Shoulders Have A Need for Speed. Medicine Ball Training for Shoulders.

May 24, 2019 | Tony Mikla DPT, MSPT, CSCS

My first introduction to medicine ball work was in speed and power development in the Performance field. I have found the performance field to demonstrate many proven methods of effective training stimulus to change the body. These methods can often be used in end stage rehabilitation to achieve greater levels of success.

One of my first mentors and friend in Physical Therapy is Dr Don Chu, a PT who wrote the book “Jumping into Plyometrics.” This great work still stands today as a gold standard in plyometric training concepts. I also have had the opportunity to work for many years with Mark Verstegen (author of Core Performance and Every Day is Game Day) learning so much from him regarding plyometrics and training as well. Take a look at these two resources for more foundational knowledge in plyometric training.

As we discuss plyometrics, please remember to develop a solid foundation in your clients or yourself before beginning these activities. These activities are phase 5 of our shoulder rehabilitation program and should not be utilized until an individual has met the appropriate level of strength and range of motion.

Medball drills are an outstanding way to build speed of contraction back into a persons shoulder. Most rehab programs focus on strength and often develop slow and controlled movements, which are critical, but these programs rarely progress to a level comparable to normal daily life or sports.

Life moves fast. Injuries do not happen during a slow and controlled movement, they occur during fast movements, usually when the individual has lost control. These movements and the speed of the movement are often unpredicted by the individual. Hence the “accident” and the injury occurs. In order to return someone to a prior level of function or better, we must introduce speed of contraction, muscle timing, and motor unit recruitment (motor control) back into the system.

Medicine ball exercises are most commonly using plyometric principles. Plyo’s are amazingly effective at developing tremendous speed over short periods of time (POWER!). However they can also be used to decelerate from tremendous speeds over short periods of time. One of the most influential talks I ever heard was Bill Parisi presenting on deceleration as a paradigm shift in training. Everyone wants to talk about speed, force, power, but no one wants to talk about stopping, slowing down, or control. Bill presented the concept that people who stop fast, or change direction faster than someone else are the best athletes, not the fastest people.

This deceleration concept with medball training is paramount. The body has a self protection feature that it will not hurt itself. It will relax a muscle before it generates to much force that it may cause damage, especially under voluntary and predictable conditions such as training. Therefore we must train the ability to stop or slow down before we train how to go faster and generate more power.

Our bulletproof shoulder course dives deep into medial drills and progressions, but for today, consider these items in developing eccentric control.

1- Medicine ball Short Rotations
2- Medicine ball woodchoppers
3-Medicine ball split stance woodchopper

Note that these exercises are not throws, but rather, you hold onto the ball and you have to stop it! I prefer these be done in 2 sets of 8 reps. I also like using balls under 10 lbs. Remember that when we talk power and speed, a mild -moderate weight maximizes the force the velocity curve. A heavy load slow you down and leads to compensatory movements. You do not need a med ball above 10 lbs, I promise. I trained the American Record Holder and 2008 Olympic Gold medalist In the Discus for a 10 year period and we never through more than an 8lb ball. We also never missed a day of training or competition due to injury, Think about the impact that has on success.

Once we have mastered moving the ball quickly without throwing it, lets move on to throwing it! Remember in all these drills throwing or not that the shoulder muscles are not force generators! This means that the force needs to be generated by the lower half of the body – hips and legs. Force in generated in the hips, transferred though the core, and the arms guide the force into the implement. Generate, transfer, guide…without that, we miss the point of all of this. The whole goal here is to improve the shoulders tolerance to force, not increase its ability to create force!

1- Medicine Ball perpendicular Short Rotational Throws
2- Medicine Ball perpendicular Push Rotational Throws
3- Medicine Ball Perpendicular Staggered stance Rotational Chop Throws.

Each of these throws are commonly used in our practice to improve overall coordination and kinetic linking. The shoulder benefits from it shifting from a force generator (commonly trained) to a force “guide”and acts more as a conductor. During this process it builds strength and tolerance to high velocity and power movements. This translates well into overhead activities and of course throwing sports.

Check out our bulletproof shoulder course for more detailed examples of shoulder ploy work and our progression for training the shoulder with med balls in a closed chain position.

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