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Wall balls and slam balls can be found in most commercial gyms, but they aren’t meant to be used for the same types of exercises. And if you’re considering adding one to your home gym, you need to think about your budget, storage space, and how you intend to use it.
So are wall balls or slam balls better? In terms of equipment, wall balls are better because they’re more versatile and can be used for more exercises. Slam balls can’t be used for exercises where you need the ball to bounce back to you. But because you don’t usually throw slam balls in the air, they’re more ideal for people with gyms with low ceilings.
In this article, I’ll discuss the differences between wall balls and slam balls. I’ll also show you how to perform wall balls and ball slams and discuss the pros and cons of each type of equipment.
Wall Balls vs Slam Balls: 6 Differences
The six main differences between wall balls and slam balls are:
- Size and weight
- Intended use
Wall balls have a synthetic leather, vinyl, or kevlar (a durable synthetic fiber) exterior. They’re filled with two types of fillings: a weightless filling such as polypropylene cotton and a weighted filler such as iron sand or rubber particles. The seams are then stitched together. High-quality wall balls are double-stitched for extra durability.
Slam balls have a rubber outer shell and are filled with sand or iron sand. They also have an air valve that releases pressure so they don’t burst.
2. Size and Weight
Wall balls that you’d typically find in a regular gym setting only go up to 30lbs, although some brands make wall balls as heavy as 50lbs. Slam balls usually go up to 70lbs for regular gym use.
Wall balls also have a larger diameter of about 14” while slam balls have a diameter of 9-10”.
Neither wall balls nor slam balls are as bouncy as something like a basketball or tennis ball. But wall balls have more give to them and will rebound a bit when dropped. Slam balls have very little bounce to prevent them from rebounding and hitting you in the face after you throw them on the ground.
Slam balls aren’t squishy per se, but the rubber they’re made out of is pliable. The bottom of a slam ball will flatten out slightly when it’s on the ground. Wall balls are designed to keep their shape, which makes it easier for you to catch a wall ball as it comes back down after you throw it in the air.
5. Intended Use
As their names suggest, wall balls are best for throwing against a wall while slam balls are best for slamming into the ground. Wall balls are designed to rebound when they’re thrown against a hard surface, while slam balls will absorb shock from the impact of being dropped.
As such, it’s not recommended to use a slam ball for wall ball exercises since it won’t bounce off the wall to make its way back to you — it will simply fall to the ground.
And while wall balls can be used for ball slam exercises, it’s not ideal. As I mentioned above, they do bounce. If you throw one hard enough into the ground, it can rebound quickly and hit you in the face.
The price of wall balls and slam balls varies by manufacturer. However, most wall balls range from $4-$10 per pound, while slam balls can range from $2-$4 per pound. The price difference is due to all of the extra material that’s needed to fill wall balls.
Wall Balls: Equipment, How-To, Tips, Common Mistakes, Pros & Cons, Programming Considerations
Wall balls are large, dense balls made with synthetic leather, vinyl, or kevlar and filled with a combination of weightless and weighted materials. They’re designed specifically for throwing against the wall. Rather than absorbing shock, they’ll bounce off the wall so you can repeatedly catch it and throw it again in quick succession.
I’ve used wall balls from different brands, and some of my favorites are the Rogue Medicine Balls and the Fringe Sport Immortal Wall Balls. Both products are durable, easy to grip, and don’t become lopsided after heavy use.
How To Do A Wall Ball
The most popular exercise used with a wall ball is, well, the wall ball. It’s a full-body, dynamic movement that targets the quads, hamstrings, shoulders, glutes, triceps, core, and pecs. It’s also an excellent exercise for improving your hand-eye coordination and getting your heart rate up.
Step 1: Stand an appropriate distance away from the wall
Pick a wall ball weight. The CrossFit standard is 14lbs for females and 20lbs for males, but you can go heavier or lighter if you want. Straighten your arms out in front of you until you can touch the wall with the ball. This is an ideal starting distance from the wall.
Step 2: Get into your starting position
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold the wall ball at your chest.
Step 3: Get into a deep sqauat
Bending your hips and knees at the same time, squat down until your hip crease is below your knees. Avoid letting the weight of the ball pull you forward, and don’t come up onto your toes.
Step 4: Ascend from the squat and throw the wall ball against the wall
As you stand up from the squat, throw the wall ball up against the wall. Females should aim for a 9’ target, and males should aim for a 10’ target.
You can either keep your arms overhead while you wait for the ball to come down or bring them down to quickly shake them out before you have to catch the ball.
Step 5: Catch the ball as you descend into another squat to begin another rep
As you catch the ball, go down into another squat, then immediately move into your next rep.
Wall balls are a great exercise to include in a general physical preparedness (GPP) program. Learn more about GPP training in GPP Workout For Powerlifters: What Is It? How To, Benefits.
Tips for Performing Wall Balls
Below are some tips to help make your wall balls more efficient:
- Control your breathing. A common breathing technique when doing wall balls is to exhale as you throw the ball and inhale as you catch it and descend into a squat. Alternatively, you can exhale as you throw the ball, inhale while it’s in the air, exhale while the ball is coming back down, and inhale as you squat down. Following either breathing pattern will prevent your heart rate from spiking too much.
- Hold the ball from the bottom instead of on the sides. If you hold the ball more towards the bottom, similar to how you’d hold an upside-down kettlebell when doing goblet squats, you can generate more force to get it to hit your target.
Common Mistakes When Doing Wall Balls
Below are some of the most common mistakes I see athletes make when doing wall balls.
- Holding the ball too low. When doing wall balls, you should hold the ball at least at chest height. Letting the weight of the ball pull your arms down lower will cause you to have to throw it an even greater distance.
- Holding the ball too far out in front of you. This makes the weight feel heavier and forces you to have to throw the ball further because you have to throw it forward and up instead of just straight up.
- Jumping as you throw the ball. Jumping can make it easier for you to hit your target, especially if you’re short, but it also tires out your legs and increases the demands on your cardiovascular system.
Wall Ball Pros
- They’re more versatile than slam balls. Wall balls can be used for some exercises that are intended for slam balls, but you do have to be careful with them so the ball doesn’t rebound and hit you.
- The wall ball exercise is a total-body movement. Wall balls work almost all of the large muscle groups in the lower body as well as the shoulders, pecs, and triceps. They also work your cardiovascular system. When you do wall balls, you get a little bit of strength and conditioning in one movement.
Wall Ball Cons
- Wall balls require more space. Because wall balls are larger than slam balls, they take up more room on a storage shelf. This can be an issue if you have a small home gym and don’t have much storage space. You also need access to a room with high ceilings if you want to be able to throw a wall ball to the standard 9’ or 10’ targets.
- Wall balls are expensive. Wall balls can be an excellent addition to any gym, but they are pricey. Some brands’ wall balls can cost as much as $10 or more per pound (but when it comes to wall balls, the heavier weights are more cost effective). And wall balls aren’t really a product that you’ll want to skimp on cost-wise. The seams on cheaper wall balls can come undone after just a few months, and the filler can also shift and make the wall ball more difficult to handle.
Wall Ball Programming Considerations
Wall balls are best done for high reps. Of course, if you’re doing a CrossFit workout, you have to do however many reps are called for in that workout. But for everyone else, 15-20 reps is a good starting point.
If you’re a powerlifter, weightlifter, or another strength athlete who wants to do wall balls, I recommend doing them at the end of your training session or on a non-lifting day. You could also do them as part of a warm-up to get your body loose and your heart rate up a bit.
For everyone else, wall balls can be done whenever you’d like as part of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine or on any other cardio day.
Wall balls are one of my favorite exercises, but they’re difficult to do for many athletes. Check out my article What Are Wall Balls Good For? (And, Why Are They So Hard?) to find out why wall balls are so hard and how you can make them easier.
Slam Balls: Equipment, How-To, Tips, Common Mistakes, Pros & Cons, Programming Considerations
Slam balls are made out of rubber and designed to be durable and impact-absorbent so they don’t rebound after they hit the ground. They’re also softer than wall balls and have an air valve that helps release pressure so they don’t burst open.
If you’re looking to add a slam ball to your gym, I recommend the RAGE Fitness slam ball. It has a heavy-duty rubber shell that can be thrown on either a gym floor or on concrete, making it easier for you to do your workouts outside. It’s also more affordable than other slam balls on the market.
Ball Slam: Exercise How-To
The exercise most frequently used with slam balls is ball slams. Ball slams can help improve your explosive power, core strength, and conditioning. They’re also an excellent way to let out some stress or frustration if you’ve had a bad day at work or your kids are driving you crazy!
While ball slams do require some work from the lower body, they mostly target the upper back, shoulders, core, biceps, and triceps.
Step 1: Get into your starting position
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a slam ball down in front of you. I recommend a 10-15lb ball for beginners and 20-30lb ball for advanced individuals, though you can use your warm-up to experiment and find an ideal weight for you.
Step 2: Bring the slam ball overhead and come up onto your toes
As you lift the slam ball overhead, stand up on your toes. This will allow you to use more force from your lower body to drive the slam ball into the ground.
Step 3: Throw the ball into the ground
Begin to lower the slam ball. Once you’ve cleared your head, release the ball and throw it into the ground as hard as you can.
Step 4: Pick the ball up and move into your next rep
Squat down to pick up the ball. Immediately lift it overhead as you stand up from the squat and slam the ball into the ground again.
Tips For Performing Ball Slams
Below are two tips to keep in mind when performing ball slams.
- To progress ball slams, don’t just add weight — alter the range of motion. One way to make ball slams more challenging is to do rainbow slams. They’re done almost the same way as regular ball slams, but instead of bringing your arms straight down, you swing them around in a rainbow shape and drop the ball next to your foot. This challenges your core in a different way due to the extra rotation involved. If you choose to do these, I recommend using a wall ball instead of a slam ball so it can bounce back to you and prevent you from having to twist at awkward angles to pick up the ball.
- Keep the ball close to you. As you pick the ball up, tuck it into your chest and keep it close to your body as you lift it overhead. This will help you stay balanced and prevent extra fatigue from accumulating in your shoulders. Similarly, don’t bring your arms out straight in front of you as you slam the ball down. This will limit the amount of force you’re able to apply to the ball.
Common Mistakes When Doing Ball Slams
Below are two common mistakes I come across in the ball slam.
- Using a ball that’s too heavy. If your slam ball is too heavy for you, it could lead you to round your back when you pick it up from the ground or prevent you from slamming it hard enough to see any real benefit from the movement.
- Swinging the ball between your legs before you bring it overhead. Ball slams aren’t kettlebell swings. You shouldn’t be swinging them in between your legs after you pick the ball up from the ground. While it seems like this could add momentum and make them easier, it doesn’t actually provide any benefit. It just takes you longer to complete each rep and puts the ball through an inefficient movement pattern.
Ball Slam Programming Considerations
How you program ball slams depends on your goals. If you want to improve your conditioning, I recommend doing 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps with a lighter ball. If you’re looking to develop more strength and power, I recommend doing 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps with a heavier ball (at a weight that you can still perform the movement correctly).
Slam Ball Pros
- Slam balls aren’t that expensive. Compared to wall balls, slam balls cost less pound for pound. This can come as a relief to home gym owners who are looking to add new equipment to their gym but don’t want to spend a lot of money.
- Slam balls are available in heavier weights. Since slam balls aren’t thrown as high as a wall ball, they’re available in heavier weights. Most people will be able to use more weight for ball slams than they would for wall balls.
Related Article: Best Gym Clocks & Timers (Bought & Tested 7 Different Types)
Slam Ball Cons
- Slam balls aren’t meant to be thrown against a wall. Slam balls can’t be used for wall balls because they won’t bounce off the wall so you can catch them. They’ll just slide down the wall as they come back down.
- Some slam balls can only be used on gym flooring. Some brands of slam balls aren’t sturdy enough to handle being thrown on concrete, gravel, or other kinds of rough surfaces. This is a drawback if you like to work out in your driveway or at the park.
If you want an alternative to slam balls, check out my other article on battle rope benefits, which can be used for many of the same reasons as slam balls.
Wall Balls vs Slam Balls: Which Are Better?
Whether wall balls or slam balls are better will depend on your goals, how much room you have in your gym, and what you intend to use them for.
When it comes to the wall ball and ball slam exercises, both will help you improve your overall conditioning, power, and coordination. However, wall balls are more of a full-body movement that targets the quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, pecs, triceps, and core. Slam balls work the lower body, but they target more of the upper back, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and core.
In terms of equipment, I prefer wall balls because they have more versatility. However, you do need to be careful when using them with ball slam exercises since they can bounce and hit you if you’re not paying attention.
That said, slam balls may be a better option for you if you don’t have a gym with high enough ceilings to do the wall ball exercise. Ball slams aren’t a perfect substitute for wall balls, but it’s easier to do them in gyms with low ceilings.
Looking for more wall ball substitutes? Check out my favorite wall ball alternatives that you can do with kettlebells, dumbbells, or your own bodyweight.
Wall balls and slam balls are two excellent pieces of equipment to have in your gym. However, they each serve different purposes and are meant for different types of exercises.
Wall balls are meant to be thrown against a wall. They’re not shock absorbent, so they’ll bounce back at you. They’re also larger and hold their shape better than slam balls, which makes it easier to throw and catch them. You can use them for ball slams, but you’ll have to pay attention to make sure they don’t hit you on the rebound.
Slam balls are shock-absorbent and don’t rebound when thrown against a hard surface. They have a hard rubber shell, but they’re a bit more pliable than wall balls. They also tend to be more durable than wall balls since there aren’t any seams to stitch together. They’re better suited for slamming into the ground since they won’t bounce back up and hit you in the face.
When it comes to the wall ball and slam ball exercises, both can be used to improve explosive power and conditioning, so you really can’t go wrong with either one.
About The Author
Amanda is a writer and editor in the fitness and nutrition industries. Growing up in a family that loved sports, she learned the importance of staying active from a young age. She started CrossFit in 2015, which led to her interest in powerlifting and weightlifting. She's passionate about helping women overcome their fear of lifting weights and teaching them how to fuel their bodies properly. When she's not training in her garage gym or working, you can find her drinking coffee, walking her dog, or indulging in one too many pieces of chocolate.