Medicine Ball Slams Ultimate Guide

While there are few shortcuts to developing a strong, lean, and powerful core, some exercises can help us get a few steps closer to our aesthetic and performance goals. Medicine ball slams have been a widely used explosive movement in sports performance training and are being seen more frequently in gyms and training facilities around the globe.

To help shed some light on this powerful exercise, I put together the ultimate guide to medicine ball slams to help you gain core strength, promote more power, and increase your injury resilience.

***In the video above, I perform a series of forward and side slams to promote serious power and shed some bodyfat in a metabolic circuit

Muscles Worked

Medicine ball slams are a dynamic, explosive, and highly metabolic exercise that does not simply “target” one muscle group (or a few for that matter). On the surface level, the below muscle groups are the primary movers of this exercise, however as time goes on and fatigue sets in, nearly every other muscle in the body in one way or another may become involved as a secondary or tertiary mover.

  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteals (hips)
  • Erectors (lower back)
  • Anterior Core Muscles (abdominals and obliques)
  • Quadriceps
  • Biceps
  • Lats
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Serratus

You can see that the list of muscles basically follows the order in which they become most involved. From the floor, the primary movers are the posterior chain, core, arms, and back. As the medicine ball reaches greater heights and eventually is taken overhead (while brief), the upper body, especially the pressing muscles come into play. Finally, the forceful slam from the overhead position requires great strength and power in the core, serratus, lats, and anterior chain.

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Why Should You Do Medicine Ball Slams

Below are three reasons why you should start doing medicine ball slams in your conditioning pieces, core workouts, and/or explosive fitness training.

Metabolic Conditioning Purposes

Med ball slams are about as dynamic and full range of motion as we can get with an exercise, which is great when looking to include metabolically challenging movements that stress a wide array of muscles and physiological systems. When performing slams, you train the legs, back, arms, and core in an explosives and non-explosive manner, taxing the muscular and nervous systems. When done in repeated fashion, the aerobic systems (and anaerobic) must kick in to supply enough energy/ATP to fuel this high octane movement. The result is increased work capacity and anaerobic endurance when med balls slams are incorporated in a high intensity workout.

Rotational Power and Force Development

Nearly every athlete, regardless of sport, needs to be able to promote, absorb, and react for forces throughout a wide spectrum of angles to best promote force, power, and injury resilience while in motion/under load. Rotational training via medicine ball slams and throws can be an amazing exercise to develop coordination, athleticism, and strength in a ballistic environment, one that can simulate sprinting (rotational forces of the pelvis), throwing objects (hammer throws, javelins, shot puts, random rocks with your friends), and yes, hitting things (football, baseball, fighting, etc). By using med ball slams (specifically the variation below) you can learn to fully utilize all of your core structures to promote force, increase power, and protect your spine during controlled and ballistic movements.

Alternative to Olympic Lifts in Beginners, Elderly, or Injured

While it is hard for me to say it as a weightlifter, as a coach I know that not everyone needs to be doing the Olympic lifts (gasp). While performing snatches and cleans are a very trainable process for any age (I have taught newbies all the way up to 60 year olds how to snatch, clean, and jerk), easy regressions can be made by using medicine ball slams to develop the proper mechanics and abilities needed to promote force through the floor and extend upwards like a rocket after countdown. Many individuals may benefit from performing medicine ball slams over the Olympic lifts due to ease of use, lack of injury to shoulder, knees, and wrists, and simply because they are highly functional to ground based actions (such as picking up grandchildren, rocks in the garden, etc). While I personally feel it is very hard to replace the power behind a snatch or jerk, the medicine ball slam does provide ample stimulus to beginners, elderly trainees, and/or injury athletes.

Medincine Ball Slam Variations

Below are three primary slamming variations, each of which can be done with heavier loads for increased strength or lighter loads, for increased power development.

Side / Rainbow Slams

Side to side slams (or rainbow slams) are a great way to add some rotational training into your slamming routine. Simply rotate the entire body as you slam the ball a few inches from your pinky toe, making sure to pivot the feet and bend the back knee as you come into a split squat/lunge position to prepare for the next rep.

Forward Slams

This is the most common way of performing medicine ball slams, which promotes many of the benefits discussed throughout. This can be done at slower velocities with heavier loads to work on strength, or with lighter loads to promote power development. This video does a good job of demonstrating that this exercise is to be done explosively and aggressively. It’s called a medicine ball SLAM, not a medicine ball DROP…

Rotational Slams

Lastly, rotational slams (more like throws/tosses) can be done by rotating the torso to slam the ball against a wall or partner that is next to you (throwing the ball in a horizontal direction, parallel to the floor). This is highly beneficial to sports athletes, fighters, and anyone looking to maximize their ability to promote, react, and absorb force from a wide array of directions. The video below shows how this movement can easily be modified to train youth athletes as well.

More Medincine Ball Slam Articles!

Take a look at some of our other medicine ball articles and take your core and metabolic training to the next level.

Featured Image: @ecfitness on Instagram

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