Wall Ball Exercise Alternatives

Wall balls are a popular movement seen in functional fitness competitions, WODs, and everyday fitness. Squat patterning and increased work capacity are two benefits of performing such an exercise (less beneficial for strength and power however, so stick with squats and Olympic lifts to increase those).

In some instances (injury, skill level, lack of proper equipment) wall balls/wallballs may not be feasible, however coaches and athletes should still work to accomplish training goals/outcome with comparable exercise to not sway from their goals.

In this article, we will discuss such wall ball exercise alternatives and provide brief rationale for the inclusion of each as a wall ball exercise alter alternative.

Why Do Wall Balls?

Here are three reasons why wall balls can be beneficial to all athletes., not just for CrossFitters.

Metabolic Conditioning

Wall balls are a full range of motion exercise, employ muscles from all over the body. The legs, gluteals, core, back, shoulders, and arms are all asked to produce force, absorb force, and repeatedly react. This movement is a great way to build work capacity in a highly functional movement patterning (squat with press) that is ideal for athletes and non-athletes alike looking to find different alternatives to running or other monostructural conditioning modalities.

Functional Movement Patterning

The squat to overhead movement is an ideal movement patterning for nearly every human to learn and perfect. The wall ball can be used to increase patterning and skill in the proper squat patterning due to the front loaded movement (heels down, back vertical, and core braced). Lastly, the wall ball can be used to warm-up for strength and power sessions as it entails both active and passive control thought the fullest of ranges of motion.

Scalable Movement

No matter the fitness level, wall balls can be a great way to introduce squat mechanics. The cyclical nature will allow the brain to home in on the skill of squatting, with the front load and overhead finishing position forcing proper balance and core strength in all phases of the squat.

Wall Ball Exercise Alternatives

Sometimes coaches and athletes want to modify or progress certain movements to best fit the abilities and goals of their athletes. Below are a few wall ball exercise alternatives that can be used to increase work capacity, improve squat patterning, and can easily be modified to fit most individuals needs.

Kettlebell Thruster

The kettlebell thruster is an advanced movement that increases the demand on coordination, core strength, unilateral control, and upper back strength. In a previous article we discussed the kettlebell thruster and the immense benefits it can offer athletes of all sports and abilities.

Ball Clean

While this does not entail the ball to go overhead, this movement can be good for building work capacity and functional movement in individuals who may have issues or special considerations while going overhead. By modifying the wall ball to a ball clean you still enable a cyclical movement pattern and relatively similar movement pattern to allow for scalability working group settings.

Squat Jumps

While air squats could also be used, squat jumps done at moderate intensity (so not all out) can be a great way to patten squat mechanics, develop some triple extension capacities (let be clear that wall balls are NOT a power or strength exercises though!), and highly scalable for all levels. The lack of an overhead component can decrease slightly the heart rate response, although not significant is the athlete is jumping off the floor (increase energy demands).

More Functional Fitness!

Take a look at some of the top functional fitness workouts and articles below!

Featured Image: @wodphotography on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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