One of the popular exercises used in Crossfit(r) is ‘Wall Balls’. Wall Balls are both very simple and crazy hard. Wall Balls are a full body weight bearing exercise and are great for rapidly strengthening the core muscles of the abdomen and lower back while improving overall conditioning. They are also plyometric (more on that later). While no doubt previously done informally by many, Crossfit seems the first to have formalized it as an exercise sequence.
In sports such as basketball or lacrosse wall balls are traditionally a series of drills done against a wall. Here they are done with a definite Crossfit burnout (metabolic overload) twist. The Crossfit idea of a Wall Ball is to throw a medicine ball upwards against a wall, catch it in a squat position and then explosively spring back out of the squat throwing the ball back up. Then squat catch, spring up and throw, squat catch, spring up and throw – and repeat sequence as many times as specified.
Medicine ball training is one of the oldest forms of strength and conditioning training. A medicine ball is a weighted ball and is traditionally roughly the diameter of the shoulders – 14 inches. Medicine balls were a staple of 18th and 19th century English gyms and early references to Persian wrestlers training with sand filled bladders date back almost 3000 years.
To do a Wall Ball start out facing the wall about 12-18 inches back. The throwing motion is much like basketball – start out by sinking down and keep your elbows down with the ball held evenly close to the chest. Unlike basketball, you descend all the way into a squat position, and then explode into a throw. It is important to do a full squat – your rear should hit a medicine ball if one was placed on the floor behind you. Whether you take one breath per throw or two, breathe deeply and calmly, synchronizing your breath with the throws. Keep your movements even and smooth on both the ascent and descent.
The extension of the leg muscles as you catch and sink into the squat, then their rapid contraction with the throw is the plyometric part. Plyometric exercises are designed to develop and increase muscle power. Plyometrics emphasize the rapid stretch of a muscle followed by a rapid shortening of the same muscle. Simple bouncing jumps are a good example. Like the Crossfit-style squat-thruster, the Wall Ball is basically a squat-push press combination done continuously with a light weight as a plyometric exercise.
In Crossfit workouts Wall Balls are often done as part of a couplet or triplet series along with sit-ups, pull-ups, or some Olympic lift such as push-press in a 21-15-9 sequence. For example a triplet of 21 Wall Balls followed by 21 pull-ups and 21 weighted push-presses, 15 Wall Balls, 15 pull-ups, 15 weighted push presses, and finally 9 Wall Balls, pull-ups, and weighted push presses.
Originally the goal was to throw the medicine ball up 8-9 feet, but with the advent of the Crossfit games the standard became 10 feet for men and 8 feet for women. The usual specified Rx weight (“Rx” is short for ‘as prescribed’ in Crossfit terms) is a 20lbs for men and 14lbs for women. You often now find lines at these heights scribed on the walls of Crossfit gyms. Check out your local one and see..!
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