We all know the feeling of being exhausted in the middle of a WOD, when you think to yourself “I have how many Wall Balls left?” It can be a dreaded feeling, especially when you’re gassed and feel like you’ve got nothing left. The worst part is knowing you have lunges and snatches right after. Wall balls don’t have to be miserable. We’re going to teach you the optimal way, to perform Wall balls, also called “ball shots”, which will help wall balls become one of the strongest functional movements in your CrossFit WOD.
Wall balls are a fully functional compound movement, which requires nearly every muscle group of your entire body. Relatively easy once you start incorporating them, there are a few tips and tricks, that will turn your wall balls, into one of your strongest movements during your WOD.
1. Ball Positioning
Before you start wall balls, ball positioning could be the most important factor when performing an optimal ball shot. Remember that the ball is a weight and that the further away from your body that weight gets, the heavier it will seem.
Always keep the ball close to your body, tucked under your chin, and near your face. When you’re first starting out, it can be somewhat challenging to catch the ball close to your face, without grazing your moneymaker, especially when you’re fatigued. With each ball shot catch the ball towards the bottom and position your hands near the sides. Pushing your focus to the catch will help set you up for an optimal ball shot, every time.
2. Keep Your Forearms Vertical
The last thing you want to do during your wall balls is to look like a chicken. Keep your forearms tucked vertically so that you can generate more power and push from the catching position.
One of the biggest mistakes in form can occur, from when you catch the ball, and it draws your arms down and out. From the moment you release, to the moment you catch the ball; make sure your arms are vertical. Think of your forearms as the pointing to the target of where the ball should go. This will ensure your elbows fall beneath the ball.
3. Triple Extension
In terms of functional movement, think of Wall balls as being similar to a thruster. Power is generated through your hips, knees, and ankles (called, triple extension), from the squat position. As you extend through the movement, full hip extension is critical to remove the brunt of the weight from your shoulders. When fatigue sets in, we tend to use less of our triple extension, and more of our shoulder strength, which can be detrimental to the following movements in your workout. Make sure to use explosive movement throughout the entirety of the movement, to ensure the ball is propelled, with optimal energy.
4. Keep Your Squat Depth
As Versalifts would say, Depth Matters. The standard of squat depth is for the hip crease to break the plane of your knee joint. There’s nothing more infuriating than when your box-mates, miss the full flexion of passing the plane of their knees, and basically half rep their way through wall balls as they celebrate and gloat in triumph.
If you need practice finding your most optimal point of where your hip crease falls below the plane of your knee joint, place another ball behind you. You’ll graze the top of the ball each time, to ensure you’re reaching maximum depth.
In addition to squat depth, your form also plays a crucial factor in performing optimal ball shots. The goal is to thrust or bounce from the squat position as you propel the ball, and absorb the weight of the ball as your momentum carries you down. Ensuring you have good positioning, (feet shoulder width apart, slightly pointed out) will guarantee good form and stable movement.
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5. Give Your Arms A Break
Keeping your arms fully extended during your wall balls, can increase fatigue, at a rapid rate. If you want to maximize endurance, then it’s critical to expend your energy when you need it and to save it where you can.
After propelling the ball towards the wall, let your arms drop down for a moment, before raising them again in the vertical position, to catch and absorb the ball. This may sound counterproductive, but the sight rest in between your reps, will give your shoulders, and deltoids a break that adds up quick, and that will help reduce your upper extremity fatigue.
6. Time Your Breathing
One of the most overlooked aspects to performing wall balls is breathing. You tend to forget, because you’re so focused on catching, squatting, and positioning, that it becomes easy to forget the breathing part. But, timing your breathing can become one of the most important aspects to help you fight fatigue, and keep your heart rate under control.
From the starting position, as with any other movement, as you extend and release, breath out. When you absorb the ball, reload, and squat, breath in. If you can master this 1:1 breathing progression, your endurance, and VO2 will improve, helping you fight fatigue, and getting you to the next movement, no problem.
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7. Keep Your Momentum
Losing your momentum during wall balls can cost you precious time that you won’t be able to recover. Perfecting the movement will ensure your momentum is never broken, so you can fully optimize your times, and performance.
The flow of wall balls should follow a good rhythm, which means as you explode and extend, coming back down to absorb the weight of the ball as you fall into a squat position. Keep your hands high, and as the ball falls downward, it’s momentum will drive you down a well, where you will be able to spring back into motion upwards.
8. Measure Your Distance
To ensure you’re fully optimizing the correct wall ball techniques, you need to ensure that you’re standing the right distance from the wall.
If you stand too far from the wall, you’ll end up leaning forward to catch and absorb the ball, which will break your momentum, form, and throw you off balance. With your posture tilted forward, you’ll lose more time, and expend more energy.
Stand in front of the wall, with the ball at chest height in the goblet position. Extend your arms forward until the ball touches the wall. This should provide you with the most optimal distance, to crush your wall balls during your WOD.
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