If you’re going to buy one piece of home exercise equipment, make it a slam ball. Like its cousin the traditional medicine ball, the slam ball can be used in place of free weights for resistance training. But its compact, rubber construction and combination air/sand innards make it more durable and less bouncy. That makes it a more versatile workout instrument— and a great way to let off some pent-up rage. What’s not to love?
Since the beginning of time, aggressively chucking an inanimate object has been man’s preferred form of stress relief. But throwing stuff, explains Pete McCall, a personal trainer and adjunct faculty in Exercise Science at Mesa College, can also make your workout more efficient. “Throwing a slam ball is the application of muscular power, which does a couple of things,” he says. First, it allows you to expend more energy (read: burn calories) in less time “Throwing things and explosive lifts let you do more work in less time,” says McCall. Secondly, explosive movements use Type II muscle fibers, which are responsible for muscle size and definition.
Ready to burn calories, build muscle, and release pent-up rage and frustration? Here’s a slam ball workout to try. You’ll need a moderately heavy slam ball (start with 15-20 lbs.), a durable surface, such as a driveway or garage floor, and a brick or cement wall. A desire to smash things also helps.
Warm Up: 400-meter Weighted Run
Cash in with a quick weighted run. You may find it easiest to carry the ball on the shoulder of your dominant arm, but switch sides as needed. Pay attention to your posture, keeping the shoulders back and the core muscles engaged. About the equivalent of five city blocks, 400 meters is short enough to sprint, but resist the urge to come out too hot—there’s plenty of work ahead.
Next, complete three rounds of the following as fast as possible.
1. 16 Overhead Slams
Why? “This is a great move to integrate upper and lower body muscles,” says McCall.
How to do it: Straddling the ball, stand with your feet about shoulders’ width apart. Keeping your chest up and your back flat, squat down and reach for the ball with both hands. As you stand, lift the ball up and overhead. The ball should stay close to your body and travel upward in a straight line. Once the arms are fully extended overhead, squat and drive the ball into the ground. Be sure to maintain control of the ball at all times, releasing it no more than few inches above the ground. “When slamming the ball into the ground, push your weight back into the hips and keep the arms straight to use the lats (back muscles),” says McCall.
2. 16 Alternating Reverse Lunges
Why? Like the forward lunge, reverse lunges work the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. But reversing the movement, McCall explains, reduces the strain on the knee joint. Adding a slam ball ups the muscle-building potential and enlists the core muscles.
How to do it: Hold the slam ball at chest height and stand with the feet hips’ width apart. Step a few feet back with the right foot, landing on the ball of the foot. Lower the back knee until it just hovers above the ground. The front knee should be bent at a 90-degree angle. “When returning to a standing position,” says McCall, “focus on pulling yourself forward with the hamstrings of the front leg by pushing the foot into the ground.” Continue for the remaining reps, alternating sides.
3. 8 Lateral Slams
This ball slam variation targets the abdominal muscles, and it may even improve your golf game. “The lateral ball slam is a great move for rotational power, which is often overlooked,” says McCall. Stand with the right side of your body facing a sturdy wall (start about a half an arm’s length away from the wall and adjust as needed). Holding the ball at waist height, turn the shoulders, hips, and feet away from the wall, then quickly rotate toward the wall, using the power of your engaged core to throw the ball at the wall. “Rotate the feet and the hips,” says McCall. “Both should turn at the same time.” Catch the ball on the rebound and return to the starting position. Complete eight reps on one side and switch.
4. 16 Goblet Squats
Why? Like any squat, these work the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. But frontloading with a slam ball will also force you to keep the core engaged.
How to do it: Stand with the feet about hips’ width apart and the toes pointing forward. Hold the ball at chest height by cradling it with both hands, creating a goblet-like shape with your arms. Hinging at the hips, drive your butt back and bend at the knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Be sure to keep the back flat and the chest up. “When standing,” says McCall, “press the feet into the floor and push the hips forward to activate all of the hip and upper leg muscles.”
5. 16 Medicine Ball Push-Ups
Why? This advanced push-up variation, because it introduces an element of instability, is more challenging than your standard push-up.
How to do it: Start in a plank position with the feet a bit wider apart than usual (this will help you maintain balance). With one hand on the floor, position the ball under the palm of the other hand. Keeping the neck neutral, the back flat, and the elbows drawn in toward the body, lower the chest until it hovers just above the floor. Using the chest muscles, push the floor away from the body until the arms are straight. Complete eight reps before switching the ball to the other side.
6. 16 Weighted Sit-ups
Why? You’ll feel these in the rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscles), and the overhead movement adds some shoulder activation.
How to do it: Sit on the ground with soles of the feet pressed together and the ball at chest height. (If this position is uncomfortable, simply bend your knees and keep the soles of the feet on the ground.) Lean back in a controlled manner and bring the ball overhead with slightly bent elbows. Touch the ball to the floor behind your head. Bring the ball forward and engage the abs to sit up. Your shoulders should be directly over the hips. Repeat to complete the remaining reps.
7. 8 Overhead Throws
Why? This movement engages the entire body, from the calves to the shoulders, but specifically develops explosive hip power. Stand a few feet away from a high, sturdy wall.
How to do it: With your back facing the wall, hold the ball with both hands, dip into a quarter squat, and throw the ball overhead and back toward the wall. “Focus on triple extension (of the hips, knees, and ankles),” says McCall. “Rolling up on the toes, extend the knees and hips while exploding the ball overhead — like a reverse jam basketball dunk.” Turn around to retrieve the ball (or have a partner toss it back to you) and repeat.
8. 400-meter Weighted Run
Once you’ve completed three rounds of the above, cash out with a second 400-meter weighted run.
Complete this workout once and you’ll understand just how potent an exercise partner a slam ball can be.