10 Awesome Medicine Ball Exercises To Improve Your Swimming

All content provided by Benjamin Strydom

Are you looking to spice up your swimming dry-land workouts with some functional and effective exercises? Well, maybe you should consider including some medicine ball exercises. Med-ball exercises are a great way to develop explosive power, coordination, balance, and speed, as well as strengthening a wide range of muscle groups.
A recent study published in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise by researchers from the University of Alicante looked at the relationship between dry-land strength, power variables and sprint performances in age-group swimmers.
In total, 28 competitive swimmers, of national level volunteered to participate in the study. Muscle strength and muscle power was tested with various exercises, including bench press, leg extensions, throwing medicine balls and certain jumps.
The study found that medicine ball throws with a 3kg ball showcased moderate, yet significant correlation values with swimming sprint performances, it was also found that the bench press and leg extension exercises significantly associated with shorter sprints such as the 25m and 50m freestyle sprints.
All in all, the study concluded that simple dry-land strength and power exercises, such as medicine ball throws significantly related with swimming sprint performances.
Another study conducted by researchers, Avery D. Faigenbaum and Patrick Mediate, looked at the effects of medicine ball training on fitness performance of high-school physical education students.
The study divided students into 2 groups, one group participated in regular physical education training, while the other group followed a 6-week medicine ball training program. At the end of the study it is concluded that the group who participated in medicine ball training program made significantly greater gains on all fitness tests, including long jump, abdominal curl, med ball push-ups and medicine ball throws, as compared to the non-medicine ball group.
Ultimately, this data can suggest that medicine ball training can enhance certain areas of speed, agility, power and muscular endurance when incorporated into a training program. With that being said, let’s take a look at the 10 best medicine ball exercises for swimmers

1. Medicine Ball V-Ups
The first few medicine ball exercises we are going to be taking a look at are oriented towards core strength. Core strength is a highly important aspect for any competitive swimmer to develop.
The medicine ball v-up is a great exercise to develop core strength. It primarily works the rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis core muscles. The technique is quite basic, making it an easy exercise to learn.

For beginners, I recommend starting with a light medicine ball or no ball at all in order to get the basic movement pattern down. From there, you can move onto using heavier medicine balls, as well as using some different variations of the v-up exercise.

How to perform the medicine ball V-Up:

  1. Start by laying on your back with your arms behind your head (while holding the medicine ball) and your legs straight.
  2. Brace your abdominals and gently push your low back into the floor as your bring your feet and hands up to where the medicine ball touches your toes.
  3. Slowly lower back down into the starting position and repeat for a few sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

2. Medicine Ball Russian Twists
The next medicine ball exercise we are taking a look at is going to be the medicine ball russian twist.
This is another awesome core exercise that will develop core stability as well as primarily strengthening the obliques.
Once again, if you are a complete beginner you might want to consider starting with a lighter medicine ball or no ball at all.

How to perform the medicine ball russian twist:

  1. Start by going into a sitting position, while holding the medicine ball, with your back slightly tilted backwards and your feet lifted an inch or two off the ground.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles and twist your torso to one side until your arms are parallel with the ground, then twist to the other side.
  3. Avoid using momentum or allowing the feet to swerve around, do 15 to 20 repetitions for a few sets.

3. Medicine Ball Plank
For our third medicine ball exercise, we have the classic plank, but done with a medicine ball to make it more challenging. As swimmers, we are all familiar with the plank, and we all know the great benefits it holds in terms of developing stability and overall core strength.
The medicine ball plank is a great way to challenge yourself since you are supporting yourself on an unstable medicine ball, ultimately forcing your core to work harder to keep you stable.

How to perform the medicine ball plank:

  1. Start by kneeling on the floor with your medicine ball in front of you.
  2. Place your hands on the medicine ball and push up until your arms are straight and your entire body has formed a straight line from head to toe.
  3. Try to hold the position for as long as you can.

4. Medicine Ball Thrusters
Now that we have covered some good core exercises that you can do with a medicine ball, we are going to have a look at some power exercises to develop that explosiveness used in our starts, turns, breakouts and finishes while swimming.
The first power med-ball exercise is going to be the medicine ball thruster. This exercise is great for engaging the entire body, building that explosive power, and getting your heart rate up.

How to perform the medicine ball thruster:

  1. Start by going into a comfortable stance while holding the medicine ball against your chest.
  2. Drop into a squat, then push back up and extend your arms to press the medicine ball overhead.
  3. Repeat this for 8 or 10 repetitions while focusing on speed and power.

5. Medicine Ball Slams
The medicine ball slam is probably one of the most popular med-ball exercises out there. It is a great exercise for developing speed and power, as well as getting your heart rate up quickly. And let’s be honest, it is just plain fun to see how fast and hard you can slam that medicine ball into the floor.

How to perform the medicine ball slam:

  1. Start by going into a comfortable and stable stance with your feet roughly shoulder width apart.
  2. Grab your medicine ball and keep it at roughly arms length in front of you.
  3. Tighten your core, lift the ball overhead and slam it into the floor as hard as you can.
  4. Make sure not to lean backwards as your raise the ball overhead.

If you would like to, you can also drop into a squat position and catch the ball as it jumps back up. Perform a couple of fast medicine ball slams for a few sets to get maximum benefit.

6. Jumping Medicine Ball Squat
The medicine ball squat is a great lower body med-ball exercise for developing explosive power and strength in your legs. This can translate well into faster and better starts, turns, and underwaters in your swim races.

How to perform the jumping medicine ball squat:

  1. Start by going into a comfortable and stable stance with feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly pointed out.
  2. Choose where you would like to hold the medicine ball, it is popular to hold the medicine ball against your chest in a stable position or behind your head.
  3. Drop down into your squat, making sure that you are getting adequate depth and then explode up as hard and fast as you can while going into a vertical jump. Repeat for a few sets of 6 to 10 repetitions.

7. Over the back toss with medicine ball.
The medicine ball over the back toss or throw is one of the best ways to develop explosive upper body power and speed. It’s also quite challenging after a couple of repetitions and is a great way to get your heart-rate up.

How to perform the over the back toss with a medicine ball:

  1. Start in a comfortable and stable stance with feet shoulder width apart while holding the medicine ball.
  2. Brace your core and upper body while extending your arms and throwing the ball as high and far backwards over you head as you can.
  3. You can go and fetch it and repeat or have a partner throw it back to you. Do 3 to 5 repetitions for a few sets.

8. Alternating Medicine Ball Push Ups
Next up, we have some more general strength med-ball exercises, but they are also good for developing certain power aspects. With that being said, the alternating medicine ball push up is a great way to develop upper body strength and work some speed characteristics.

How to perform alternating medicine ball push ups:

  1. Start by going into a push up position with your one hand elevated on your medicine ball.
  2. Do a push up, then quickly shoot the ball to the opposite hand, allowing that hand to be elevated.
  3. Do another push up and then again shoot it back to your original hand. Repeat this for 10 to 15 repetitions as fast as you can.

9. Close Grip Medicine Ball Push Ups
The close grip medicine ball push up is another awesome med-ball exercise to strengthen your chest, arms, and core. If you would like to make it more of a power movement, then you can explode up after each rep.

How to perform close grip medicine ball push ups:

  1. Start by going into a push up position, but this time, place both of your hands on the medicine ball.
  2. Find a comfortable and stable stance with your hands and feet, while keeping your body in a straight line.
  3. Then do a close grip push-up and repeat for 6 to 10 repetitions.

10. Medicine Ball Jumping Chest Presses
Last but not least, we have the medicine ball jumping chest presses. This is just a general fun and explosive exercise focusing on speed, power, heart rate, and engaging a wide range of muscle groups.

How to perform medicine ball jumping chest presses:

  1. Start by going into a comfortable jumping stance, while holding the medicine directly in front of you at about chest height.
  2. Start doing little and explosive jumps, as if you were skipping with a jump rope.
  3. Then, explode the medicine ball to and from your chest as you are jumping. Do this for about 30 seconds to a minute to get your heart rate up and muscles burning.

All in all, medicine balls are a great way to bring a bit of variety into your training schedule or your dryland workout program. There are tons of awesome med-ball exercises that are very effective at developing strength and power, ultimately translating into faster and better swimming performances over time.
I highly recommend trying out some of these exercises for yourself and seeing where they fit into your training schedule. Sure, you don’t have to use them all, but they can certainly be good to throw in here and there.

About the Author
Hey, I’m Benjamin, a competitive swimmer with many years of experience in the sport of swimming. I am very passionate about competitive swimming and love sharing my knowledge of the sport. I run my own swimming website, SwimCompetitive.com. I recently wrote a detailed guide explaining how many laps you should swim to get a good workout, you can check it out here. Happy swimming!

Sources in this article
Source 1– Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.
Source 2– Researchers Avery D. Faigenbaum and Patrick Mediate.

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