The three best slam balls for your training

They might punish your body, but they will leave your floor (or wall) as good as new – no matter how hard you throw them

Don’t be fooled by the many misnamed slam balls out there. For the purpose of search engine hacking, numerous medicine balls – or other ball-shaped exercise devices – are entered into online shopping cart systems as “slam balls”. A true slam ball should be fully, or at least mostly, cushioned upon impact with a stable surface, most commonly a floor or wall. As legendary MMA trainer Greg Jackson explained to me, slam balls are great for conditioning, but when they bounce back and can smack you in the face, the only thing that gets conditioned (or rather, broken) is your nose / Your jaw /teeth, and exercise shouldn’t be that hardcore.

So what’s the use of a ball that doesn’t bounce? I’m glad you asked. A slam ball allows you to use all the power of your muscles to propel an object in a specific direction over and over again, as you can slam the ball to the ground and catch it after a very small bounce and then repeat the ballistic throw. In short, you can reliably perform repetitive movements with relatively heavy weights in a way you never could with dumbbells, kettlebells, or other heavy exercise equipment that wasn’t designed to be thrown and then stop their inertia.

Three things to consider when buying a slamball

1) Resilience: There’s not much that can wear down a product faster than repeatedly hitting it on surfaces that yield zero. Even if your slamball is designed for such collisions, it won’t last forever; So get the ball you can get the most use out of before it needs to be put out to pasture.

2) Performance: Again, slam balls are meant to hit a surface and go dead. But in the world of fitness, “dead” has multiple meanings. Sometimes it can mean the ball goes completely flat. In other cases, it can mean the ball still rises between two and eight inches off the ground after impact, and that can make all the difference in the world in terms of its contribution to your swing when you’re engaging with certain species of exercises.

3) Weight: The weight of the ball can make a big difference in its training applications. Heavier balls are easier to hurl down behind you with force because gravity takes over, but everything in between – including lifting, carrying and redirecting the ball – becomes more difficult.

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s smash some balls…

Best Smooth Slamball: TKO Slam Ball

Why it’s a slam dunk: The TKO Slam Ball is the standard version of a slam ball, which means it has a sand-filled interior that eliminates the ball’s tendency to rebound in an emphatic manner. Even so, it will bounce off a wall just far enough to return to its original position if you stand within a few feet of that wall. Likewise, if you smack it on the ground, it will jump just high enough for you to snatch it out of the air and continue your movement. This creates a natural prompt for you to continue your practice as long as you can pound the ball down hard enough for it to repeat its bounce.

Why you might want to toss it aside: The standard slam ball model has two potential weaknesses if you’re particularly demanding in the way you train. First, its slick exterior can become increasingly slippery as your hands sweat. Secondly, when it hits the ground, it doesn’t immediately become as dead as a potato sack. But if you’re looking for something that can, read on.

Best Tread Slam Ball: Yes4All Slam Ball

Why it’s a slam dunk: The Yes4All Slam Ball has a grippy texture and pattern etched right into its surface, which may come in handy when you start to sweat. It greatly reduces the ball’s potential to slip out of your hands and interrupt your practice at awkward moments. Just like the smooth surfaced slam balls, it still gives you a little bounce to help your workout.

Why you might want to toss it aside: Some people are very picky about the grip they can get with their balls and I’m not here to judge. If you prefer not to feel tiring texture every time you grab a slam ball in the midst of its tiny bounce, you’re probably better off with a smooth one.

Best Dead Weight Slam Ball: ProsourceFit Slamball

Why it’s a slam dunk: When the ProsourceFit Slam Ball hits the floor (or wall) it becomes completely dead. You don’t have to worry about it bouncing back towards you or rolling away from you. In that sense, it’s the most predictable form of slam ball, as no amount of force you apply to the throw will make a difference in post-impact reaction.

Why you might want to toss it aside: Sometimes something sounds like a great idea until you encounter it in real life and then you struggle with it forever. This is the case with deadweight slam balls. When you’re used to a ball’s encouraging baby bounce, which allows you to lift it out of the air and lift it back up more easily, being obliged to repeatedly drop the full weight of the ball off the ground may prove too much to raise a nuisance.

Dead weight slam balls also tend to lose their round shape very quickly and soon resemble misshapen rubber ovals. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something you should be prepared for.

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