Slam Ball Workouts: CrossFit WODs & Fitness Benefits

We’re all familiar with the classic CrossFit wall ball, but we often forget about a less popular fitness tool called the slam ball. Often seen but rarely touched, the slam ball is an underrated piece of workout equipment. Ideal for adding an extra bit of spice to a WOD.  We’re here to try to convince you of the benefits of performing slam ball exercises, and how they can be incorporated in your workout routine. You could even do a CrossFit slam ball WOD that will have you wishing for thrusters and regular wall balls again (and we all agree that nobody wants that stuff).

But first, the basics in case you need a primer. Let’s look at how to use a slam ball and the pros and cons.

Benefits of Using A Slam Ball

While it’s essentially a simple, round-ish piece of rubber, the humble slam ball is a diverse piece of equipment that can be used for a range of movements. The most popular exercises for beginners include slams, tosses, carries, and using the ball as a weight. Depending on the type of ball you choose, you can catch the ball on the rebound (as it bounces off the floor) or reset each rep (reach down and pick the ball up). Rebounds allow for fast transitions, but resetting helps develop good form.

Rebounds allow for fast transitions, but resetting helps develop good form.

In CrossFit, we are sometimes limited by our ability to master techniques or our body’s inability. Technical requirements often mean that exercises like the snatch are out of reach for beginners, people with injuries or flexibility issues, and older CrossFitters. Our max snatch is rarely limited by our physical strength, more so by our technique. Slam balls are an easy way to incorporate true lung-busting, muscle-punishing grunt work into a WOD without thinking too much about technique.

Their simplicity also makes them a great way to develop power. We need power for complex movements in Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics. When performing a slam ball slam or toss you are moving a large weight in a fast explosive manner, therefore increasing power.

Additionally, think about the movement of a slam ball slam or toss. It mimics the biomechanical movement of many other CrossFit movements using the triple extension. The simultaneous extension of the hips, knees, and ankles is seen in the snatch, clean, box jumps, kettlebell swings, and many more.

Using a slam ball for carries, or as a weight can also be a great way to improve your grip and core strength, two key aspects of CrossFit. So, not only are slam balls a great exercise in their own right, but they can also be a simple strength and conditioning accessory to those more complex movements.

How to use a slam ball

The simplest movement, and the one you’ll see most in the gym, is funnily enough called a “ball slam”. It is exactly what it sounds like. But of course it’s important to perform this exercise with good form. The idea is to build strength and fitness, not just go through the motions.

  • Stand with feet roughly shoulder-width apart and the ball just in front of your legs
  • Squat and reach for the ball with both hands. Make sure you reach down with your hands on the inside of your knees (keep the toes pointed slightly outwards and knees pressing out)
  • Grab the ball on each side with your hands and engage your legs and glutes to begin standing back up again
  • As you press through the legs to a standing position, raise the ball towards the ceiling
  • When you reach full standing height, the ball should be directly overhead. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • Engage your lats and core muscles and quickly throw the ball directly downwards so that it slams off the floor
  • Flex your knees and squat to pick the ball up again. That’s one rep
  • Repeat
Woman With Slam Ball

If you want to move faster and your slam ball has some “bounce” in it, you can catch the ball as it rebounds off the floor on every rep. However, by letting the ball come to rest and picking it up from a dead stop, you will emphasize posture and technique over speed.

Slam Ball Workouts

Now let’s look at some killer WODs that include ball slams so you can switch the fitness dial from 10 to 11.

WOD 1: Ball Slams

21-15-9

Assault Bike Calories

Ball Slams

Focus

This workout will see you going full gas over a short period of time. It is a true test of lactic acid endurance. Both the bike and the slams are full-body movements, causing you to become fatigued from your heads to your toes. This is a fast workout so you should keep the rest low and intensity high. A truly push-through-the-pain kind of workout.

Ball Slams Technique

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Bring the ball overhead to full extension
  3. Maintain a neutral spine throughout
  4. Slam the ball between the feet
  5. Catch the ball on the rebound
  6. Keep weight in the heels
  7. Extend the knees and hips to bring the ball back overhead to full extension

Benefits

Ball slams require quick, explosive movement, building power in all the major muscle groups. Ball slams also require the use of triple extension to bring the ball from the floor to overhead in one swift movement. In CrossFit, moving objects in ‘one swift movement’ is extremely common. Think of how you would perform a snatch. Without that build-up of momentum from the triple extension, there is no way you’re getting that heavy barbell all the way above your head.

Slamming the ball back down will really fire up your lats, making them stronger for gymnastics based movements. Again, picture when you’re performing a kip on the rig. You push down on the bar to gain momentum. That’s also the exact movement you do during the slam portion of ball slams.

WOD 2: Slam Ball Throws

EMOM 10

1 – 2 Slam Ball Throws

2 – 2 Drop Jumps

Focus

In this workout, we are focusing on developing dynamic power. Your aim is to throw and jump as high as you can for every single rep. We’ve kept the reps low to give yourself maximal recovery between sets so you can continue to give 100% every minute, without the influence of fatigue.

Slam Ball Throws Technique

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Place your hands under the ball
  3. Send your hips back into a squat position
  4. Simultaneously extend the knees, hips, and ankles
  5. Throw the ball over your head, as high as possible
  6. Maintain a neutral spine throughout

Benefits  

Slam ball throws are very similar to the extension portion of ball slams. Ball slams are primarily focused on developing power during flexion (pushing down), while slam ball throws develop power through extension (pulling up). We use the triple extension to propel the ball up into the air, as high as possible.

We create momentum through our ankles, knees, and hips to generate maximal pulling velocity. This movement translates into Olympic lifts, box jumps, and kettlebell swings. Developing your pulling power will benefit crossover into many areas of CrossFit, making you a more rounded athlete.

Squatting With Weighted Ball

WOD 3: Slam Ball Carry

4 Rounds For Time

20m Slam Ball Carry

20 Pull Ups

20m Kettlebell Farmers Carry

Focus

A typical strongman workout interrupted by a gymnastics skill. This workout will test your muscular endurance, particularly in your core, forearms, and shoulders. The carries are pure grunt work, moving objects from one place to another. You will then be tested on your gymnastics ability while under fatigue. Split the distance way before you think you should. Save your shoulders, or the pull ups could prove extremely difficult.

Slam Ball Carry Technique

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Place your hands under the ball
  3. Bracing your back, lift the ball to your chest
  4. Wrap your arms around the ball to keep it at your chest while you walk

Benefits

The slam ball carry helps build core strength. A strong core provides stability and helps product force, key components of CrossFit. A stable core allows your body to transfer force through the midsection to improve movement and performance. Have you ever tried a heavy barbell clean, only to get stuck at the bottom of the squat? This failure is often due to weak core muscles. Or the time your kipping turned into more of a swing, causing you to lose all momentum? Again, down to a weakness in the muscles that support your entire body.

Doing accessory movements such as the slam ball carry, or other slam ball core exercises, can really improve your core strength and help with all your other CrossFit movements.

Conclusion

Slam balls are a great tool for creating simple exercises that help us develop full-body power and strength. The movements required for slam ball exercises mimic a large variety of CrossFit movements, from triple extension to core stability. These exercises work really well in a MetCon, or as an accessory exercise to help develop other strength and fitness components. Essentially, they can help you become a better, more rounded CrossFit athlete. So, next time you’re in the box, don’t ignore the slam balls, use them to develop your full potential.

Looking to buy a slam ball for home workout use? Check this TRX training ball. If you're wondering what TRX is, read our TRX and CrossFit comparison.

Ball Slam Workouts For Crossfit Training

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