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Medicine ball training teaches explosive strength while moving in different directions.
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Medicine balls are those basketball-sized rubber or leather balls that you may have seen at the gym where people toss them back and forth. It teaches you how to produce explosive force in different directions, which is necessary for many sports and activities. You can train specific movement patterns, such as the backhand serve in tennis, that you cannot easily do with traditional free weights, such as a dumbbell.
Throws and Explosive Strength
Explosive strength -- or power -- is your ability to quickly contract muscles forcefully, which is necessary in many sports, including basketball and baseball. Although the movement patterns are different in these sports, the basic principles of strength, power and speed are very similar, such as channeling strength from your lower body to your upper body. For example, performing a medicine ball chest pass with just your upper body produces less force than combining a quick knee bend before a chest pass. Sample throwing exercises include overhead throws, twisting throws and ground slams.
Balance and Stability
Quality power cannot be produced without balance and stability because you lose control and accuracy without them. Balance is your ability to maintain your center of gravity while stability refers to control and resisting movement in a joint from an outside force. When you perform a throw, like an overhead pass, your torso and hips need to stabilize as your arms and shoulders move. Other non-throwing exercises that work on balance and stability include diagonal chops, upward swings, torso rotation and figure-8s.
Medicine ball training isn't just for your body. When done with a partner it can develop social skills, teamwork and accountability. This will help you stick to your workout, and takes the boredom out of working out alone. Medicine ball training can be performed with one or multiple partners, which requires timing and cooperation to participate. Whether you want to train competitively or cooperatively, the workout can be so playful and fun that you forget you're exercising.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you use a lighter ball -- between 2 and 6 pounds -- if you want to train for speed. Use a heaver ball -- between 8 and 15 pounds -- if you want to improve maximum strength and power. When you're training with a partner, increase or reduce the distance between you to adjust the difficulty. Move around your space as you throw the ball at each other to simulate a sport or activity.