When you think about full-body workouts, you probably think about dread-provoking burpees, mountain climbers, and maybe even rowing. But there’s one move that’ll ramp up your heart rate and deliver a total-body burn that we think you won’t hate: the wall ball.
A wall ball is a full-body, multi-part exercise performed with a medicine ball—that almost-squishy, not-quite-a-toy piece of equipment that looks like a bloated soccer ball. “Wall balls are a great bang for your buck. With every rep you’re targeting not only your quads, shoulders, chest, and core, you’re also working your glutes, hamstrings, and triceps,” says certified personal trainer and MIRROR instructor Katie Bergstrom.
“Wall balls are an awesome exercise for building explosiveness, strength, and cardiovascular endurance,” Bergstrom adds. “A four-minute circuit of wall balls definitely beats traditional cardio like running or spinning, in my opinion,” she says. So, if you’re trying to maximize your time in the gym while working your bum, arms, and core–and cardiovascular endurance, wowza!–this move should be your new go-to.
How to do a wall ball
To do a wall ball you just need a medicine ball and a sturdy wall or column. Beginners to strength-training should opt for a six- to eight-pound med ball, while more experienced exercisers can use a 12- to 14-pounder.
To start, stand an arm’s length away from the wall with your feet hips-width apart, toes pointed out just slightly, like you’re going to do a squat. “The movement incorporates a squat, so if you know you have a narrow (or wide) squat stance, adjust your feet to that position instead,” suggests Bergstrom. Pick up the ball and hold it at chest-height so that your elbows are tight to your sides.
Brace your core and squeeze your hands into the ball. This will activate your upper body and get your shoulders ready to work. Then, drop your butt back and down to lower into a squat while keeping your chest up and the ball against your sternum. Sit back into your heels and try to get as deep into the squat as possible. However, Bergstrom says, “it’s important to keep your chest up, so that the weighted ball isn’t pulling you forward, onto your toes, and into bad form.”
Then, driving through your heels, explode out of the bottom of the squat and simultaneously press, or toss, the ball to a target spot about eight to 10 feet up the wall.
Catch the ball on the rebound with your arms overhead, then immediately lower right back down into your squat, keeping the ball at your chest. “It’s very important that the ball stays close to your body as you catch it, and that your chest stays lifted throughout,” says Bergstrom. That’s one rep.
When perfected, each rep looks identical to the one before, and the ball’s contact with and departure from the wall are gentle, smooth, and precise.
Bergstrom recommends that you start with three sets of 10 to 15 reps with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between rounds. “But a Tabata-style workout–which is eight sets of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest–is a great way to challenge your cardiovascular endurance in only four total minutes of work,” she adds.
Need a modification? Drop to a lighter weight, or only toss the ball six or seven feet up the wall to start. “You can also opt for a Dynamax ball instead, which is easier to grip, toss, and catch than a traditional medicine ball, which is firmer,” Bergstrom adds. Once your form is pro-level, you can increase the weight, the number of reps, or the height of your target to make the move even more challenging.
The benefits of wall balls
Once you get the hang of doing wall balls, you’ll reap the below four perks.
A stronger booty. The placement of the medicine ball when you squat is similar to that of a goblet squat. Whether you’re using a six-pound medicine ball or a 20-pounder, the added weight allows most people to sink lower into the squat position, which amps up the glute activation from a traditional squat.
Improved core strength. Wall balls activate all the core muscles—the powerhouse of our entire bodies. A strong core can help you achieve your broader fitness goals, whether you’re nailing warrior pose, running a half, or going for a back squat PR. Improved core strength also enhances overall stability and balance, which means less injury risk from day-to-day life, Bergstrom says.
Toned arms. A lot of women don’t strength-train their arms—and specifically their triceps—with much load, volume, or frequency. You can help your triceps live their best lives, though, with the help of moves like wall balls. “Every rep works the chest, shoulders, triceps, and lats,” says Bergstrom.
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Upgraded mental toughness. CrossFit fans know that when this movement shows up in the workout of the day (WOD), it takes a lot of positive self-talk and internal motivation to keep from dropping the weighted ball. The same goes for a Tabata-style wall-ball workout: Twenty tosses in, even just the thought of launching the weighted medicine ball in the air becomes challenging.
While Bergstrom says you should never do so many reps that you lose good, safe form, you’ll be surprised just how many reps you can do if you set your mind to it.