A CrossFit staple, the “wall ball” is a taxing full-body move—an explosive front squat with a medicine ball that you release at the top. With no more than 20 pounds of resistance, wall balls check off a ton of boxes that even non-CrossFitting gym rats can appreciate: They work your entire lower half, delts, triceps, and core, ramp up your metabolism, and boost cardio.

“Wall ball shots are a great conditioning tool and supplemental movement for leg hypertrophy work,” says Bill Shiffler, C.S.C.S., owner of CrossFit Renaissance in Philadelphia (renaissancephysique.net) and a competitive amateur bodybuilder. “The lower-body muscles respond well to high reps, so the fact that they require light weight shouldn’t deter bodybuilders from doing them.” Also, it’s an ideal exercise for HIIT cardio and fat loss because of the maximum muscle recruitment.

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To effectively execute wall balls, you’ll need a medicine ball (anywhere from five to 20 pounds, depending on your fitness level), a ceiling at least 10 feet high, and a solid wall (e.g., brick or cinder block), not to mention a hearty dose of pain tolerance and grit. Here are a few key wall ball cues, courtesy of Shiffler:

Wall Ball 101

  1. Stand in front of the wall at roughly arm’s length, holding a medicine ball in front of you (in line with your upper chest, elbows tucked in), ready to throw it vertically.
  2. Perform a full squat, exploding up from the bottom and using the momentum to throw the ball up. Aim for about 10 feet each time.
  3. Catch the ball on the way down and go right into the next rep. Sets of wall balls should be done with a certain rhythm—not rushing through the reps but done continuously, with as few breaks as possible during the set.

Try the following workout, “Karen,” a classic high-rep CrossFit WOD.

Karen WOD

Directions: Perform this workout at the end of a lifting session or on its own for a quick yet intense metabolic conditioning routine.

For time: 150 wall ball shots, with a 20-pound medicine ball

Bonus Workout

Prefer traditional sets? Start out with two to three sets of 15 to 30 reps, resting one minute between sets. Reduce rest time and increase reps over time.

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