The 3 main types of exercise balls you will come across are slam balls, wall balls and medicine balls. Slam and wall balls have become popular since the rise in functional group training classes like F45, while medicine balls are a classic type of training equipment that can be used at all levels of fitness.
(Read to the end for a bonus calorie-burning workout video)
Here is a guide to the main differences:
Slam balls are the heaviest and the most durable. The outer shell is usually tough and made of rubber. These balls have been designed to withstand constant throwing on the ground and have no rebound which allows the user to throw it down as hard as possible without it bouncing back up. This is because of an internal bladder that is filled with sand-like metal filings.
The most common exercise is the slam; in which the user lifts the ball above their head and throws it to the ground with force, then performs a squat to pick up the ball and repeat 10-15 times for 3 rounds (watch video below to see how). This improves cardiovascular fitness along with overall strength working shoulders, triceps, abs, quads, glutes, calves and back.
Slam balls in larger sizes are also excellent for people who train for strongman comps as balls range from 4kg to a WHOPPING 100kg.
They can be used in place of free weights in many exercises such as squats & lunges; however, they are most effective for slamming exercises.
As the name implies, these balls are used for exercises that make use of walls in some way. Wall balls have been designed to absorb impact and are usually larger than both slam & medicine balls. They can be up to the size of a beach ball and range from 4kgs to 15kgs. They are much softer and have a slight bounce to them. Usually made of vinyl with an outer layer of padding making them easily visible and safe to throw and catch while exercising.
Common exercises are wall throws, wall squats & wall sit-ups. All of these incorporate throwing the ball at a wall either directly upward or laterally across the body in a twisting motion towards the wall, then catching it again before repeating the steps (watch video below to see how). This allows the user to train a wide variety of muscle groups including; core, glutes, hamstrings & shoulders and can be worked into many cardio and circuit workouts.
Wall balls are great for more explosive movements, mainly revolving around variations of throws and are commonly used in fitness competitions and high-intensity training.
Medicine balls date back well over one hundred years and are primarily used for rehab work and strength & conditioning training.
The distinguishing features are a firm, grippy texture about the size of a basketball that will bounce if dropped. Balls range from 1kg to 10kg and are typically made of leather, rubber or plastic and are sometimes manufactured with handles to make holding the balls easier.
Medicine balls are used for standard lifting exercises, functional training and core work. They are great for ball work exercises with training partners like sit-ups and excellent for users concentrating on sports-related movements, as they replicate the use of a ball. Add them to any workout in place of dumbbells for an extra challenge.
MAKE THEM LAST
Each exercise ball is designed for a certain function and has been created with appropriate materials. Using medicine balls for floor slams may damage them as they don’t take impact the same way a slam ball will, plus you might get hit in the face from the high rebound... so be careful!
Here's a workout that incorporates some fun ways to use these three exercise balls, so grab some balls and get SLAMMING!
BALLS TO THE WALL WORKOUT
- Wall Ball throw x 15-20 reps
- Wall Ball sit-ups x 10-15 reps
- Wall Ball kneeling cross body throw x 10-15 reps each side
- Repeat x 2-3 times
- Slam Ball floor slam x 10-15 reps
- Slam Ball shoulder toss x 10-15 reps
- Slam Ball sprawl x 10 reps
- Repeat x 2-3 times
- Medicine Ball reverse crunch x 10-15 reps
- Medicine Ball alternating twisting lunge x 20 reps total
- Medicine Ball reverse burpee x 10 reps
- Repeat x 2-3 times