Written By Derek Smith
Wall Balls. We see it in the Metcon and immediately cringe of the thought of doing…..wall balls. For a lot of our athletes, wall balls are a movement that can drain your energy in the workout. For others, it can be a bit of an awkward movement, catching a 14+ pound med ball, squatting, and throwing it at a 9 or 10’ target. There are many different factors each athlete dislikes wall balls, but it is an integral part of CrossFit and a movement that can become one of our strengths. In this blog, I will be giving some pointers to help our athletes that struggle with Wall Balls become better at a movement that they otherwise despise.
Before we tackle some pointers on how to improve our wall balls, lets go over the standards. As prescribed (Rx) for most workouts, athletes need a 14/20 pound med ball and an 8’ or 10’ target. The wall ball is performed by first squatting below parallel while holding the med ball in an upright position. Once you reach the bottom of your squat, you explode through your legs and push the wall ball towards the target. Rinse and repeat!
Here are some tips to help us improve the wall ball!
Setting up for the Wall Ball, we need to find proper distance from our target. Too many times, we as coaches, see athletes too close or too far away from their target and this can be inefficient. To find this distance, extend your arm out to where you can touch the wall or rig with your fingertips. This should put you roughly 20-25 inches from the wall/rig. As always, you can adjust according to your comfort level, but don’t move in or out much more than where you are at. Once you find the distance comfortable for you, place your feet in Squat stance, slightly outside of your hips with your feet turned out slightly. We are squatting with each rep, so you want your knees to travel over your toes.
Hit the bottom of your squat
By not squatting to full-depth, you can actually use more energy by trying to slowing your body during the squat. Hitting the bottom of our squat allows you to “bounce” out of the bottom and use that momentum to drive the ball to the target.
In our starting position, you want to keep the med ball as close to your body as possible with your hands slightly under the ball. You want your wrists about 6 inches apart. Think about a “chest pass” in basketball terms. If your hands are on the sides of the ball, it can lead to your chest falling forward and giving the perception that the ball is heavier than it is. As the ball comes off the target, make sure your hands are in a good receiving position. In the receiving position you should be standing with your hands near the middle of your face or slightly above. You want to catch the wall ball in the same spot every time. Once the ball makes contact with your hands, begin your squat.
Save your shoulders
In high rep wall ball workouts (Karen), your shoulders can start to burn, especially if you keep your arms extended while waiting for the wall ball to reach its target and come back down. A couple ways to save your shoulders is to break up the reps in smaller sets, but as you release that last rep, drop your arms and shake them out. Once that ball it’s the floor pick it back up and keep going. Another method is to drop your arms to your side after you release the ball, but then bring them back up to catch the ball on each rep. This method takes some practice, but it allows you to save your shoulders through high rep workouts.
Oxygen is key in our Metcons. In order to perform multiple reps in a Metcon, we need to learn to not hold our breath and breathe thoughout the movement. This is soooo true with wall balls. Focus on exhaling when pushing the wall ball to the target, and breathing in while the ball is on its decent. Be sure to stabilize your body through the squat and find a rhythm to your breathing. This will help control your heart rate and keep the oxygen flowing!
I hope these tips help! Now get out there and practice, practice, practice
About the Author
Derek Smith is a CF-L1 Coach, and has been coaching CrossFit since 2014. Derek works in Louisville but he, his wife, and his daughter live in Southern Indiana, so he frequents and coaches at both 4B locations. He’s passionate about making an impact in people’s lives through fitness, and loves helping people get their first pull-up, muscle-up, or reach any hard-fought PR.