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Test Your Mental Fortitude With Wall Balls!
Written by Zach Erick

Wall ball shots are one of my favorite movements in CrossFit. I look at wall ball shots as more of a game than I do an exercise. Whomever can hit the target _____ amount of reps within _____ amount of time is the winner.

For many people, however, wall ball shots are their least favorite movement. This could possibly be because of the coordination and accuracy component that wall ball shots require. It could also be the fact that, like the burpee, there is never an excuse to stop.

Building mental fortitude is a goal in every workout that we tackle, but I feel that no other workout tests our mental limits better than “Karen” — 150 wall ball shots for time.

If you haven’t attempted Karen yet and feel like testing your mental toughness, I highly recommend doing so.

If you can maintain composure through 150 wall ball shots, you’ll be mentally stronger for it. Why? The dynamic movement mixed with the light weight of the ball will set your quads and shoulders on fire. However, the weight of the ball is light enough such that, theoretically, you should never miss a rep.

That being said, this workout is all mental. No matter how much pain your body is in, physically you will not fail a rep. If you do fail a rep, it is likely because you talked yourself into taking a break or told yourself “I will die if I do another wall ball shot.”

A good strategy to get through Karen is to set small goals for yourself. There are a few different ways you can do this. You can either….

  • Set a goal for the amount of reps you’re going to achieve before you rest.  For example split the 150 reps into three sets of 50.


  • Only allow yourself (x) amount of breaks during the 150 reps. Sometimes this is a better option instead of limiting yourself to a specific number. You may get to the 50th rep and still feel great – so why not keep going?

It’s good to set small goals regardless of the movement or workout of the day, and it is equally important to set rest goals as well. Don’t drop the ball and pick it up once you can finally catch your breath. Give yourself a specific time domain, or a certain amount of breaths to take before you pick the ball back up.

If you really struggle with wall ball and it’s difficult for you to string together 10, let alone 50 at a time, here are some tips to make them a little easier!

  • Wear your Olympic lifting shoes: If you have poor ankle mobility or struggle to sit back on your heels as you squat, throw your Olympic lifting shoes on to give you a little bit more mobility in the bottom of your squat.

  • Give your neck a break: Most people keep their eyes on the target as they complete wall ball shots, which is good because if you look at the target you have a pretty good chance of hitting the target. However, this puts a lot of strain on your neck if you look nowhere else but up. As you catch the ball, try to tuck your chin back in and keep your head straight. Once you bounce out of the bottom of the squat you can then look up at the target.

  • Put your arms down: Once you throw the ball, quickly bring your arms back down before the next rep. If you keep your hands above your head while the ball is traveling to the target and coming back down, your shoulders are going to burn! Your shoulders are going to be on fire already from the high volume, so try to give them a little micro-break between reps.

On the other hand, If you are a wall ball master, here are some tips to make them more difficult!

  • GO HEAVY: Okay, this one is obvious but seriously works. During the CrossFit Open, if wall ball shots are programmed, they probably will not be over 20 pounds for the guys or 14 pounds for the ladies. During “off-season” train with a heavier ball so that when you’re allowed to use a “normal” weight ball it seems like it’s a treat. Guys don’t limit yourself to 30 pounds and ladies don’t limit yourselves to 20 pounds. Grab the 30-50 pound D-Ball and use that as your wall ball! Obviously the reps will have to be low if you use that weight in a workout (5-10 at a time.) For example:

AMRAP in 10-12 minutes:

5 Wallballs (50#/30#)
8 Strict Pull-Ups
100m Farmers Carry (as heavy as possible)

Next time you’re looking to knock out one of the mainsite “girl” workouts, keep Karen in mind. Make sure you read this article on “Breaking the Mental Barrier” by Josh Bridges for some extra tips and motivation before getting after it. Good luck and remember, you can always do one more rep.

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Carrie Sandoval (40-44)
Carrie Sandoval (40-44)
November 14, 2014 5:45 pm

Photo credit…. meeeeee! Woohoo! 🙂

Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson
November 14, 2014 2:02 pm

I personally don’t like wall balls because I’m still not in the best shape; have only been doing CrossFit for 3 months. I also have flexibility issues which make them challenging but these are fantastic tips and I will definitely incorporate them into my next WOD.

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