Wall balls, despite being very simple in concept, are often performed by athletes with flaws that drastically increase the energy expenditure required to perform the rep. Aside from an athlete not completing a full squat or the ball not touching the wall above the target line, below are the two most common faults I see while athletes perform wall balls.
1. Ball Positioning
Of all the flaws an athlete can exhibit during a wall ball, the position the athlete catches the ball and throws it from has the most significant impact on the energy expended to complete the rep. The most common flaw is catching the ball too low, i.e. below the face. By receiving the ball too low, the athlete then has to raise the ball back up to a proper position in order to throw it to the target. Think about it for a second, I don’t shoot a basketball while I’m holding the ball at my waist. So if I catch the wall ball down near my waist, I will need to raise the ball back up to be in front of my face in order to throw it. The distance I just raised the ball is energy I am wasting to perform each rep.
Catching too low also negatively impacts our squat. The lower the athlete receives the ball in the catch, the more likely his/her weight will shift onto their toes in the squat allowing their chest to drop. This results in the athlete not being able to activate the hamstrings and glutes during the squat which ultimately leads to the quads taking the brunt of the work.
Ideally, we want to catch and throw the ball from the same position. The ball should not change position after our squat in order to throw it to the target. Think more about having the ball directly in front of your face when you catch it and stare while performing your squat.
Timing of the toss is another huge factor in regards to the efficiency of the rep. If the athlete performs the toss of the wall ball before reaching full extension of the legs and hips, the athlete isn’t fully utilizing the power from their legs and explosive extension of their hips to help throw the ball above the target. On the other side of things, if the athlete performs the toss too late, the movement becomes segmented and we have
wasted all the power we generated from our legs and our hips. By tossing the ball after already reaching full extension, the athlete is performing a squat followed by a strict press with the medicine ball. The athlete needs to focus on driving thru the legs and at the moment the legs and hips reach full extension (most athletes will naturally feel their heels lift off the ground at this point) is when the toss should be initiated.
We should be able to develop a rhythm when performing wall balls. We’ve all been there, wall balls are programmed in a wod and for whatever reason that day they just feel off - you are missing reaching the target line, or your balance in the squat is off. More often than not, this is a result of ball positioning or the timing of the toss. So remember, catch the ball in front of your face and maintain that position during the squat and also focus on seamlessly transferring the power from driving thru your legs to your arms to toss the ball above the target line.