5 Best Medicine Ball Exercises for Wrestlers
Utilizing medicine balls in a wrestling strength and conditioning program is an excellent way for wrestlers 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 wrestlers to completely accelerate a weighted object without any need to hold back. For example, when doing exercises like Bench 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 wrestlers 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 wrestling mat.
Med Ball Exercises for Wrestlers
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.
Almost every move a wrestler does on the mat can be improved by being more explosive in their hips and that’s exactly what Med Ball Cannonballs work on.
But, 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 Power Clean Alternatives.
- 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.
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
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.
- 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.
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
Utilizing medicine balls is one of the best ways to develop rotational power. Rotational power isn’t just important for sports like baseball and tennis. Wrestlers are constantly utilizing rotational power when they’re on the mat.
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.
- 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.
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 Chest Throws (with Pushup)
Med Ball Chest Throws combined with a dynamic pushup is a med ball exercise that is best if you have a partner to work with.
It’s one of the best med ball exercises for coordinating the hips and explosive upper body pressing.
Not only do you get the explosive throw with the medicine ball, but the push-up is a plyometric movement as well in order to quickly pop yourself back up so you’re ready for receiving the next pass.
- Grab a medicine ball and a partner (or a solid wall)
- Start on your knees, sit back onto your calves and hold the ball at your chest.
- Explosively drive forward with the hips and throw the ball forward to your partner.
- The forward hip extension should cause you to fall forward.
- Catch yourself with your hands and then explosively push yourself back up to your starting position.
Med Ball Chest Passes can be done from the knees as described above, but can also be done from a standing position. Regardless of what starting position you use, brace the core and be explosive!
Medicine Ball Situp and Throw
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.
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.)
- 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.
*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.
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 wrestling workouts to help build more dynamic power.
Finally, if need a medicine ball for your home gym, I bought and tested 10 of the most popular medicine balls on the market. Here are my favorites.