Wall Ball Exercises Are Great for Almost Everyone—Here's Why

Woman performs wall ball exercises in the afternoon


Don't be fooled by the cutesy name redolent of a childhood playground game—wall ball exercises are a serious matter. Made famous by CrossFit, which is notorious for its combination of intensity and varied equipment, wall ball exercises have become part of many fitness enthusiasts' repertoires for the results they produce.

Are wall ball exercises something you should be adding to your fitness routine? To find out everything we could about this topic, we talked to personal trainers Hailey Andrew and Jessa Olson. Read on to discover what we learned.

Meet the Expert

What Are Wall Ball Exercises?

Not surprisingly, wall ball exercises are exercises done with a ball and performed against a wall. Andrew tells us that the ball can be either soft or hard texture. Different from stability balls, the balls that can be used for wall ball workouts are either medicine balls or slam balls, which are weighted like medicine balls but have a more bouncy, rubbery shell. These balls are designed to be thrown aggressively at walls, and you should never use a type of ball that isn't made for this purpose. Olson says that you can do wall ball exercises "no matter where you are in your fitness journey," but that she tends to use them sparingly with beginners.

While a standard wall ball exercise is based on a squat move, there are numerous other exercises that can be done with a weighted ball against a wall.

What Are the Benefits of Wall Ball Exercises?

First and foremost, a ball for wall ball exercises is a small, inexpensive piece of equipment. That makes it accessible to almost anyone, no matter how limited on space they are for home exercise, provided they have a wall to bounce the ball against.

In addition to their accessibility from a price and size perspective, Andrew says that they are a useful tool no matter what your fitness goals are. "You can target as many muscles or as few muscles as you’d like according to the workouts you select to do," she says. In terms of what muscles they use, she says you can use wall ball exercises to "strengthen the upper body and involve the lower body and core, or to isolate certain muscles within the shoulder girdle and back and chest." Additionally, she says that "performing throwing or tossing exercises with the soft ball against the wall is great for those targeting larger multi-muscle groups, and those looking for a higher-intensity workout."

Selecting a Wall Ball

The balls used for wall ball exercises come in an assortment of weights, so you'll want to make sure to get one (or more) that suits your strength and fitness levels. "Picking a wall ball size is just like picking weights," says Olson. "The wall ball should be challenging, but not too light where you don't feel like it's working the muscle either. I like to start light, do one round of my exercises, then slowly increase in weight. It's a great way to challenge yourself and make the workout fun."

In addition to weight, Andrew notes that you'll want to "determine whether you’re going to need it to bounce off the wall or if you want it to absorb some of the impacts." That essentially means deciding between a medicine ball or a slam ball, based on how you want the ball to perform. She also tells us that "how grippy a ball is may determine which exercises you perform," meaning that you should be sure to select a ball that works with the exercises you want to use it for in terms of grip. "When throwing a ball against the wall I typically like to use the soft heavy ball," says Andrew. "When performing more therapeutic exercises that require a firmer rolling surface against the wall, I would choose a hard surface ball that looks more like a basketball."

Who Should (and Should Not) Do Wall Ball Exercises?

Both shoulder and back injuries preclude you from being a candidate for wall ball exercises. However, they can be used for rehabbing injuries, so this is something you'll want to discuss with your practitioner if that applies to you. Andrew says that wall ball exercises are "great for those who want to rehab their upper body and perform safe isometrics or small-movement, small-range motion exercises while still building muscle at a lower risk for injury."

She notes that almost anyone can perform therapeutic wall ball exercises with a harder medicine ball. "They do not need to be avoided by many people at all," she says, adding that they "are for the intent of isolating certain muscle groups to help prevent injury and or rehab muscles that have been injured in the past. I use these very frequently in physical therapy with my patients."

Provided you don't have any injuries that require assistance with workouts and you have some exercise basics nailed down—which is important before incorporating any sort of weights into your routine—a wall ball exercise may be a good addition to your fitness routine.

5 Wall Ball Exercises

Wall Clocks

  1. Stand with your shoulders squared to the wall and the ball in the center of one hand.
  2. Straighten your elbows to push the ball up against the wall.
  3. Create a clock motion on the wall. Andrew says to "roll the ball with your palm leaning into the wall with a straight arm up to 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, etc., until completing a full 12 hours."
  4. Switch arms so the ball is in your other hand, and repeat. "Go both directions and use a lighter-weight ball that you can manage," Andrew recommends.

Partner Crunch Toss

  1. Sit on the floor with your ball at chest height.
  2. Inhale, and roll your back to the floor until your head reaches it.
  3. Exhale, and sit back up. Squeeze your core as you roll up, then throw the ball to your partner. Olson says this will "target your core, chest, back, and shoulders."

Side Throws

  1. Stand six to eight inches from the wall with one side of your body facing the wall. Hold your ball with both hands, and extend your arms at chest height. 
  2. Engaging your core, rotate your torso away from the wall.
  3. Throw the ball against the wall as hard as possible, then catch it on the rebound.
  4. Repeat these steps on the other side of your body.

Wall Circles

  1. Stand with your shoulders squared to the wall and the ball in the center of one hand.
  2. Straighten your elbows to push the ball up against the wall.
  3. Roll the ball in a full circle. Andrew says the circle should be "as big as you can make it while still controlling the ball with one hand."
  4. Repeat with the ball in your other hand. 
  5. After using both hands, switch directions with the first hand, then repeat that same motion with the second hand.

Horizontal Rolls

  1. Stand with your shoulders squared to the wall and the ball in the center of one hand.
  2. Straighten your elbows to push the ball up against the wall.
  3. Using only your shoulder, not your elbow, roll the ball side to side. "If it’s easy, pick up the speed a little bit," says Andrew.

Related Stories