BODY WEIGHT TRAINING IN HANDBALL
Handball, on the surface, is a pretty straightforward sport. There’s nothing too complicated about it from a spectator’s perspective. Simply put, it’s a sport played on a court with 2 goals with the objective of outscoring your opponents. Dude, let me tell you. If you thought it was easy, you’ve never been so wrong your entire life.
Handball is a really tough sport. The athletes only make it look easy because they practiced it so hard that when game day comes, it’s all second nature. Now, what qualities does a handball athlete need to have to be competitive? How do they train these qualities? Below are a few things you’ll be doing in a handball court and how to utilize body weight training to practice them.
They say handball is a combination of football and basketball. In some ways, it is, but in terms of catching the ball, handball is in a league of its own. The biggest hand ball being used (58–60 cm in circumference) is smaller compared to an official soccer ball (69–71 cm in circumference) and an official basketball (75–76 cm in circumference). Although soccer players aren’t allowed to use their hands, a handball’s size makes it tougher to catch than a basketball. Hand-eye coordination is a very important skill to develop if you don’t want the ball slipping through your fingertips.
Run faster, jump higher (link)
Snails aren’t allowed to play here. I’m warning you right now. This is a fast-paced sport meant to be played by fast players. Sloths are only going to get pulverized by the stampede of horse-like athletes that’ll be running the entire length of the court back and forth. If you want to make it here, you’re going to have to be quick on your feet.
The higher you jump, the better. A high vertical leap gives you an advantage because you create for yourself more angles that you can use against the goalkeeper. Also, the more hang time you have, the more time you have to trick the defense. Now, this may make you think that shorter players are at a huge disadvantage considering that no matter how high they can jump, the taller player can always just block their vision. You’re forgetting one very important thing. We live in a 3D world and there’re more directions than just up or down. A handball player can also jump left or right and front or back — whichever suits the situation.
Throwing the ball effectively takes a lot of body control (link)
This is arguably the most exciting part of handball. This is how you beat your opponents because this is how you score. You’re going to be doing this a whole lot, so make sure you train this part like your life depended on it. Effectively throwing a handball isn’t just the work of your arms however. It’s going to take a lot of body control. To maximize your strength, you have to use every inch of muscle you have. You generate force through your legs. That force travels up to your body. As your body twists and extends and your arms are winding up for the throw, the force is at its maximum and waiting to be unleashed on that sorry goalkeeper.
These are four of the basics you’ll need to have, and all these require significant levels of body mastery. How best to learn this? That’s simple. In training athletes, we have this principle called “specificity”. According to this principle, to train for a sport that requires so much body control, you need to train to control your body. That’s where body weight training comes in.
BODY WEIGHT TRAINING
I’m going to give you a few of my favorite body weight exercises below. This is going to give you some sweat so before reading, get yourself some water to keep yourself hydrated.
Done? Let’s begin.
• Push-ups: Let’s start with the basics. This exercise right here is one of the foundations of body weight training. If done right, you’ll have already strengthened your entire upper body from core to shoulders. First, lie on your stomach. Place your palms on the floor just beside your chest. In this position, push with your arms while maintaining a straight body. Now, slowly lower your body until your chest barely touches the floor. That’s one. Repeat until it burns.
Push-ups: the basics for handball (link)
• Clap push-ups: This is a plyometric and more advanced version of the push-up. When you’ve already mastered the simple push-up, stop doing it and start doing this instead because this is more specific to handball. The clapping motion trains your hand speed which allows you to catch the ball easier. The push part trains the power in your shoulders, your triceps, your pecs, and your core. These are all essential muscles that make up an explosive throw. Start by positioning yourself the same way you would for a normal push up. When you push, push so hard that your hands leave the floor. If they don’t leave the floor, you’re not strong enough yet. Go back to the simple push-up. While in mid-air, clap as hard as you can. Now, repeat.
• Pull ups: Find a bar that is high enough that your feet don’t touch the floor when you’re hanging. Grab the bar at a width that’s wider than your shoulders. Your palms should be facing forward. Now pull yourself up as high as you can. Repeat. Work on this until you can pull your head up over the bar consistently. This exercise strengthens your back muscles and your biceps which are important in the “wind up” part of throwing. Also, if you want to minimize injuries, it’s always a good idea to balance out your muscles so don’t forget to do your pull ups.
• Planking: This works out the core. A strong core equals a stable spine. A stable spine equals lesser injuries. An essential part of throwing is twisting your body to add to that momentum. Constant twisting without a stable spine will eventually lead to injuries. If you don’t want that to happen to you, do some planks. First, lie on your stomach like you would do for a push-up. Next, place your elbows beside you, hands near your head and facing down. With your elbows, push yourself up while maintaining a straight body. Your elbows should now be directly under your shoulders. Hold this position until your abs feel like burning. Rest and repeat.
• Russian Twist: This works out your obliques, the muscles in charge of twisting your body. Lie on your back,then raise your legs and your body to a 45 degree angle. While in this position, clamp your hands together in front of your stomach and twist your body. The twisting motion helps in adding momentum to a throw.
• Squat: This single move can work out all the muscles in your legs. It focuses on your “jumping” muscles such as your glutes and quads. Strengthen these muscles and you’ll be well equipped to jump through the roof. First, position your feet a little bit wider than shoulder width. In this position, slowly lower your body as low as you can without letting your knees go over your toes. When you’re at your lowest, slowly rise back up and repeat.
• Jump squat: this is a plyometric version of the squat. Like the other plyometric variations, the starting position is the same. The only difference is that when you’re at your lowest squat, use your legs to jump up. To add more momentum to your jump, swing up with your arms as you jump. Upon landing, slowly lower your body back to the starting position and repeat.
• HIIT: This is short for High Intensity Interval Training. Basically, you do high intensity bursts followed by relative rest. Combine this with endurance and speed training and you have yourself the most intense 20 minutes of your life. Here’s what I want you to do. Grab a timer and go to your nearest park or oval or wherever you want to run. When you’re there, start sprinting. And when I say sprint, I mean SPRINT. Run as fast you can for 2 minutes. After that, just pace yourself and walk slowly for 1 minute. Repeat this for 20 minutes or for as long as your body allows it. For beginners, you might want to jog first for a couple of months to build up endurance and physical tolerance because I’m telling you right now — this is going to burn you up and your legs are going to be sore. This might be difficult, but there is no denying the results. You will be faster and you will last longer.
HIIT workout burns more fat, improves endurance and builds strength (link)
Running, catching, jumping, and throwing — these are your bread and butter. Train these four movements and you’re well on your way to becoming an elite handball athlete. Of course, training these isn’t going to be enough. To be better at handball, you’re going to have to play handball. I’ve given you the tools. Now, you must learn how to use them. After a few months of practice and body weight training, you’re probably going to feel sorry for the goal keeper who’s trying to stop you from scoring. His hands must be ready because you’re going to be throwing rockets out there.