You either love them or hate them but you can’t deny getting a total body workout with wall balls.
What makes the wall ball such a killer? First, it involves two weightlifting movements – the front squat and push press. Second, it works all three of your metabolic pathways at the same time. Very few exercises can do that.
A true wall ball is done by aiming at a vertical target 8-10 feet high with a 20-pound Dynamax Medicine Ball. The goal is to do 150 wall balls in 6 minutes or less. In CrossFit, it’s called the beloved “Karen“.
In order to do wall balls properly, you need to be able to perform front squats and push presses with proper form. If you’re not efficient in one or both, we recommend you practice them before moving on to improving your wall balls.
Also, if you’re new to wall balls, know that you don’t need to start with a 20-pound medicine ball. You can start with a 10-pound (or less if your box has them) and work your way up. The same goes for the target. Start with the height you can hit consistently and work your way up to 8-10 feet.
6 Wall Ball Tips So You Can Dominate
- Find your sweet spot in front of the wall
Your distance should not be too close or too far. You want enough space so you can throw the ball up and catch it without having to reposition yourself.
- Lock your eyes on the target
Pick a spot on the wall and focus on it. Do not take your eyes off that spot – even when you’re descending. Don’t worry about the ball. If you’re push-pressing and squatting at the same rate, you won’t lose it.
- Breath diaphragmatically
This type of breathing means breathing through your diaphragm, not your chest. This will help you synchronize your breathing with your movement.
It will also help minimize breathing noise (or sounding like you’re about to pass out). Inhale as you descend. Exhale as you ascend.
If this concept is new to you, you can practice it anytime, anywhere. Here’s a quick rundown (You can do this sitting or standing.):
- Envision your stomach as a balloon
- Inhale and let your stomach expand (similar to filling a balloon with air)
- Exhale and start contracting your abdominals. Your stomach should start flattening out (similar to letting the air out of the balloon)
Not only will this improve your body’s use of oxygen, it will make your abs work when doing any exercise.
- Hands should be just below the ball
If you hold or catch the ball on the sides, it will be difficult to throw as high as you want and it may slip out of your hands when you catch it.
At worst, it can make you lean forward and lose your squatting form and possibly bang your forehead on the wall.
Your hands should form the top of an hourglass and the ball should “rest” on them. But make sure your wrists are not touching. Your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Throw using your drive speed
When you push press, the speed in which you come out of the dip is fast. Don’t let it go out the window during a wall ball shot. Extend the hips fast and throw the ball up like a hot potato.
- Catch the medicine ball on the same spot every time
Move your arms in a controlled manner. As soon as you make contact with the medicine ball, start descending into the squat.
The Movement Broken Down
Wall balls are executed with a front squat and followed through with a push press (or a thruster). You can make them more challenging as you get better by increasing the weight of the ball or the height of the target.
The Front Squat
- Keep feet between hip and shoulder width apart
- Toes pointed out so your knees track your toes and not buckle in
- Hold the medicine ball at chest level
- Your elbows should be close to your ribcage (but not pressing on it)
- Keep back straight
- Squat down keeping torso upright
- Let your hip crease go just below the knees
- Once you’ve hit bottom, quickly stand up by pushing with the heels
The Push Press
When ascending from the squat:
- Bring the hips to full extension
- Drive the medicine ball up by throwing it at the target
When doing wall ball shots in a row (why would you do just one, right?), all reps need to look identical. Ideally, they should be smooth so you don’t look like an un-oiled or malfunctioning robot.
CrossFit 918To date, Mike Weaver holds the record of 150 shots at 10 feet using a 20-pound medicine ball in 4:52 minutes. It may sound daunting but with practice and persistence, it’s possible to get there.
A great resource when starting out is the CrossFit Journal Articles titled “Functionality & Wall Ball“, there’s a list of milestones to help you with Karen. Go ahead and give it a try. She won’t bite.
If you have tried Karen, what is your best time? Leave a comment below and let us know.