I’m not sure if I’ve ever told anyone this before, but wall balls are my least favorite exercise ever.
Every time I go to create a new workout and see my giant red medicine ball sitting in the corner, I cringe. “Ugh, when was the last time I did wall balls,” I think to myself? “Do I really want to torture myself (and my readers) with those today?”
Too often, I end up avoiding them and choosing another exercise, for one main reason: wall balls suck.
They’re so hard because they not only work your lower body (during the squat), they work your upper body (during the push press) and make you gasp for air the entire time. But, as you might imagine, those same reasons are exactly why wall balls are so awesome and you should do them anyway.
First, here’s how to actually get started doing them:
How to do wall balls
First, grab a medicine ball—the weight you choose will vary depending on your current fitness level. Beginners to the exercise can start with a 6 or 8 pound ball, more advanced exercisers can start with a 14, 16, 18 or 20 pound ball.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, facing a wall and holding the medicine ball at your chest. Pul your shoulders back and keep your chest up high. Descend into a full squat, going as low as possible while keeping the medicine ball at your chest.
Immediately upon reaching your full squat, drive through the heels and stand up explosively. As you do so, throw the ball up into the wall. It should hit the wall at a height of about 10 feet. Catch the ball on the rebound, squat again, and repeat.
Got it? Good. Now here’s why you should do wall balls, even though they suck:
They make you functionally fit
In fitness terms, functional exercise includes any exercise performed in multiple planes using multiple joints—and is something that will help you in everyday movements, not just in the gym.
With that definition, wall balls are nearly the perfect functional exercise.
Just think about how many different scenarios require you to squat on a day to day basis. And how often do you have to lift something over your head? Probably more often than you think.
And together, the combination of these two exercises can give you an enormous amount of strength—if your arms aren’t strong enough to lift something above you on their own, you can add your leg strength to give you even more of a boost.
And it’s true: every time I go to lift a heavy suitcase into the overhead bin in an airplane, I’m thankful I’ve been diligent at doing wall balls.
So do wall balls, and feel the effects in real life.
They work your entire body
Since wall balls are essentially a combination of two exercises (a squat and a push press), they work a total of 11 different muscles in your body—a tremendous amount for a single exercise.
Muscles worked during the exercise include the quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, abs, lower back, chest, front deltoids, back deltoid, biceps and triceps. So, pretty much every muscle group you’ll ever want to work.
In fact, if you were to do only wall balls as a workout for an extended period of time, nearly every muscle in your body would get stronger, and you’d be in pretty good overall shape.
Improve overall conditioning
If you’re trying to get in shape for a sport, improve your V02 max, increase your endurance or just stop being out of breath after walking up the stairs, wall balls should be your go-to exercise.
Since wall balls are a dynamic movement—meaning you should be moving during the entire exercise—they’re not only a strength exercise, but also require a tremendous amount of work from your heart and lungs. Doing them often will increase your athletic performance faster than you can imagine.
Don’t believe me? Just try and do 100 wall balls in a row and tell me you’re not tired.
They increase overall power and explosiveness
When you’re at the bottom of the squat, butt squeezed, shoulder pulled back, abs tight, the only thing you should be thinking about is the spot you want the ball to hit when you rise up.
And especially when you’re exhausted and gasping for breath, you want to get the ball there the most efficient way possible. And the best way to do this is to use power and explosion to get it there.
Do them often, and you’ll get more and more efficient at being powerful and explosive during those times you need it most—whether it’s in your workouts or other sports.
So grab a medicine ball, find a wall, and do some wall balls! And watch as you get stronger, fitter and become a better athlete in no time.