The slam ball may be the simplest and safest tool for developing total body power in particular both anterior core and rotatory power. In fact, slam ball training has a host of benefits and can be used to improve performance or may be used as a means of general training. It conditions the body for general fitness and serves as a catalyst for better elastic power if used correctly. It’s great for warm-ups and for a restorative workout for speed athletes. You can also use it as part of an explosive training program for anyone who wants to maximize their strength and power. Other benefits of slam ball training include:
- Developing explosive power - If used correctly slam ball progressions can both safely and effectively increase your explosive power.
- Allows muscles to contract at high velocity, similar to those encountered in sports.
- Converts all the strength and stability developed through other core exercises into usable power.
- Safe, adaptable and effective tool for developing hip and core power; viewed similarly to Olympic lifting and plyometrics.
- Facilitates injury resilience by raising the body’s capacity.
- Kind on the wrists as the ball depresses when weight is applied.
- Total body conditioning effect that requires little space or equipment; the ball and a hard surface.
Which Slam Ball Size Do I need?
A fairly light ball, if you have any doubts about the weight go down 1 or 2 kg, the key to slam ball training is velocity, it’s the force you project does the work not the weight you throw, save the heavier slam balls for an external load you will be happy to drop during a squat, carry, press or hinge. You will also require a hard surface, slam ball training is better when performed against a hard surface like a wall or the floor; this allows you to throw as hard/fast as you can without fear of breaking something.
Preparing for Exercise
The warm up is just as important, if not more important than the main part of your gym session and should be a staple of any workout. This warm up is great for overhead hip speed training where you are moving the ball quickly, such as a workout incorporating throws, slams, cleans and presses where your hips and shoulders need to be wide awake. It could also be used for single arm upper pushing work, or as a general full body warm up.
During this workout there is a rotational core element involved. Therefore, in our warm up we are doing some rotational core work to strengthen, as well as prepare for what is ahead. (This helps you use your core to brace so you can press the weight.) The slam ball twists are a great way to get the oblique muscles working, as well as your upper back muscles.
The Warm Up
- 10 Tall Kneeling slam ball push Press, rest 30 sec.
- 12 Single leg ball touch (alternating one leg at a time – 6/leg) rest 30 sec.
- 10 Half Kneeling slam ball Twist (10/per side) rest 30 sec.
- 20 m Goblet loaded duck walk, rest 90 sec
1. Tall Kneeling Slam Ball Push Press
This position doesn’t offer you a very solid base of support to press from. To build a solid foundation you must control your hips and torso by squeezing your glutes and core tight during the press, enhancing the overall effect of the press. This motion will compliment any workout by opening up the hips and shoulders, getting blood flowing and making sure muscles are firing before going into dynamic contractions.
2. Single Leg Slam Ball Touch
This movement prepares you for extension and rotation, with a hip hinge motion it forces you to engage at the hips rather than the lumbar spine. Extension of the back leg fires up the glutes and hamstrings while the reaching hand turns on both the lumbar and thoracic extensors. The key is to get as long as possible to really engage the posterior chain. The instruction is to reach back with the right foot while reaching forward to touch the ball with your right hand, then alternate for the prescribed reps.
3. Half Kneeling Slam Ball Twists
The half kneeling position allows for hip rotation by effectively taking out the knees and the ankles, forcing you to use your hips and glutes to generate power. This coordinated rotational drill is a great way to wake up the muscles in the back and core whilst building mobility in the shoulders and hips. Start slow and light and build speed and weight as you feel comfortable.
4. Goblet Loaded Duck Walk
Duck walks are a great way to work on lower body mobility, flexibility in the hips and ankles as well as train your hips for stability. Spending time here in the bottom of the squat will be challenging in itself, however by adding the goblet makes for a terrific core exercise too; this exercise will fire up the core ready for action.
A1. 10 Slam Ball Bench Press, rest 45 sec x 3 sets.
B1. 10 Tall Kneeling Chest Throw, rest 30 sec x 3 sets.
B2. 10 Half Kneeling Side-Twist Throw (10/per side) rest 30 sec. x 3 sets.
B3. 6-8 Single Arm Rotational Chest Throw, rest 90 sec x 3 sets.
B1-B3. Superset these three movements with 30 seconds rest between exercises.
C. 5 sets not for time:
8-10 Clean and press
8-10 Overhead slam to floor
20 Russian slams (10 per side)
Super-set these three movements with 60 seconds rest between sets
A1. Slam Ball Bench Press
Lie on your back with arms extended and have a partner drop a ball, receiver the ball
This is a great exercise for developing upper body power as it does not stress the shoulders like exercises such as plyometric push ups do. The slam ball is a great tool for this exercise as it will safe your wrists and fingers as they are softer and easier to handle when dropped.
- Lie on ground with back flat and knees bent
- Hold slam ball with arms extended over chest
- Lower ball to chest and drive ball straight up by explosively extending arms
- Catch ball and immediately perform next rep
Alternatively you may prefer to have a partner assist you by having them stand over you and drop the ball onto your extended arms and have you throw the ball back. Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 12 reps, with a 45 second rest between sets.
B1. Tall Kneeling Chest Throw
This tall kneeling position was emphasised during the warm up and develops power of the pushing and pressing muscles. This plyometric exercise takes the strength developed in exercises such as the bench press and creates a transfer to sports performance and functionality.
- Begin in a kneeling position facing the wall, two to three feet from the wall.
- Hold slam ball at chest and drop the hips allowing the bum to touch the heels.
- Drive through pushing the hips forward as you push pass the ball at the wall with full force.
- Collect the ball and immediately perform next rep.
Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 10 reps, with a 30 second rest between B2.
B2. Half Kneeling Side Twist Throw
This position was another that was emphasised during the warm up and focuses on hip rotation by effectively taking out the knees and the ankles, forcing you to use your hips and glutes to generate power. This movement is known as a long-lever rotation not a push; a good side throw should look like a swing or a good sporting shot.
- Begin while half kneeling in a short lunge position, two to three feet from the wall.
- Your arms long and your upper body twisted away from the wall.
- Hold the ball with the front hand under the ball and the back hand behind.
- Drive from the hip sending the ball at the wall with velocity.
- Perform 10 reps and switch sides.
Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 10 reps/per side, with a 30 second rest between B3.
B3. Single Arm Rotational Chest Throw
The final exercise in our tri-set combines a rotational throw with a chest throw, allowing you to use hip rotation to transfers energy from the feet, through the shoulders and to your hands. The chest throw is done with one arm from a staggered stance and the emphasis is on adding a trunk rotation component to a unilateral upper body throw.
- Stand side on, 3 or 4 feet in front of a wall with feet staggered and hip-width apart.
- Keeping your core tight, contract your glutes and rotate your body quickly to explosively throw the slam ball at the wall, pivoting your back leg as your body turns (similar to a punch).
- With arm farthest from the wall, use your entire upper body to push and release the ball toward to the wall as hard as possible.
- Perform 6-8 reps and switch sides.
Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 6-8 reps/per arm, with a 90 second rest before returning to B1.
Clean and Press
This exercise is a variation of the Power Clean and Press and involves a dynamic slam ball toss; this is where you York Barbell slam ball comes in nicely. This more closely mimics an athletic movement and is easier on the body than the Power Clean Press, while still developing lower-body triple extension and upper-body pressing power. Also great about this exercise: it forces your muscles to store energy after performing the clean segment, which you then unload to press the ball overhead.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and ball between your feet.
- Bend your knees slightly and hinge at the hips to reach down and grab the ball with both hands.
- Keeping chest above hips, explosively extend hips, knees and ankles while shrugging with straight arms.
- Pull ball close to body, drop into squat and catch ball at shoulders
- Explosively extend lower body and arms to drive the ball overhead for a maximum height.
Perform this exercise for 8-10 reps before moving onto the Overhead Slam with no rest interval.
Overhead Slam to Floor
This exercise is a simple and effective movement to teach integrated force production, hip extension, coordination, and core control. This can help to engage and promote explosive and controlled movements throughout the torso. When done repeatedly, this exercise can be a very functional movement to increase work capacity and move throughout a multi-directional range of motion.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, in a nice tall position with your heels raised slightly off of the floor.
- Forcefully slam the ball down to the ground with the intention of breaking the floor/ball!
- As you send the ball towards the floor hinge at the hips, sending you butt back and follow through with your arms.
- Lift the slam ball back to the starting position and repeat.
Perform this exercise for 8-10 reps before moving onto the Russian Slams exercise with no rest interval.
This rotational high speed slamming exercise uses the external load of the slam ball as a tool to overload your core and develop a very tangible impact on your body’s ability to handle physical stresses. Through adding a slamming element to this rotation you are able to generate both explosive power and core strength by providing you with a lot of overload on your rectus abdominus and your obliques. Work on performing reps to alternative sides to ensure both sides are adequately stimulated.
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet raised up off the floor.
- Ensure you are able to maintain the starting position without a weight before adding a load.
- Hold the slam ball with both hands, directly in front of you.
- Quickly, but smoothly, contract your abs and twist your torso to your right hip and slamming the ball to the floor beside of you.
- Return to centre and proceed on to slam the slam ball to the floor on the other side of you.
Perform this exercise for 20 reps (10 per side), with a 60 second rest before returning to first exercise of the tri-set.
Perform each exercise for the prescribed number of sets and reps (on each side for rotational throws). Don’t attempt to increase the volume or load, instead throw harder and with better technique; if the ball is light enough 8-10 reps should seem plenty and can be performed with no loss of power or velocity.
Progress or regress the exercises to meet the demands of your individual needs. For example, with the wall passes you can progress to standing and adding movement to the throw as you become more confident; stepping towards the wall with the front foot to increase the force being generated from the back foot.
Enjoy and be sure to tag me in your workouts!
Written by Ryan Thomas (Instagram: @Uncle_muscle_)