The Festivus Games last weekend was a fun competition to see so many of our athletes compete. We saw most give each workout their best effort, evident by them dropping to their knees and catching their breath when the clock hit zero.
This week I wanted to focus on efficiency tips for different movements. Effort over the weekend was not the problem — efficiency was. If you can become more efficient in movements, you will expend less energy. And expending less energy while performing a movement will allow you to go heavier, longer, and faster.
Wall-balls (squatting with a medicine ball to parallel and then throwing the ball up to a target on the wall — usually 9’ or 10’) is a common movement with a lot of wasted movement. In order to become more efficient, you want to practice three components: (1) release the shoulder tension, (2) break when you wait, and (3) hands inside the elbows.
Release the Shoulder Tension
When you toss the medicine ball up toward the target, you wait for the ball to come back to the ground by keeping your hands up in the air. Because the ball usually isn’t very heavy, this isn’t problem… until you do 100 reps!
What you want to do is bring your arms down after tossing the ball up. This can be scary initially because you don’t want the ball to hit you in the face, but that’s avoidable. Simply practice with a lighter medicine ball.
Every rep you perform with your arms extended over head longer than they need to be, you build up tension in the shoulders. You want the shoulders to relax, and that happens by bringing them straight down or swinging your arms out like you’re performing a swimming “butterfly” stroke.
You won’t notice a difference when the workout only calls for 20 reps. But I promise that it will make a world of a difference in any workout with more than 50.
Break When You Wait
A wall-ball rep begins when the hips descend to parallel and then finishes with you extending at the hip and shoulder to toss the ball slightly above the target on the wall. What happens in between the end of one rep and the start of the next rep (i.e. when the ball is in the air), is up to you.
This is why I recommend “breaking” at the hip and knee while the ball is in the air. It gives you an advantage to complete the squat portion of the wall-ball faster because you can transfer the downward force of the medicine ball into your squat.
Give this a try. The cycle time will allow you to get one more rep every fifteen seconds from the person next to you in competition.
Hands Inside Elbows
Too often I see athletes catching a wall-ball rep with their hands on the sides of the ball. This poses two issues: first, it’s awkward to catch. Second, you’re less powerful when pushing the ball up for the next rep.
Catching the ball on the sides is awkward because it forces you to clap the ball on the catch. This taxes your pecs unnecessarily (because you have to now squeeze the ball in order to hold it, instead of resting the ball on top of your hands). Additionally, this inefficiency causes the chest to drop and the hips to rise. This hurts your stamina because now you have to contract your midline and shorten your breath.
There is also no argument to be had on power — you can certainly push an object with more force and distance when you are behind the press, as opposed to being on either side.
Therefore, ensure your hands are behind (under) the medicine ball. In other words, you want your hands to be as close to each other as they can be without touching (i.e. your hands are slightly inside of your elbows). This will relax your pecs and midline while allowing you to produce maximal power.
Wall-balls are difficult for a variety of reasons. But as with any movement, the more efficient you are at completing the movement, the less energy you will expend.
Releasing the tension in your shoulders on the toss, breaking at the hips and knees while the ball is in the air, and keeping your hands together on the catch will translate into bigger sets and faster reps.
Give it a try.