Best Med Ball Exercises for Volleyball Players

5 Best Medicine Ball Exercises for Volleyball

Utilizing medicine balls in a volleyball strength and conditioning program is an excellent way for players to focus on building power. Medicine balls offer a few unique characteristics that make them a perfect supplement to training done in the weight room.

Med balls allow athletes to completely accelerate a weighted object without any need to hold back. For example, when doing exercises like Shoulder Press and Back Squat a lifter has to decelerate towards the end of the movement to stay safe and under control.

However, the ability to release a medicine ball after applying as much power as possible to it makes it perfect for developing power. The size and shape of a med ball also allow more varied movement patterns than a barbell does.

So, which specific med ball exercises should volleyball players be incorporating into their training program?

Glad you asked. Here are my 5 favorite med ball exercises for developing power that can help improve performance on the volleyball court.

Med Ball Exercises for Volleyball Players

Medicine Ball Cannonball Throws

Cannonball Throws are probably my favorite of all the med ball exercises. The reason is this specific movement replicates the same triple extension that is trained by Olympic lifts and is arguably the most important movement pattern in all of sport.

Volleyball is a game that is dominated by explosive players at the net. All those jumps involve a powerful extension of the hips, knees and ankles which is exactly what Cannonball Throws focuses on.

It’s also less technical and more beginner-friendly than Olympic lifts. This makes these throws great even for young players who may not have much experience in the weight room and it’s the reason Cannonball Throws are one of my favorite Hang Clean Alternatives.

How To

  • First, make sure you have enough ceiling height to be able to do Cannonballs. I recommend doing them outside to avoid this issue altogether.
  • Grab the ball with both hands cradling under the ball. Stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Pull the shoulder blades back, engage the lats and core, slightly bend the knees and hinge forward at the hips.
  • Allow the medicine ball to fall in between the shins.
  • You should now be in a good athletic position that looks very similar to the starting position of a Hang Clean.
  • From here, explosively drive the feet through the ground and aggressively extend the hips and throw the ball as high as possible*.
  • Allow the ball to hit the ground, grab it, then reset and repeat.

Coaching Points

Do NOT try to catch the ball directly out of the air. This is a great way to jam a wrist or a finger. Allow the ball to hit the ground first before grabbing it for the next rep.

*Cannonball Throws can either be done straight up in the air or behind you to a partner. If working with a partner, stand facing away from them and throw the ball at about a 45-degree angle. The goal is to throw the ball as far as possible in the air.

Medicine Ball Slams

Med Ball Slam

Medicine Ball Slams are one of the most effective dynamic core exercises you can do. They also happen to be one of the simplest core exercises to do.

Pick a medicine ball up and slam it down as hard as you can. That’s pretty much it.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a medicine ball and stand tall with feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  • Reach the medicine ball high overhead.
  • Using the core, pull the body down – hinging forward at the hips.
  • Follow through with the arms and release the ball.
  • Let the ball slam into the ground, catch it off the bounce and repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

First and foremost, test how ‘bouncy’ your medicine ball is before starting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen athletes almost have their face smashed by a medicine ball bouncing much harder and rebounding much faster off the ground than they were anticipating.

The biggest mistake I see with Med Ball Slams is athletes not utilizing the core and simply throwing the ball down with their arms. The bulk of the force should be generated by aggressively using the core to hinge forward. If done correctly, it should almost (and actually might) lift your feet up off the floor.

Med Ball Side Throw

Med Ball Side Toss
Photo Credit (Srdjan Randjelovic /

Utilizing medicine balls is one of the best ways to develop rotational power. Improving rotational power is one of the best ways for volleyball players to get more power and velocity on their spikes.

And, being able to aggressively rotate and throw a medicine ball is definitely something you can’t do with a barbell or dumbbell. (Or at least you shouldn’t be!)

For Med Ball Side Throws you’ll want to either find a sturdy wall (that can withstand having a med ball slammed into it) or a partner.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a medicine ball and stand perpendicular to a sturdy wall*.
  • Distance away from the wall will vary based upon the type of medicine ball you have**.
  • Stand in a good athletic position, feet shoulder width apart, hips and knees bent.
  • Begin by rotating away from the wall, reaching the medicine ball toward the back hip.
  • Now, aggressively rotate toward the wall, turning on the ball of the back foot, opening the hips toward the wall and releasing the ball into the wall.
  • Catch the ball off the ball, reset and repeat. Once all reps are completed switch sides.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see athletes make is using their arms (and not their hips) way too much to throw the ball. Power for the throw should primarily come from rotating the hips and torso and the arms should be secondary.

*If you have a partner, you can throw to each other instead of into a wall.

**The distance away from the wall will vary depending on what type of medicine ball you have. If you have a hard rubber medicine ball then be prepared for the ball to bounce a good ways back off of the wall. If you have a soft Dynamax-type medicine ball then you can stand much closer as the bounce off the wall will be much less.

Medicine Ball Shot Puts

Med Ball Shot Puts is another medicine ball exercise that demands the core to rotate and work in unison with the upper body to create maximum power.

Instead of keeping both hands under the ball and ‘tossing’ it, place one hand behind the ball and drive it by pushing through it similar to how a shot putter would do.

Make sure to work both sides – not just your dominant side!

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart in a good athletic position, holding a medicine ball at chest height with both hands.
  • Take a step forward with one foot while simultaneously pivoting on the other foot. This movement should rotate your torso to face the direction you want to throw the ball.
  • As you step forward, begin to lower your hips and bend your knees, preparing to generate power for the throw.
  • As you push off your back foot, aggressively extend your back arm and drive the medicine ball forward. Use your legs, hips, and upper body to generate power and momentum.
  • Release the ball as you follow through with your arm. Keep your eyes on the target and aim for maximum distance or height.
  • Have a partner throw the ball back (or throw it against a wall) and repeat.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions or sets.

Coaching Points

Keep your core engaged as you throw the ball.

Keeping your core tight will not help you throw the ball further by enhancing the transfer of power from your lower body to your upper body. Even more importantly, maintaining a braced core will help to protect your low back as you rotate and drive the medicine ball.

Medicine Ball Situp and Throw

Med Ball Situp and Throw (1)

I saved one of the best med ball movements for last. Med Ball Situp and Throws are easily one of my favorite dynamic core exercises.

It incorporates a combination of overhead power and core power. Can’t ask for much more from a volleyball exercise.

Like Side Throws, this movement demands a wall that the ball can be thrown against or a partner. (Although I have done competition-style races where a medicine ball had to be ‘Situp and Thrown’ 100 yards as fast as possible. Those are fun.)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find a partner (or wall) and sit down an appropriate distance away*.
  • Lay on your back holding the medicine ball overhead on the ground.
  • Brace the core, engage the lats, aggressively begin to raise off the ground and throw the ball as hard as possible for distance.
  • The follow-through of the throw should bring you to a full situp position.
  • Allow your partner to throw the ball back (or retrieve the ball coming back from the wall) and repeat.

Coaching Points

*The distance away from your partner should be far enough that the ball will hit the ground before reaching your partner so they do not have to catch the ball out of the air. If using a wall, the distance away will be dependent upon the amount of bounce the ball gets off the wall. Find a distance so that you do not need to move between reps.

The biggest mistake I see with athletes trying to learn Sit-up and Throws involves the timing of the movement. The throw should initiate the sit-up, not the other way around. If you try to sit up first, the movement will turn into more of a sit-up followed by a chest pass – not the intention of the movement.

I cue athletes to just concentrate on the throw. If they throw the ball hard enough the situp will happen naturally.

Final Thoughts

The amount of exercises you can do with a medicine ball is limited really to your own creativity. It’s honestly such a versatile tool that it’s one of the first things I would make sure I had access to after a barbell, plates and a squat rack.

I hope you can take a med ball exercise or two from my list and begin incorporating them into your own volleyball workouts to help build more dynamic power.

Finally, if need a medicine ball, I bought and tested 10 of the most popular medicine balls on the market. Here are my favorites.

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