Wall Balls vs Slam Balls (Differences, Pros & Cons)
Medicine Balls have been a popular tool in strength and conditioning for decades. They are versatile and can be used for a wide range of exercises and movements, making them a great addition to almost any workout.
These balls are typically made of a durable material, such as rubber or leather, and come in various sizes and weights. They are also available in different textures, such as smooth or treaded, to allow for better grip for throws and slams.
Two specific types of medicine balls have become increasingly popular: wall balls and slam balls. While both types of balls do share some similarities, there are some key differences between the two that make them drastically different.
This article aims to highlight the differences between wall balls and slam balls so that you can make an informed decision about which type of ball is best for you depending on your goals and preferences.
Wall Balls become extremely popular with their prominent use within CrossFit. However, Wall Balls, or Soft Shell Medicine Balls, have been around much longer. I got to use Dynamax Medicine Balls, the original ‘Wall Ball’, roughly 20 years ago as an intern at the University of Tennessee.
Design and Construction
Wall Balls can vary depending on the brand, but many wall balls share very similar characteristics.
Almost all Wall Balls are 14″ in diameter. Wall Balls can range in weight from 4 pounds up to around 30 pounds.
Most are made with a synthetic leather outer shell and are filled with some combination of tissue paper and/or recycled rubber. What kind of materials the ball is filled with and how well these materials hold their shape after repeated use depends heavily on the quality of the ball.
The synthetic leather cover is stitched together in seams that run all over the medicine ball. The overall quality of the stitching, whether it’s double or single stitched, and how well those seams hold up over time is also dependent on the quality of the ball.
Wall balls are often used in a variety of workouts and exercises, including strength training, plyometrics, and cardio workouts (circuit training).
Common Exercises with Wall Balls include:
- Wall Balls (the exercise itself, squatting and throwing the ball high up on a wall)
- Medicine Ball Slams*
- Side Throws
- Chest Passes
- Seated Medicine Ball Twists
- Cannonball Throws
These are just a handful of the dozens of exercises you can perform with a Wall Ball.
*Most Wall Ball manufacturers will specify that they are actually not meant to be slammed and will void the warranty on the ball if you use it in that manner. This is (spoiler alert) one of the advantages of Slam Balls.
Want to do Medicine Ball Slams but don’t want to slam your Wall Ball? Here are my favorite Medicine Ball Slam Alternatives.
Benefits of Wall Balls
What makes exercises using a medicine ball uniquely valuable is their ability to focus on power development. While you would probably be discouraged to throw dumbbells across the gym, this is exactly what medicine balls are designed for.
You can generate maximum power each rep, releasing the ball at the end of each to head toward a partner, wall or just open space.
Additionally, using Wall Balls can help increase your cardiovascular endurance and burn calories, making them a great addition to any high-intensity circuit. Because you are generating max effort with each throw, you can elevate your heart rate pretty quickly when you do that kind of exercise repeatedly.
Slam Balls are medicine balls designed to be, you guessed it, slammed on the ground. Slam Balls came around because of the issue of Wall Balls getting torn up from being slammed against the ground or even concrete walls.
Design and Construction
Slam Balls are made with a thick rubber exterior and are generally filled with sand or a similar type of material.
Unlike Wall Balls, there is no common diameter for Slam Balls. I have one slam ball that is 9″ in diameter and another that is 11.5″ and they’re both the same weight. Speaking of weight, Slam Balls usually start at around 10 pounds and I’ve seen Slam Balls as heavy as 100 pounds.
Wall Balls exterior is designed to take an absolute beating, as you would expect for a ball that’s sole purpose to is be slammed. They’re also very malleable and do not bounce – at all. They respond to the ground in the way you would expect a bag of sand if you dropped it on the ground.
Common Uses / Exercises
Obviously, the main use for Slam Balls is for Slams.
However, their smaller diameter can make them easier to handle for exercises like Seated Med Ball Twists and Lunges with a Twist.
And, because you can buy them in weights of up to 100 pounds, there are a host of strength exercises you can do with a ball that size as well including carries, presses and squats.
The main benefit of having and using a Slam Ball is that they’re built like a tank (a rubber tank filled with sand). They can be excellent for helping for prolonging the life of your Wall Ball, if you have both, by removing the movements that are most likely to tear up your Wall Ball.
In addition to slams, because of their smaller diameter and heavier weight, there are many exercises that work better with a Slam Ball versus a Wall Ball.
Wall Balls vs Slam Balls: Which Should You Buy?
Whether you should buy a Wall Ball or Slam Ball comes down to two main factors:
What is your budget and what are you going to use it for?
If you have the budget, I would recommend getting one of each, especially if you have any intention of doing slams or throws against a hard surface. Even though some Wall Balls will hold up great against slams (more on that in just a sec), having a Slam Ball specifically for them will extend its life even longer.
If you don’t want to buy both, then I would look into a high-quality Wall Ball. Cheap Wall Balls are going to lose their shape and tear up quickly. However, a quality Wall Ball will do a good job for any medicine ball exercise you want to do (including slams) and still have the durability to last you quite a while.
I recently bought and tested 10 medicine balls of all brands and styles, including both Wall Balls and Slam Balls. To see which ones performed the best, check out my Best Medicine Balls for a Home Gym.
Both Wall Balls and Slam Balls are effective tools for improving strength, power, endurance, and coordination. The key differences between the two lie in their design and construction, use in workouts and exercises, and the benefits of each.
Hopefully, this comparison of these two different types of medicine ball has helped you decide which (or both) is best for your gym.