead soccer throw, not a watermelon being flung from a catapult.
Progression #1: Static Split Stance Slam
Start in split stance with weight on back leg and arms fully extended overhead. Drive from the hips and finish out front.
Progression #2: Rock Back Slams
Start with ball extended out in front, rock back to rear leg and accelerate ball from the ground up.
Progression #3: Walk-Into Slams
Start with stride leg forward, step into throw while keeping upper body sequencing.
Progression #4: Run and Guns
Description: 10-15 foot run up, maintaining proper sequencing and explosiveness.
What not to do:
- Do not go excessively heavy on medball throws. It’s a body positioning, explosiveness and energy transfer drill, not a strength exercise. As a 6’3” 215lb professional pitcher, I tend to use a 2kg ball, never exceeding 3kg on these. For youth athletes, a 1-2kg ball should suffice. When athletes start getting into 4, 5 or even 6kg balls, movement quality and speed tend to suffer, negating many of the benefits of the exercise.
- Do not throw the ball with zero intent. While your first few throws can and should be done at less than max intensity, once you have the feel for the weight shift and the positions that day, gear up and let it fly. Plyometric exercises done half-speed lose meaning, because the entire point is to build explosiveness and the stretch-reflex response within the targeted tissues.
- Do not sacrifice movement quality to throw hard. Your intensity must still be properly sequenced and applied. A full effort throw should look smooth and fluid up until the final “pulldown” phase of the throw as the torso begins extending out over the front leg. Again, let the lower half initiate the movement towards the wall, and feel the energy flow from bottom up before letting it fly.