Medicine Ball Training: Functional Movement With A Single Implement


By: Brandon Richey, B.S.,CSCS

Owner: Brandon Richey Fitness LLC

The traditional path of your typical run of the mill health club workout these days is one that leads to a dead end for most when it comes to your results. The thing that gets many people to drive this path by relying on the health clubs is the allure of a sea of equipment along with the promise of getting results that are seen on the covers of all the fitness magazines. This is a common fallacy and today I’m going to explain exactly why this is the case with a real alternative for your training.

The Loss Of Functional Movement

The truth is that today society has physically devolved due to the advent of technology and the creation of jobs that require less on society physically compared to many jobs and lifestyles of 30 years ago. This has created a great deal more health problems for society along with a sort of laziness when it comes to getting back to the basics of human function.

Sure it’s nice for some to have a health club membership, but the problem with this model is that for many that have already devolved from an optimal level of physical function there is no guidance, or effective experience at getting back on track with the needs of their bodies in terms of mobility. The loss of functional movement is simply a death sentence when it comes to your health and today I’m looking to offer a little advice in helping to get you right back on track.

Introducing The Medicine Ball

Medicine balls are great to train with for a number of different reasons. Medicine balls are generally very affordable, durable, and they come in different varieties so that they can be used for different purposes.

As a strength coach I enjoy utilizing medicine balls for a number of different purposes, but if you’re short on equipment, or you just want to save money and time on a gym membership then incorporating some medicine ball training into your training is a solid way to enhance your functional mobility.

A simple way to incorporate medicine ball training for the purpose of developing some dynamic core strength while also enhancing hand eye coordination and reaction time is by performing some medicine ball slams. This can be done many different ways, but for the purpose of this demonstration I’m having one of my strength students and former national Muay Thai champion Jeff performing slams with a sand filled medicine ball that is designed to have very little bounce when it hits the ground.


This particular drill can be performed with an 8 to 12 lb. medicine ball. When having my students to perform this drill I have them make the attempt by slamming the ball as hard as possible into the ground while rapidly and simultaneously dropping their hips.

In addition to this I tell them to try and catch the ball on the first small bounce and to immediately set up from here to perform the next slam. For greater reaction and speed each slam can be performed in rapid succession. The key is to make sure to get full extension of the ankles, knees, hips and arms when loading up to slam the ball.

In addition to the double arm slams we can vary this drill further to increase the difficulty level by performing a single arm slam variation. The same medicine ball can be used with the single arm slam and in this example I’m having my other student and world Tough Mudder qualifier Dan using the single arm approach which I often refer to as gorilla slams.


With this variation you can see how it takes some direct focus in order to catch (or trap) the ball in order to set up for the next throw. It’s a fun variation and the drill can be performed anywhere you have some flat open space.

Even More Function With Medicine Balls

In addition to what’s already been presented here there are even more benefits to training with medicine balls for developing greater movement and a more solid level of athletic fitness. When looking to enhance an athlete’s vertical jump and athleticism many strength coaches look at doing so by training to force triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips in power related movements for a given trainee.

For many coaches Olympic lifts such as snatches, cleans, and jerks tend to be the go to drills by default for acquiring these traits in training for a better vertical jump, or for more overall athleticism. The truth is that Olympic lifts are great, but only if they are executed in quality fashion. It also depends on whether the coach has the means to ensure a high level of quality control in order for the given trainee(s) to acquire a proficient level of execution within a reasonable amount of time.

The good news is that there are other ways to force triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips for the purpose of developing these athletically fit traits. One great example here would be the heavy overhead medicine ball throws that I’m demonstrating here with the high fence being the barrier.


As you can see here I got jammed on the last throw, but it’s all good because the barrier provides a reference point for allowing you to push to beat your previous throw. This is a simpler and much more idiot proof alternative to the more complex and cumbersome attempt of learning an Olympic lift.

In addition to the overhead throws another vital movement in developing an optimal level of physical function is making sure to implement plenty of rotational movement. Being able to rotate at the thoracic spine is something that is crucial for acquiring an optimal level of mobility and being able to perform certain tasks while minimizing the risk of injury.

One way to do this by leveraging the power of the medicine ball is to perform rotational medicine ball throws. Once again we can perform these by taking advantage of a wall, or barrier to help us with the reaction process of performing the throws alternating between right and left sides.


As you can see I’m performing the rotational throws by pivoting the front foot prior to throwing the ball. In addition to this notice that I’m not leaning forward when starting a throw, but standing tall during the process in order to protect my lumbar spine. I recommend performing 3 to 6 reps of these counting a rotation from each side as a single repetition. These can be performed with a 10 to 18lb. ball depending on the strength and ability level of the trainee.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post and realize that you don’t necessarily need to have a gym membership in order to acquire a respectable level of functional fitness.

To learn more about Brandon Richey and his online coaching programs check him out at

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