In the upcoming NLI competition this weekend, one of the workouts consists of mostly wall balls with a few handstand push ups in between. Since wall balls are one of my goats, I decided to do a google search on wall ball technique to see if I could pick up on a few small points to focus on and hopefully improve my wall ball efficiency. It turns out that no individual website had a good compilation of information, so I’ve decided to share a short summary of my findings with all of you. Most of the tips have been covered by our coaches at one time or another, but it was a good refresher to look at them all again.
1. Elbow position
When you catch and toss the wall ball, try to keep your elbows either straight up and down or angled slightly inward. This position sets you up much better for tossing the ball to a target above your head. If you let your elbows angle outward when you catch and toss the ball, a couple of things can happen. One, when you catch the ball with elbows out it’s much easier to allow the ball to drop lower or out in front of you, moving your center of gravity away from you, making the movement much tougher on your back and making it less efficient. Two, when you toss the ball overhead, your shoulders aren’t in the most effective position to get the most force on the ball. Compare this to the position you would use to shoot a basketball, you don’t see professional basketball players taking a shot with their elbows pointed out.
2. Head and neck position
If you’ve ever done the workout “Karen” (150 wall balls for time) you may notice that your neck can get tired spending all of that time looking up. Some people suggest trying to keep your head and neck in a neutral position for as much of the movement as possible. This part takes practice because you still want to be able to see your target and see the ball to catch it, so you’ll need to figure out at what points you may need to look up a little more and at what points you’re okay just seeing the ball in your periphery. This leads to the next point about your position relative to the wall.
3. Position relative to the wall
In order to keep a more neutral head position and still have the ball in your peripheral view, you may need to step away from the wall a little bit. In general, most people end up standing too close to the wall which makes it harder to toss the ball at an angle so that it can bounce off the wall and come back to you. If you’re too close to the wall, you may miss the wall and the ball will fall straight down in front of you, or if you do hit the wall, it may end up falling on top of you or a little too close to your face. One day, it might be a good idea to take some time to find your “sweet spot.” Try gradually moving away from the wall until you no longer feel like you’re craning your neck, but you’re also not catching the ball too far in front of you and hurting your back.
4. Glute activation
This last tip is tied to pretty much every movement in CrossFit, especially ones where you squat…keep your glutes active. Active glutes will help you to stay under control at the bottom of your squat and soften the blow as the ball lands in your hands. Keeping your glutes active will also help you to drive the ball upwards as you stand out of the squat so that your shoulders and arms aren’t doing all of the work to make that ball hit the target.
Over the last couple of days I have spent some time focusing on these ideas. Keeping the elbows in will feel a little awkward if it’s not something you’ve done before, but I’ve definitely found it to be helpful. Head and neck position/position relative to the wall takes a bit of fine tuning, but they’re relatively easy fixes if you put the time and effort into it. When it comes to glute activation, just do it! For more information about the origins of wall balls in CrossFit and additional tips, there’s a free link from the CrossFit Journal website called Functionality & Wall ball if you’re interested in doing a little extra reading.