What to Consider When Buying Slam Balls
The most used equipment in my home gym is battling ropes, kettlebells, and slam balls. Combining these three pieces of equipment is a workout like no other. The focus is on slam balls for this article. You can click on the links for more information on battling ropes and kettlebells. I will say this; there is a lot of conflicting information on slam balls and what you can do with them. Some sites interchangeably use slam balls, traditional medicine balls, and wall balls when describing them and exercises performed with them. Slam balls are designed to be slammed. Wall balls have bounce and are designed to be thrown at a wall. Depending on the material's durability, some wall balls can be used as slam balls. Traditional medicine balls are not designed to be slammed. They will bust.
What Are Slam Balls?
A slam ball is a category of a medicine ball. They have a thick rubber shell filled with sand or a gel substance, and their surface varies between a smooth and a rough grip. They are designed to be handled roughly, so you can slam them with all your strength and not worry about busting them open. They have little or no bounce. Hence, the term "slam ball." So, if you are doing exercises that require the ball to bounce, a slam ball will not work. If you are doing exercises such as ball slams, a traditional medicine ball will not work. Medicine balls are a great asset to any gym, and having a variety of balls such as slam, traditional, and wall will offer a great selection of exercises to add to your routine. Slam balls come in a range of weights starting at two to a hundred plus pounds.
History of Medicine Balls
The history of medicine balls began over 3000 years ago. They are first depicted in ancient drawings of wrestlers in Persia using bladders filled with sand to train. Many civilizations used weighted balls, like Greece and Rome, where fitness training was a priority for gladiators, soldiers, and athletes.
The term "medicine ball" was first used in 1876. R.J. Roberts first used medicine balls in the Boston YMCA gym, and they have been fixtures in gyms ever since. (Heffernan, 2020) Medicine balls are popular more now than ever because of scientific evidence of their health benefits and the popularity of functional training. Functional training is performing exercises used in daily life, such as overhead presses, squats, and push-ups. Slam balls, wall balls, and traditional medicine balls all evolved from a creation thousands of years ago. They have withstood the test of time.
Benefits of Training with Slam Balls
Slam balls help develop overall total health and body benefits. These benefits include:
- Increase in cardiovascular and muscular endurance
- Increase in metabolic fat-burning
- Improvement in balance and coordination
- Increase in range of motion
- Increase in power and speed development
- Improve mental health
Training with slam balls has all these benefits because all three planes of motion are utilized:
- The sagittal plane-the body is divided into left and right halves with forward and backward movements. Examples are leg extensions and bicep curls.
- The frontal-the body is divided into front and back halves with side-to-side movements. Examples are side bends, and lateral arm raises.
- The transverse-the body is divided into top and bottom halves with twisting movements. Examples are push-ups and twisting lunges.
When using all three planes of motion, the entire body creates power. Slam balls can be used for cardio, strength, mobility, speed, balance, agility, and plyometric training. Plyometric training is quick, powerful movements involving a rapid stretch of a muscle followed by rapid contraction. Examples are jumping jacks and box jumps. Also, there is no dispute that exercise improves mental health, and slamming a ball on the ground is a great stress reliever.
Considerations When Buying Slam Balls
There are pros and cons when buying slam balls, but the pros outweigh the cons.
Pros of Buying Slam Balls:
It does not get much simpler than a ball. There are no parts to replace, hinges to oil, batteries to change, or hard-to-understand directions. The only two requirements are your body and a slam ball.
Slam balls do not require a lot of space. In a small area, you can perform ball slams, squat throws, lunge with overhead press, Russian twists, and deadlifts, to name a few. Unlike other pieces of fitness equipment, they are easy to store.
Granted, this depends on the weight of the slam ball and where it needs to be moved but compared to other forms of cardio and strength equipment, it is pretty portable. Putting a slam ball in my car is much easier than barbells, dumbbells, or a treadmill.
Buying weighted balls with different uses like slam, traditional, and wall is a lot cheaper than buying multiple pieces of equipment. Treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, and rowers can range in price from three hundred to well over three thousand dollars; a set of dumbbells can range in price from the low hundreds to the thousands range and the same with barbells and plates. All-in-one trainers and individual pieces of strength equipment will set you back a thousand dollars and more. The price of slam balls has a wide price range, too but will not break the bank. Two or three slam balls will cost under five hundred dollars. The cost of a fifty-pound slam ball ranges from fifty to over a hundred dollars. Reputation and durability count here. I would rather pay a higher price for a good quality slam ball than buy a cheaper one that does not hold up.
Slam balls have either a smooth surface or a textured tread resembling a tire. I like the textured tread because I can get a good grip, but some like the smooth surface. The biggest complaint about the textured tread is it hurts the hands because it is rough. The biggest complaint about the smooth surface is how slippery it can become when your hands are sweaty, resulting in not getting a good grip. Wearing lifting gloves can quickly remedy these complaints. Also, using chalk will help get a good hold on smooth surface slam balls.
Slam balls are designed for abuse and should be able to take the abuse of being slammed. The exterior should be a thick rubber shell—the interior filled with sand or gel. The filling will shift when used, which is supposed to do this. Space is left in the interior so the ball can absorb the impact of being slammed.
Hard surfaces are ideal for slam balls like concrete, gym flooring, and even the backyard. Slamming them in a house and an apartment is not recommended.
The weight you need depends on what exercises you will do with the ball, your goals, and where you are fitness-wise. Like any other equipment, slam balls should be approached using a progressive overload ladder with proper instruction and form. Good form and progression will reduce the risk of injuries. I would not advise picking up a fifty-pound slam ball without being correctly instructed and conditioned, just like I would not advise bench pressing two hundred pounds if you have never benched pressed before.
The weights of slam balls come in as little as two to over a hundred pounds. Depending on fitness and experience level, women's range should be between ten to twenty-five pounds; men's range should be between twenty to twenty-five pounds. As you gain more strength and experience, start climbing that progressive overload ladder.
Cons of Buying Slam Balls
Living in an apartment, mobile home, or anything with a weak floor.
Using a slam ball in an apartment would probably cause discord with your neighbors, especially if you live on the upper floor. Mobile homes and older houses with wood floors will not withstand the abuse of a slam ball.
Not Using Proper Form
Anytime you use something with a lot of force, especially if the weight shifts, proper form is a must! If the ball is thrown improperly, this will lead to injury.
The shifting weight might catch you off guard if you have never used weights like sandbags. The shifting weight serves two purposes: 1. It allows the ball to absorb the impact by not being filled completely; 2. It challenges your body to adapt to the shift in weight. Some people do not like the weight shifting.
A slam ball is a simple, durable, versatile, space-saving, and budget-friendly piece of equipment. It is incredible how something that developed thousands of years ago is still so instrumental today. The changes made are simple yet so effective. I would choose a slam ball workout any day of the week over a high-tech piece of equipment. There is no maintenance and monthly subscriptions. So, use your body and imagination, go back to the basics, and get to slamming.
ACE Certified Personal Trainer Owner of Kat’s Ironclad Fitness