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7 Awesome Medicine Ball Drills to Increase Speed!

by Lee Taft, MS, CSCS, SPC, USATF,
Performance Director, Sports Speed Etc., LLC

Medicine ball drills are overlooked by many coaches in general. Even when coaches do implement medicine ball training, they only look at it as upper body and core strengthening. There are so many other facets to medicine ball training.

Let's take a look at the many ways in which medicine ball training can increase speed.

Here is a quick tutorial on physics. Newton's third law of action reaction basically states that when ever there is a force applied, there is an equal and opposite reaction meeting that force. This is the concept I use medicine ball training to train for lateral speed and quickness, and actually it is great for deceleration training.

When an athlete applies quick and powerful force to the medicine ball to throw it, the feet must be the other end of the equation that counteract that force the arms are applying to the ball. When an athlete is in a athletic stance and throws the ball across the body, this action forces the legs to simulate the actual forces that occur during deceleration from lateral movement.

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To test the theory that the position of the legs and the angles that are used during lateral deceleration are important, have the athlete throw the ball sideways across the body with the feet in a narrow stance (under the hips). You will see that lower power levels exist due to not having the proper leg angles. Also, you may even see the athlete lean or stumble away from the direction of the throw. This is due to the action reaction forces- because the feet are so narrow they can't meet the action with an appropriate reaction and maintain balance and produce higher power.

Now I have talked about the importance of using the medicine to train for lateral speed, but I also like to use it for jumping and for transferring lower body power through the upper body and out the arms. Listed below are 7 fantastic drills that will improve speed and lower and upper body power.

1) Forward Shuffle (toward partner) and quick push pass:

  1. The athlete will be in an athletic stance facing to the right.
  2. The ball will be held at chest level with elbows out to the side.
  3. The athlete will shuffle 2-3 hard shuffle to the left and immediately thrust open the hips and push pass the ball the partner on one bounce. (don't catch in the air due to injury potential)

Keys to watch for:

  • The athlete doesn't fall forward or lean forward causing a loss of balance
  • The athlete crosses the body with the throw rather than the hips opening up first to allow the throw to be more powerful and fluid.
  • Make sure the athlete stays down in an athletic stance through out the exercise.
  • Sets and reps:
    • Beginners perform 1-2 sets of 5 reps on each side with 1:00 minute rest between sets.
    • More advanced athlete performs 2-3 sets of 6-8 on each side with 2:00 break between each set.

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2) Backward Shuffle (away from partner) and quick push pass:

  1. The set up for this drill is the same as the first drill except the athlete will be shuffling away from the partner.
  2. If the athlete is facing the right side and will be shuffling to the right, the right foot will be the planting leg while the left leg is the power leg during the shuffle.
  3. When the athlete stops the angle of the right leg needs to be able to stop the body and apply quick force to get the hips through to make the throw.
  4. This drill is outstanding to teach proper stopping angles.

Keys to watch for:

  • The athlete can't allow the shoulders to sway to the right, if shuffling to the right, during the stopping action. This will diminish the power of the throw.
  • The hips must open quickly to get the ball out of the hands quickly.
  • The athlete doesn't want to fall forward or lean forward causing a loss of balance.
  • Sets and reps:
    • Beginners perform 1-2 sets of 5 reps on each side with 1:00 minute rest between sets.
    • More advanced athlete performs 2-3 sets of 6 on each side with 2:00 break between each set.

3) Catch the ball perform a hip turn and shuffle away and perform a push pass back to partner:

  1. This drill is similar to the backward shuffle and quick pass drill above.
  2. The athlete in this drill will catch a chest pass that is directed to the right or left side of the body. The athlete must hip turn in the direction he catches the ball on.
  3. Immediately upon the hip turn the athlete will defensive shuffle for 2-3 shuffles and perform a quick push pass back to the partner.

Keys to watch for:

  • The athlete must be on balance and comfortable in the stance. If not, they will not be able to hip turn and shuffle away quickly.
  • Watch to see if the hip turn and shuffle are one constant action. They shouldn't be separate movements.
  • Sets and reps:
    • Beginners perform 1-2 sets of 5 reps on each side with 1:00 minute rest between sets.
    • More advanced athlete performs 2 sets of 8 on each side with 2:00 break between each set.

4) Medicine ball Routine:

  1. Partners should stand at a distance that allows quick passing without a drop in ball height.
  2. The routine goes as follows:
    1. Partners facing each other and perform 5-10 quick chest passes each
    2. Partners facing each other and perform 5-10 quick push passes on each side, aiming for the shoulders.
    3. Partners standing sideways of each other and perform 5-10 quick side throws each (like a 2 handing scoop) on each side.
  3. The key is to get rid of the ball quickly while maintaining a good athletic stance.
  4. On the side throws it is important that the athletes decelerate and re-accelerate the ball quickly.

Keys to watch for:

  • If the ball is too heavy the throws will be slow and the body will compensate by bending a twisting to gain momentum of the throw.
  • Athletes should not loose balance on throws or catches
  • Sets and reps:
    • Beginners perform 1-2 sets of 5-10 quick throws on each side, allow for a 2:00 break between sets.
    • More advanced athletes 2-4 sets of 5-10 quick throws on each side, allow for a 2:00 minute break between sets.

5) Medicine ball catch, Drop step and jump onto box:

  1. This is a power drill for jumping as well as a control drill for landing.
  2. The athlete will stand about 5-7 feet from a box that is 12-30 inches in height depending on ability.
  3. The partner will pass the ball to the right or left side of the body (can be bounce pass, lob pass, or chest pass) and the athlete must drop stop in that direction and . take a gather step and perform a vertical jump up onto the box while keeping two hands on the ball.
  4. The athlete must land softly on the box with the hips back in a good stance.

Keys to watch for:

  • Make sure the athlete takes a big gather step and bend the knees to create a powerful jump.
  • The ball should be used by being lifted quickly to help the jump.
  • The feet need to be wide on the landing with the hips back as if squatting.
  • Sets and reps:
    • Beginners perform 2 sets of 5 jumps on each side, allow for 2:00 rest between sets.
    • Advanced athletes perform 3-4 sets of 5 jumps on each side, allow for 2:00-3:00 rest between sets.

6) Medicine ball squat jump and pass:

  1. Partners will get about 20 to 40 feet away depending on ability.
  2. Each athlete must perform a vertical jump with the ball in hand, and immediately upon landing perform a step forward and long bounce pass.
  3. The transition from the landing to the pass should be quick.

Keys to watch for:

  • The athlete needs to jump hard while keeping the ball at chest level.
  • Upon landing the transition should be quick but smooth. If the athlete can't maintain balance the drill may need to be geared down for that athlete.
  • The step into the pass should be long and strong.
  • Sets and reps:
    • Beginners perform 1-2 sets of 8 reps, allow a 1:30-2:00 minute rest between sets.
    • Advanced athletes perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps, allow a 2:00 minute rest between sets.

7) Athletic Stance with a side throw to a hip turn, plyo step, shuffle, or sprint:

  1. In this drill the athlete starts with the ball and must perform a side throw, either scoop or push pass style.
  2. Once the ball is gone the athlete will perform one skill; either a hip turn and shuffle, plyo step and run, shuffle, or a straight out sprint.
  3. The goal is to teach the athlete to move quickly after applying force against the ball (In a game it may be coming off a pick or getting boxed out…).
  4. The athlete can perform any skill they choose or the coach can dictate the skill.

Keys to watch for:

  • The athlete must maintain balance once the ball is thrown to allow a quick movement to occur after the throw.
  • The athlete should explode with power after the throw into the movement or skill.
  • See if the athlete is able to accelerate toward the throw as well as away or perpendicular to the throw.
  • Beginners perform 1-2 sets of 5 reps on each side, allow for 1:00 rest between sets.
  • Advanced athletes perform 2-3 sets of 5 reps on each side, allow 1:00 rest between sets.

Choose 2-3 medicine ball drills to incorporate into your speed and agility workout. It is best to do these drills before the speed and agility training if the goal is improved power. If you want more of a conditioning effect- it may be done after the speed and agility. Stronger and more experienced athletes should use a more challenging weight.

Be Creative and safe with medicine ball training. Don't use a ball that is too heavy for the athletes to maintain proper form. Have Fun!!

Please contact me at lee@sportsspeedetc.com if you have any questions.

Contact Information:


Lee Taft, MS, CSCS, SPC, USATF, Performance Director,
Sports Speed Etc., LLC
1055 East US 36
New Castle, IN 47362
Phone 814.574.5719
Contact Lee by email.
General Information.

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