Medicine balls are a common accessory at most fitness clubs, but if you look closely, you’ll start noticing a slightly different type of exercise ball that packs a heavier workout punch: the slam ball. So what makes a slam ball any different than a medicine ball? Like medicine balls, slam balls are designed for adding weight to traditional calisthenics, but they’re also heavier. Although medicine balls can be bounced, they aren’t designed to take the same beating as slam balls –much heavier versions of those cruel gym-class dodge balls you may have encountered in elementary school.

Adding weight to an explosive throw, slam balls draw on and increases muscle strength, power, and coordination. Because they bounce, you’ll be able to repeat reps faster than with a dumbbell or kettle bell for an integrated, intense cardio/strength training combination. Retrieving and throwing the slam ball engages the shoulders triceps, abdominals, quads, glutes, calves, and back — a dynamic, full-body workout with only one piece of equipment. If you’re an athlete, the hand-eye coordination practiced while catching and throwing may also improve your sport-specific skills. Slam ball enthusiasts of all kinds find that ‘slamming’ things around is a great outlet for stress!

Using a slam ball is extremely simple, so the next time you notice one at the health club, pick it up and give it a try. If you’re not sure which exercise balls are slam balls, or don’t see any available, just ask a staff member for assistance. To ensure you’re engaging your hips and not rounding your back, some trainers recommend you first practicing throwing it down to the ground from a kneeling position. Once you’ve practiced form, the simplest movement with a slam ball is to pick it up, raise it over your head, and throw it down to the floor with as much force as you can. Here are a few other moves you can perform with this versatile exercise tool:

  • Weighted sit ups
  • Sit up throws
  • Seated Core Twists
  • Plyo Press
  • Push-up Tucks
  • Arc slams
  • Single-arm push slams
  • Slam with a side skip
  • Slam jumps
  • Burpee slams
  • Hop Twists

    For a solid 30-minute slam ball workout, warm-up for 2-3 minutes, then complete about six moves for 30-45 seconds each (or however many reps you can muster), and repeat the circuit 3-4 times. As for choosing the right weight, trainers recommend beginners start with 6-8 pounds, intermediate with 10-12, and advanced with as much as 16-20 pounds. Take it slow at first, focusing on proper form before attempting to pick up the speed. As with any exercise that involves twisting and squatting, make sure to protect your back and knees and engage your core.

    Although you can most likely find a number of slam balls to use at your local fitness center, they’re also easy to use and store at home in between trips to the gym. If you’d like to keep your slam ball (and avoid others’ sweat), you can purchase one online or in a sports equipment store for as little as $30.