Slam balls are a type of exercise equipment that fitness professionals love for their bulk-building, explosiveness-enhancing, and power-producing perks.
Here, learn more about slam ball benefits and the best slam ball exercises.
Smaller than medicine balls, filled with the same stuff as sandbags (LOL, sand), and covered with tire-lick tracks, slam balls are basically heavy-ass dodgeballs that weigh 20+ pounds (but slam balls that weigh less are also available at most sporting goods stores).
In the name of fitness gains, you can use one of these bad boys in a variety of ways:
- Throw it.
- Slam it.
- Toss it.
- Hold it.
- Carry it.
- Rotate it.
Sure, slamming spheres of sand for fitness purposes is fun and all, but slam balls have more uses than that.
Depending on the weight of the ball and your current fitness level, you can use slam balls for a variety of exercises, including:
- weighted Russian twists
- rotational throws
- chest passes
- slam ball walks
- overhead slam ball walks
- weighted sit-ups
- front squats
You know what’s inside the slam ball, but here’s what’s in it for you if you use one, according to strength and conditioning specialist Alena Luciani, founder of Training2xl.
1. They strengthen your core
Regardless of the exercise you’re using the slam ball for, odds are it works your midsection, according to Luciani. (FTR: Most weighted exercises do.)
What’s the big deal? “The core is the powerhouse of the body. It’s what allows you to really tap into the strength on your arms and legs,” she says.
Your core also functions as your spine’s bodyguard. “A lot of people who complain of back pain would notice [it] lessen if they strengthened their core,” says Luciani.
That’s because the midline musculature encourages proper posture, keeping your back from rounding this way and that, both during day-to-day activities and while lifting.
2. They beef up explosiveness
Yes, you can use slam balls for a variety of movements. And many of them can be categorized as plyometric movements — movements that build power.
Research has found that plyo movements improve jump height (read: explosiveness) in as little as 6 weeks. Impressive.
“I’d recommend slam ball plyometric movements to anyone competing in sports or athletic events,” says Luciani.
3. …especially upper-body explosiveness
In a way few other exercises do, slam ball moves (like the slam ball slam, chest pass, and rotational throw) improve upper-body explosiveness. That’s amazing, since most other upper-body plyometric movements (think: clapping push-ups) are wayyy less accessible to all fitness levels.
Luciani notes that good upper-body explosiveness is key for athletes, especially those participating in the following sports:
“Even for sports that you might not think you’d benefit from having upper-body power (like soccer), you’d benefit from having upper-body power,” she says.
4. They’re safer to use than medicine balls
If you’re the type to use a lot of force when slamming the ball, Luciani says slam balls should get the nod over medicine balls.
Why? “Rubbery medicine balls have the potential to bounce back up and hit you in the face after you throw them,” she says. But because slam balls are much heavier, they don’t pose the same threat.
“Obviously, it’s not ideal for an athlete [or anyone] to endure injury while in training,” Luciani adds.
How you incorporate the slam ball — as well as how heavy a slam ball you use — will vary based on your goals!
If you want to build power…
“If your objective is to build power and explosiveness, do your slam ball exercises at the beginning of your workout,” says Luciani.
Ideally, you want to launch into slam ball work right after a dynamic warmup. That way you’ll have the energy needed to bring the HEAT to your slams and chest passes, for example.
Luciani warns that waiting until after you do a WOD or strength training session could result in “not being able to bring the needed intensity to your reps to build power and explosiveness.”
As for how many reps to do: “Single digits,” says Luciani.
“When you do these explosive movements at the high, high, high intensity required, they take so much energy to execute perfectly — and are so taxing on the central nervous system — that you want to do a low amount of reps and rest between each rep as needed,” she says. Makes sense.
If you want to build muscle mass…
Swap your usual weights for a heavy (think 50 to 150 pounds) slam ball and use it in your strength block.
For example, you might do 5 sets of 8 slam ball deadlifts supersetted with 5 slam ball rows.
If you want to improve cardio…
It’s also possible to do slam ball movements as part of an AMRAP, or circuit, so long as you pick a weight you can move with while maintaining good form for the required 10+ reps at a time.
You could also build a workout from just one slam ball movement. For example, you might do 100 slam ball over-the-shoulder tosses. Spicy!
Your budget and fitness goals will lead the way and weight here.
Available in increments from 8 to 40 pounds, Rogue’s D-Ball Medicine Ball Slam Ball is excellent for indoor, high-rep usage. Titan’s Rubber Tread Slam Balls are better for outdoor, lower-rep workouts.
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. Follow her on Instagram.