I recently demonstrated one of my favorite power training complexes on Instagram. Following the post, I received numerous questions and comments about the pairing. With that in mind, I believe a brief follow up discussion is necessary. For those that missed the original post, I performed a one arm bench press followed immediately by medicine ball throws. This combination of a strength movement and explosive exercise is often referred to as complex training.
Complex Training Demo
To begin, you can watch the previously referenced video below. I typically perform 3 to 5 reps with the one arm bench press, and proceed with 8 to 10 reps of medicine ball throws. There is little to no rest between the bench press and medicine ball throws. After benching, I basically just shake out the arms, take a deep breath, and proceed to the ball. Naturally, this combination is performed for both sides. I then rest briefly (ex. 2 minutes) and continue with another set. I perform 4 or 5 sets in total.
Focus on Intent, not Weight
After posting the video, almost every question I received had to do with the weight of the medicine ball. The questions were almost identical to those that I receive whenever I demonstrate sledgehammer swings. Everyone wants to know what is the best weight to use. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical number that can (or should) be applied to the masses.
My 25 pound medicine ball isn’t the reason that this complex training pair is beneficial. What’s more important than the weight of the ball is the intent behind each throw. In other words, when training for power, intent is as meaningful as anything. You need to be as explosive as possible with every rep you perform. Or as I’m often heard saying, you need to practice being powerful to become powerful. Nothing would make me happier than to see an athlete throw the medicine ball so hard that it breaks. That should be your focus on every single rep.
Research Supports Intent
When discussing intent, one study that I often think of is the 1993 work performed by Behm and Sale.
Behm and Sale found that repeated attempts to perform ballistic contractions and the high rate of force development of the ensuing contraction were the primary stimuli for a high-velocity training response to occur. Their studies revealed that the type of muscle action (isometric or concentric) was of less importance. The intention to move fast proved more important to speed development than the actual speed of movement.
Unique, but Relevant
Naturally, my complex training pair is unique from the work performed by Behm and Sale. With that said, intent is still paramount in both cases. If you wish to develop power, there must be powerful intent. This holds true regardless of the exercise that you perform (ex. punching a bag, throwing a medicine ball, jumping, etc.).
Unfortunately, many athletes and coaches get lost in the numbers game. Everyone wants to know what is the perfect weight or percentage of weight to use. Meanwhile, I’ve had success with both heavy and light medicine balls. What is constant when working with either however is intent. Regardless of the weight, you can be sure that we are throwing the ball as hard as humanly possible with each and every rep.
In summary, don’t worry if you don’t have the same medicine ball that you see me or someone else demonstrate. Instead, make the most of whatever you have. Whether the medicine ball is 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 pounds, you can still throw it with maximal intent (thus reap positive gains).
And furthermore, if you don’t have a medicine ball, you can always substitute another exercise such as plyometric pushups. Regardless of the plyo pushup variation that you choose, you can perform each rep as explosively as possible. Once again, make the most of whatever you have with maximal intent.
Do so consistently and you will become more powerful.