Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines ballistic as: “relating to projectiles or their flight.” In the world of strength and conditioning, we can understand it as movements involving the launching or throwing of medicine balls, sand bags, etc. Ballistic training is an effective way to develop power in athletes because it does not involve a deceleration phase.
Traditional resistance based movements include an acceleration phase, a braking/deceleration phase, and a static phase where the velocity of a movement is zero. Ballistic training on the other hands is comprised entirely of acceleration while the deceleration phase occurs during flight while the body is no longer under tension (1). Power is defined as the product of mass and acceleration. Therefore, because ballistic training involves no deceleration, and the muscles can continue to accelerate throughout a movement, they are an effective power development tool.
Typically I incorporate ballistics into my program at the beginning of the workout as part of the warmup process. The high level of neural activation that accompanies the intent of moving an object as fast as possible makes ballistic training an effective warm-up, as well as a useful power-development drill. Some examples of ballistic moves that I like to use include several chest pass variations, rotational throws, and overhead slams all done with a medicine ball or similar object.
(1) Comie, et. al. Developing Neurmouscular Power. Journal of Sports Medicine 2011, February 1:41(2) 125-146.