A different kind of Wall Baller, Travis Ewart.

How to Become a Wall Baller in 3 Simple Steps
Written by Kaitlyn Kassis

The keys to becoming a baller at wall balls – a Wall Baller – is 1) to be able to identify the common faults in the movement and whether you are falling victim to any of them; and then 2) know how to fix your issue(s). This might take a little help to identify and a little practice to fix, but here’s my list of the common faults when performing wall balls and what to do about them.

1) Ball Positioning
The most crucial component of wall ball efficiency is the position from which the athlete catches and throws the ball. Ideally, this catch and throw are done from the exact same spot. Any deviation from the position is simply wasted energy. One of the most common faults in a wall ball is catching the ball too low. If an athlete catches a wall ball below the face, the athlete will then have to raise the ball back up before they are in a proper position to throw the ball to a target. This fault in positioning not only requires an unnecessary expenditure of energy, it also puts the athlete in an improper position through the squat portion of the movement. If the ball is caught too low, the weight of the medicine ball will pull the athlete’s body weight forward, shifting the weight into the toes and causing the chest to drop. As with any squatting movement, if body weight is pulled forward, the athlete will be unable to properly engage their posterior chain, leaving the athletes quadriceps to take the brunt of the workload. Over the course of a workout like “Karen” – 150 wall balls – for time, this poor positioning is costly.

How to Fix it: Think “wall ball in front of face”. Every time an athlete squats they should be staring directly at the ball. The goal in this position is to try and create a rack for the wall ball to rest in, as it is prepares to be launched. How would an athlete’s upper body look in a comparable movement like the barbell thruster? Chest tall and upright, with elbows slightly in front of the bar through the entirety of the squat. We do not want the athlete’s elbows pinned against the torso as they descend into the squat, otherwise the athlete will be inclined to “dump” the weight forward. The same philosophy applies to the wall ball. Tall and upright chest, with elbows away from the body to support the weight if the ball directly in front of the face.

2) Timing of the Toss
Another common fault with the wall ball is improper timing of the toss. An athlete loses efficiency through the movement if the ball is thrown either too early or too late. For the most part, the weight of the 20/14# medicine ball is light enough that an athlete can get away with poor timing and still salvage the rep. However, over the course of 150 wall balls in the benchmark workout “Karen”, this inefficiency would have a detrimental effect on the athlete’s fatigue and performance.

How to Fix it: The timing of the wall ball toss must occur simultaneously as the athlete reaches extension at the top of their squat. If the toss happens after an athlete has reached extension, the athlete has lost all drive from the lower body and has essentially segmented the movement into a squat + strict press with a medicine ball (core to extremity violation). More commonly, we see athletes initiate the throw too early – before the hips have reached extension. With this fault the athlete is simply not utilizing our lower body efficiently. We want a powerful kinetic chain of energy that starts with the athlete’s legs through the squat, moves into the violent extension of our hips, which then transfers into the toss of the ball. If the athlete misses out on this hip extension, they have shorted their maximum potential chain of energy.

3) Ball Spin
A very minute, but important, detail when it comes to the wall ball is the spin of the ball as it is released from the toss. A common (and frustrating) reason for an athlete receiving a “no-rep” in a wall ball occurs when the wall ball is thrown to the proper target height, but fails to actually come into contact with the target. This happens when the ball is thrown straight into the air, with little to no forward momentum or trajectory.

How to Fix it: In a picture perfect set of wall balls, the medicine ball will “kiss” the target and drop back into the athletes hands in a position that allows them to move through repetitions seamlessly. Since the athlete is standing in front of the target, they need the ball to travel ever so slightly forward as it approaches the target, and slightly back as it descends. The toss is not straight up and down like the press of a barbell thruster. One way to solve this problem is to toss the ball with no spin, angled at the target, with an amount of force that creates enough impact with the target, that it fall back into the athlete’s hands. A more efficient solution is to create the slightest amount of forward rotation on the ball as it travels upwards. This will allow the athlete to throw the ball with less expended energy behind the toss, but still allow the ball to move toward the target after it is released. In the long run, this can save an athlete’s arms from fatiguing for a longer duration of time. This spin on the ball does not need to be dramatic, and can be performed by rotating the thumbs from a 90 degree angle in front of the face, to a 45 degree angle toward the ceiling as the ball is released from the hands. This will create enough rotation to make the ball path to and from the target as efficient as possible.

And there you have it! You now have most of the tools you need to be a wall baller. The final one is up to you – mental fortitude! Go now and conquer throwing a ball into the wall!

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