DRYLAND – Straight-Chest Med-Ball Toss

At all levels of swimming, some dryland training becomes very important. The questions that invariably come up are, what kind of dryland is right for what kind of swimmer, and at what age? For very young swimmers, simple stretching and a few crunches might be all that’s needed or recommended. The next level might be the addition of calisthenic-type exercises in which you work against your own body weight. A slightly more advanced level might include the use of a medicine ball. Here’s an example of a fun yet challenging med-ball exercise. As you can see, this may be a bit too challenging for younger athletes.

The straight-chest med ball toss is a fun drill that works not only your upper body, but also your abs and upper legs. The goal of this exercise is, above all, precision throws. Once the throws start to go off course, the athletes should stop, because injury can quickly occur in any form of dryland training if it�s done outside it�s defined boundaries.

To get started, make sure you pick a small med-ball that is easy to handle. The weight of the ball that you start with should be light, so you can get used to the MOVE, rather than attempting this exercise by getting too aggressive. The ball I like to use when introducing this exercise isn�t really meant for this, but rather for spine exercises. Still, at 8 pounds, it�s a pretty good weight for getting started. It�s called the BACK-IT BALL�.

As you get stronger, more accurate, and quicker, you can always move up in weight, but since you�re probably around a pool, you should get a med-ball that�s got a rubber outer covering, rather than the old fashioned leather ones you�ll find when you�re at boxing practice.

Why Do It:

I think it�s tough to find dryland exercises that are not only fun, but also encourage a bit of competitive fire. Partner exercises also promote cooperative learning, and build a bit of team work. This exercise also works your entire body — just like swimming!

Med-Ball Toss How To Do It:

1. Find a partner, either someone of nearly equal strength. If you�re working with someone smaller, younger, or weaker, make sure you place more emphasis on CONTROL than on power.

2. Start in a seated position, with both partners facing each other and with the feet just a few inches apart.

3. While seated and facing, lift both feet OFF the ground, they will be held just off the floor throughout the entire exercise.

4. Hold the med ball firmly with both hands and close to your chest. MAKE SURE YOUR PARTNER IS LOOKING AND READY! Then, aim the throw directly into the chest of your partner. He or she SHOULD catch the ball, and try to stop it prior to the ball hitting them in the chest.

5. Without any hesitation, the partner should return the throw. But the focus is ACCURACY. Throw it back directly into the chest of the other partner.

When working with younger or weaker partners, you must make sure they are ready to accept the return throw prior to quickly tossing it back. This will slow down the pace a bit, and will allow the younger partner to gain confidence with the exercise. The younger partner will get more of a workout from this, but that�s the give and take that comes with being on a team. You�ll also notice that the ball will have more of an arch on the toss when working with a younger partner. This is to make sure they�re ready to catch the pass.

You�ll notice in the video that one pass catches the younger athlete a bit by surprise. This is why you MUST be careful when doing this. A throw too high can hit the athlete in the face and possibly cause a bloody nose or worse. A throw too low� well� let�s just say, it�s NOT a good thing for the guys. You�ll also notice in the video that as the younger swimmer starts to throw, he looks a bit like he’s shooting a basketball. As a swimmer, your goal in this drill is to have BOTH hands moving in unison.

6. Cradle the ball into the chest with the hands symmetrical, as if you�re getting ready to explode the hands forward for the breaststroke recovery.

How To Do It Really well (the Fine Points):

BE CAREFUL. I don�t want to scare everyone away from doing dryland exercises; however, as with lifting weights, a lack of focus and concentration can lead to injury. This is NOT the type of exercise that should be done to the point of failure. Failure with exercises such as this lead to hurting your partner. Start with 5 throws each, then move to 10, and continue to increase either the number of throws, or the weight of the med ball.

Keep the hands symmetrical, and your throws firm and quick. When you get REALLY good at this, and you�re working with a partner of equal strength and ability, your goal is to knock them over by throwing the ball so firmly into the chest that the power of your toss causes them to lose their balance and fall backward. This intensity will ultimately result in a major ab workout because the abs are the muscles that will hold you in place.