My Favorite Exercise Combinations: Installment 11 – Teaching the Weight Shift in Med Ball Drills

I love throwing medicine balls around in the gym. It’s loud and it makes my soul feel good. However, when I give this task to a youth athlete or use it for fat loss purposes, sometimes these medicine ball exercises go right over the person’s head (pun intended).

So with that in mind, I have an awesome combination for y’all today, and it is a great teaching tool for anyone from beginner to advanced athletes.

There are a lot of cool things going on here, and I’ll outline what happens in the first exercise in this combination:

A1. Lateral Mini-Band Walk with Pump Fake – 3×5/s

This first portion I liken to observing how gait patterns occur. Long story short, every time you take a step forward with one foot, you need to accelerate with the back foot.

Every time you take a step forward as well, you need to decelerate with the foot that has just left the ground.

Pelvis - Weight Shift

Integrating Ideas – Introducing the Lateral Mini-Band Walk

How does this integrate with a lateral mini-band walk?

You need to decelerate as you take a step to the side, and the “pump fake” with the medicine ball takes this necessity for deceleration to the next level. Otherwise, well, you’ll just fall over. Further, you need to accelerate away from the side on the other foot.

To take it the next level, you need to observe internal rotation at the femoralacetabular joint on the leg that is receiving the weight shift, which talks beautifully about deceleration, and then in order to re-accelerate you need to push out of that position at the hip, and go into external rotation (and hip abduction as well).

Over-coaching athletes to bring their knees into a position that is biased towards genu valgus may be incorrect – the correct position is to subconsciously cue hip internal rotation through external cuing. That is when you win.

Food for thought – males can also have large Q-Angles, not just females (and vice versa).

Further, this necessity for deceleration at the hip will also need to be translated up from the foot – so overpronation should not be observed, but rather staying on the ball of the foot. Overpronation can be thought of as having a flat foot position – there is no arch, and thus there is no force absorption, or rather there is no authentic and efficient force absorption (force is lost through the lack of an arch, and compensation may occur).

Arch vs No Arch
Flat Foot (Left) vs Arch (Right)

Now, to translate this to a sport specific lingo, what happens when you change directions? What happens when you need to re-direct any forces from one position to the next? What happens when you need to make a cut on a field?

Shuffle - Pronation + Valgus

Now, with these ideas under your belt, you can go into the next exercise and teaching tool of shifting in and out with power and speed – the Step Back Rotational Med Ball Shotput.

A2. Step Back Rotational Med Ball Shotput – 3×5/s, 8lb to 10lb

In actuality this can be any side to side, or frontal plane, variation of a medicine ball exercise.

While this exercise may seem relatively straightforward, there are ways to move erroneously. From a cuing perspective, make sure to do these things:

  • Elbows high, imagine someone is behind you.
  • With your lead or front elbow, try to smack or hit the person behind you.
  • Show your shoulders and chest to the wall in front of you – this will avoid any sidearm like action from occuring.
  • Push the ground away from you – or place an object to step AWAY from, since you need a good follow through with your hips.
  • Break the wall with the ball, which should capture intent for power and speed of movement.

These are all the things that I’m looking for when utilizing a very simplistic drill involving medicine balls. Hope this brings some insight as to how I look at things!

As always,

Keep it funky.


My Favorite Exercise Combinations – Installment 10

With athletes at Cressey Sports Performance in the thick of things during their winter break, I just wanted to drop a very quick and easy combination that I’ve been implementing that will enhance hip mobility, increase range of motion for athletes that are looking to improve their stride off the plate, along with challenging core stability.

Keep in mind that these same exercises can also be adjuncts or supplementary towards improving hip width during power moves in breakdancing, something that is necessary once you perform at a higher level.

AirFlare - Hip Abduction

When looking at things from a stride point of view in baseball, it is imperative to understand that there is dynamic motion in multiple planes, and a subsequent need for stabilization in multiple planes as well. Ignoring one plane of motion for another is shortsighted; only performing sagittal plane movements will ignore the necessary transfer of force into the frontal and traverse planes that are seen in baseball and many other rotary sports.

Matt Blake - Hips

At the same time, always improving motion in the frontal plane at the exclusion of training the sagittal plane will not be the best course of action either, because well, you just won’t get strong.

“Improving sagittal plane stability will often open up frontal plane mobility.”

I’ll let that sink in.

So with that under your belt, here are the following two exercises for improved hip mobility and stability!

Key Points

  • Determine end range for hip abduction, as each will have individual ranges of motion.
  • Push and spread the floor to activate glutes.
  • Stay tall through movement, and don’t allow head to fall into a forward head position.
  • Torso and head are stable, and arms move as you perform movement.

In essence, many individuals just assume the position, and either slack with positioning, either losing torso/ribcage position, head or eye position, or even not locking out their legs/glutes appropriately.

Key Points

  • Stay tall through movement, providing only a slight forward lean as necessary in order to accommodate the weight.
  • Maintain a tall neutral neck position (don’t go into cervical extension).
  • Make sure to sit back into hip flexion.
  • Heels will be in contact with the floor at all times, in order to maintain appropriate ankle, knee, hip alignment as you perform this movement.

This is a standard lateral lunge, holding a DB of desired weight in front of the body to make sure the reactive nature of the core is ensured.

What is being improved upon in this combination?

  1. Hip abduction (femurs moving away from the midline)
  2. Hip external rotation (stabilizing the pelvis by corkscrewing with your feet, tibia, and femoralacetbuluar angles)
  3. Internal and external oblique muscular stability as both exercise challenge anterior core stability, along with rotary stability being challenged in the anti-rotation chop.

Your brain is an easily fooled creature – you believe you are “tight”, but after performing these items your hip mobility can be improved upon through several mechanisms, namely reciprocal inhibition by activating the glute max and glute med (hip abductors)

If you are lacking in lower body range of motion, challenge yourself by really spreading the floor in the Wide Stance Anti-Rotation Cable Chop. Instead of leaving the idea of “wide stance” out for interpretation, challenge your hip mobility and push your limits!

Now, after completing one set on both sides, if you can ensure you are performing your lateral lunges to the next degree, make sure you are improving your range of motion by making sure your straight leg is really and truly straight.

Lateral Lunge

Don’t forget to lock out your knee on the “straight leg.”

Why You Should Include This Combination

One item to remember is that with many of our baseball athletes, I’d argue that this is also an “arm care” exercise – that is, by improving the ability of the lower body to move fluidly and absorb and adapt to stress, you are improving the ability for your athletes to move with more efficiency (and, to be more specific, have less issues biomechanically as you release the ball since you have more separation).

From a dance perspective, if you can open your hips up more, you will be placing less stress on your knees, as many dancers flex and extend rapidly at the knees in order to produce torque, instead of closing and opening their hips rapidly (which is naturally a greater source for force production).

Integrating This Combination

Within a programming scheme, I’d look at this towards a more complimentary or accessory exercise selection, perhaps performing this back to back in a circuit scenario in order to challenge the lower body musculature.

Perform this later on in the session, perhaps after your sagittal plane strength training has been performed already, as a secondary or tertiary exercise combination selection.

B1. Wide Stance Anti-Rotation Cable Chop – 3×8/side
B2. DB Goblet Lateral Lunge – 3×6/side

For weight selection for the DB Goblet Lateral Lunge, you can always choose a lighter weight, and go heavier after grooving a movement pattern. Don’t be afraid to go heavy (40 to 60+lbs) in order to challenge your anterior core more. If you are having difficulty with this exercise initially, start lighter or even bodyweight at first, and then seek to rapidly increase weight.

As you can see, there are multiple takeaways that you can introduce into many of your sport specific training methods that require a wide stance, or at the very least challenge the lower body musculature.

As always,

Keep it funky.


My Favorite Exercise Combinations: Installment 6

As many of our athletes have returned from their high school and collegiate seasons (and go on to play summer baseball as well), there have been many individuals who, for several reasons, have only just returned to lifting on a more regular schedule.

When it comes down to it, there are only so many general preparatory exercises that need maintenance on a day to day basis.

  1. Hip Hinge
  2. Squat
  3. Lunge
  4. Push
  5. Pull
  6. Anti-Extension, -Rotation, -Flexion

The loads, implements, and other items will change from day to day, but the movements will largely remain the same.

As a rule of thumb with many of our youth athletes, the rotational demands that they have experienced for all of the season during their school year will need to be restored, maintained, and improved upon in order to prepare their body for the upcoming fall semester of play.

If an athlete is returning and they have only give or take 2 months (8 weeks) of hard training, not including any weeks off for vacations (so only 6.5 to 7 weeks in reality).

The drills indicated by the baseball edition of the combination days hopefully serve as an index for restoring movement that may have been as a cause of degradation during the season.

During the off-season, the athlete can now restore mobility, improve power and strength qualities that may have been lost for absolute speed qualities that were improved upon during games.

With all of this in mind, two drills (with a bonus third) I find myself using after the dynamic warm-up involve utilizing a rotational medicine ball drill, and a very simple half kneeling mobility drill.

A1. Hot Feet Recoiled Shotput – 4×4/side

A2. Half Kneeling Windmill – 3×8/side

The “hot feet” version of the recoiled shot-put involves understanding what it means to shift weight appropriately from foot to foot, and from hip to hip. As you move back and forth with intention, the movement will require adequate mobility through the hips, thoracic spine, and scapulae as you throw the ball.

Often times the movement may incorporate simply too much movement from the upper body, and not enough in the hips or even the feet.

What is hopefully accomplished with the pairing involves understanding how the Half Kneeling Windmill works – there is movement that aims to free up the scapula, requires co-contraction of specific lower body musculature, along with maintaining abdominal integrity as you rotate.

This coordination of the lower portion of the body with the upper body is necessary towards developing low levels of motor control – a quality that is also necessary for doing Moonwalks.

Perhaps this third exercise can be introduced to solidify the dissociation and association necessary for more body awareness for our athletes!

As always,

Keep it funky.