Wall Balls is a silly name for an exercise, I know, but that’s what you get when you borrow exercises from Crossfit. In fact, Wall Balls are a great conditioning exercise that builds full body stamina and endurance. It will also make you sweat.
This is an exercise that integrates perfectly into a high intensity interval training (HIRT) circuit, and can also be used to build high intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, but do not translate that well into Tabata training.
Wall Balls also can be used separately as a full body conditioning exercise by attempting to complete X reps as fast as possible, or by attempting to complete as many reps as possible in a set time limit. Either way, it burns!
Medicine Ball Training
Medicine ball training has been around for a long time, and in fact they were used frequently at gyms back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ancient (3000+ years ago) wrestlers and other athletes used to train with various sand-filled implements, which evolved over time into the medicine ball.
The standard medicine ball is a weighted rubber ball measuring roughly 14 inches in diameter, although sizes vary greatly nowadays as you can get a medicine ball from the size of your fist to the size of your body.
Used in a wide variety of fitness programs, medicine balls can be benched, rowed, curled, pressed, squatted, tossed, caught, bounced, squished, and generally manhandled all for the sake of fitness.
How to Perform Wall Balls
To do Wall Balls, you will need a medicine ball. Most often it is recommended for men to use a 20 lb medicine ball, and for women to use a 14 lb medicine ball, at least by Crossfit standards. In reality, you can vary the weight based on your personal strength, conditioning, and training goals.
You want to choose a spot on a wall that is 10 feet from the floor if you are male or 8 feet from the floor if you are female, by Crossfit standards. I think males and females can choose a range between 8-10 feet regardless of their sex, in fact I’d say a stronger, more conditioned athlete might opt for 10 feet, while a newbie might start at 8 feet. But I digress… This spot on the wall will become your target.
The Wall Ball movement itself consists mainly of a front squat, a push press, and a catch.
Start in a standing position, 16-24 inches away from the wall, holding the medicine ball at chin level as if you were going to front squat it, then front squat it. The concentric (upward) motion of the front squat should consist of an explosive hip drive and ankle extension, which provides the momentum to continue the movement into a push press.
The push press itself then becomes maximally explosive as you use that momentum to throw the medicine ball at the target. You should end this movement with your entire body fully extended, fingers pointing towards the target.
Finally, you want to descend back into a front squat while simultaneously and seamlessly catching the ball and bringing it back into the front squat racked position. That’s one rep.
Every movement in the Wall Ball should be powerful yet smooth, quick but controlled. There should not really be any pausing when you catch the ball. Beginners tend to throw the ball, catch it standing up, reposition their feet, then squat back down. This is not the ideal flow of the Wall Ball.
How to Front Squat
Here are just some of my standard notes on front squatting, which can be found in several of my other posts throughout the site.
Rules to remember when front squatting:
- Keep the lower back straight and mostly flat; do not round your back!
- Keep knees pointing out slightly, do not let them creep inwards as you push yourself up.
- Push from your glutes (butt), not your knees; your hips should raise first and everything else should raise with them.
- Fill your stomach with air before descending and keep it tight with your chest out while pushing up.
- Push up with your eyes focused 30-45 degrees above normal eye level.
- Try to keep your knees behind your toes to avoid injury.
- The medicine ball should be kept at chin level and can rest on your upper chest between reps.
So that’s it. Use Wall Balls in your HIIT or HIRT training, or anytime you are looking for an alternative to endurance cardio.
Want a goal to shoot for? Here are some of the Crossfit milestones for Wall Balls:
- 30 seconds: 12 shots
- 1 minute: 25 shots
- 1 ½ minutes: 37 shots
- 2 minutes: 50 shots
- 2 ½ minutes: 62 shots
- 3 minutes: 75 shots
- 3 ½ minutes: 87 shots
- 4 minutes: 100 shots
- 4 ½ minutes: 112 shots
- 5 minutes: 125 shots
- 5 ½ minutes: 137 shots
- 6 minutes: 150 shots
I don’t know where the record currently stands, but some dude named Mike Weaver once shot 150 Wall Balls in 4:52 with 10 foot target using a 20 lb ball.