Slam Ball vs Medicine Ball — and 3 Exercises for each

Slam balls and medicine balls are great pieces of fitness equipment that you can use in your pursuit of being able to chase your kids around. They're also pretty versatile in case you have some aches and pains to work around.

In this article, we'll talk slam ball vs medicine ball. You'll also find three exercises that you can do with each (with video) and examples of how you might incorporate them into your workouts.

Black and yellow medicine ball next to a woman's shoes on a mat

You may not be a natural athlete but you can build strength, power, and resilience by incorporating some power training in your workouts.

"Power training" sounds a little bro or maybe even a bit scary but fear not, it's for everyone (including and especially older adults¹).

Explosive exercises don't have to mean box jumps, hang cleans, and other Olympic lifts. In fact, you shouldn't start there.

Think about learning to land or catch before jumping and throwing.

Power training can help you improve your balance. You perform an "explosive" movement when you catch yourself as you try not to fall up the stairs. (I call it a "speed boost")

If you have a medicine or slam ball handy then you can perform fun power movements but there are a few key differences between the two.

Let's talk about the differences between medicine balls and slam balls.

In addition, other questions answered in this article include:

  • Can you use a slam ball as a medicine ball? (maybe)
  • Can I use a slam ball as a wall ball? (probably not)
  • Are slam balls worth it? (again, maybe)
  • What is a good weight for a slam ball?
  • Does a slam ball bounce? (barely)
  • Which is better slam ball or medicine ball? (it depends)

Skip ahead if you want to see quick demonstrations of the exercises.

Experiment with them in your warm-up and during your workout. The way we incorporate power exercises in small group personal training at SSF varies based on both the client and the purpose. We'll show you a few ways to do the same.

What's the Difference Between a Slam Ball and a Medicine Ball?

The differences between a slam ball and a medicine ball include:

  1. Common weights - Medicine balls usually weigh 4 to 30 pounds while slam balls range as high as 50 to 150 lbs.
  2. Density - Medicine balls are often much larger than slam balls in diameter.
  3. Materials used - Medicine balls are often softer and stitched while slam balls are made of reinforced rubber.
  4. Pricing - Heavier weights and more durable materials generally cost more. This can make slam balls more expensive.

The exercises you choose will shape which works best for you.

(You can find 150-pound medicine balls but, they're not as common).

Can You Use a Slam Ball as a Medicine Ball?

You can use a slam ball as a medicine ball, for throwing but, you probably shouldn't.

There are a couple of downsides to using slam balls in strength training:

  • Slam balls can be difficult to catch without injuring your fingers.
  • They're designed to hit the ground and thud without bouncing back.

If you're performing non-explosive movements with lighter weights, you likely won't notice a difference but try not to interchange the two.

Can I Use A Slam Ball as a Wall Ball?

You can use a slam ball as a wall ball but, it's not recommended.

The benefit to using a medicine ball (or wall ball) is that it’s a little softer. Medicine balls aren’t meant for slamming but are good for throwing and catching. You can easily throw a medicine ball against the wall or to a partner participating in an exercise with you.

By using a medicine ball, you’ll be able to focus on a good eccentric (catch) and concentric (throw). Both are important for developing power in multiple phases.

If you plan on stringing together multiple reps, don't plan on using a slam ball for a wall ball - unless you want to squat down and pick it up each time.

Are Slam Balls Worth it?

Slam balls are worth it if you plan on doing a lot of well, slamming.

Medicine balls at heavier weights can be a little large and awkward for you to move in exercises like Russian twists. The density and size of a slam ball will allow you to move a bit easier.

Medicine balls seem to retain their shape for quite a while but the stitching can start to come apart on you if you use them for slamming pretty frequently.

Slam balls are often rubberized and specifically designed to absorb force.

If you have to choose between the two, it might be helpful to think about what kind of weight you’ll need to progress into.

What is a Good Weight for a Slam Ball?

A good weight for slam balls depends on the move that you want to use them for.

Your slam ball should move fast if you're using the exercise for power. If you're looking for strength, you might try to increase weight as allowed. (It's hard to say how much weight you should use)

If you don't know how to pick weights based on goals, this chart might be handy:

NSCA Guidelines Based on Training Goal

Training Goal Reps Sets Load (%1RM) Rest Time
Strength ≤6 2-6 ≥85 2-5 min
Power: (Single-effort) 1-2 3-5 80-90 2-5 min
Power: (Multiple-effort) 3-5 3-5 75-85 2-5 min

Source: Program Design for Resistance Training 20162.

What are Three Great Slam Ball Exercises?

Three great exercises that someone can do with a slam ball include things that don't require a catch:

  1. Squat throws
  2. Slams
  3. Russian twists

Slam Ball Slam

Kneeling Slam Ball Throw

Slam Ball Russian Twist

What are Three Great Slam Ball Exercises?

  1. Med ball kneeling chest pass
  2. Med ball scoop throws
  3. Single leg hop to med ball throw (advanced)

Kneeling Medicine Ball Chest Pass

Half-Kneeling Rotational Medicine Ball Throw

One-Leg Hop to Medicine Ball Throw

Remember, your intent here is to be powerful.

Quick coaching tips:

  • Think about performing power exercises for sets of 1-5 reps for most of the above - minus the twist.
  • On the twist, you might perform 8-12 reps each direction with 1-2 minutes of rest between sets.
  • If you need to perform an overhead throw at a facility that has a lower ceiling, try using a heavier ball.

Try adding the slam or throw to the beginning of your next workout to help prime you for success.

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Sources:

  1. Fragala, Maren S., et al. “Resistance Training for Older Adults.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 33, no. 8, 2019, pp. 2019–2052., https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.00...
  2. Sheppard, J. M., & Triplett, N. T. (2016). Program Design for Resistance Training. In 955580880 744355483 G. G. Haff & 955580881 744355483 N. T. Triplett (Authors), Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (Fourth ed., pp. 439-467). Champaign, IL, IL: Human Kinetics.