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Medicine Ball vs Slam Ball: Which To Use?

Whether you’re a hardcore workout buff or a newbie to the world of fitness, understanding the various types of fitness equipment available to you, can keep your workout routines fresh and help you reach new levels of strength.

Two options in particular to consider are the medicine ball (or wall ball) and the slam ball. While they may look similar, there are key differences between these two strength training accessories.

Wondering which is better to work out with? The short answer is neither— both types of balls can help you achieve your fitness goal through different means. To determine which workout ball is right for you, let’s explore their similarities and differences and discuss how to incorporate them into your workout routines.

What Are the Similarities Between a Slam Ball vs Medicine Ball?

One thing both slam balls and medicine balls have in common is the range of weights you can find them in.1 On average, both of these exercise balls can range from between 2 pounds to 50 pounds. To determine what size medicine ball or slam ball to use, you can choose between balls that resemble the dimensions of a softball up to those that are as big as a basketball. Some can be even larger.

Another key similarity is how easily these pieces of fitness equipment can be integrated into your workout. Both a slam ball and a medicine ball can be added to a variety of fitness regimes by simply holding the ball as you perform the exercise.2 For example, you can do sit-ups, squats, lunges, and overhead presses while holding either type of ball. Doing so can help:

  • Increase the intensity of these movements
  • Improve your balance and core stabilization
  • Engage multiple muscle groups at once

What Are the Differences Between a Medicine Ball vs Slam Ball?

Despite their similarities, there are major differences between these two pieces of equipment. The main differences include the materials they’re made from and the exercises they’re best suited for.

Material

A medicine ball is made of materials that are scuff-resistant, such as:

  • Vinyl
  • Rubber
  • Leather
  • Plastic

These materials also provide a better grip so that the ball can be used from angles that are difficult to target through standard weighted equipment, such as dumbbells.3 

Because medicine balls are made with a soft outer shell and a weighted core, they cannot withstand being thrown on the ground the same way a slam ball can. In fact, if a medicine ball is thrown on the ground, there’s a good chance that it could break or bounce back up and cause injury.

Slam balls, on the other hand, are designed for throwing, so you’ll find these balls have a heavier-duty outer casing that ensures they won’t break upon impact. As a protective measure, a slam ball will not bounce back—its durable rubber material is designed to absorb the impact of a throw.

Exercises

Due to the weighted nature of medicine balls, you can use them to replace equipment like rubber-coated dumbbells or neoprene dumbbells to vary the intensity and muscle groups targeted in a workout.4 For example, using a medicine ball to do crunches on the floor will add a different type of resistance that challenges core strength.

Other popular medicine ball exercises include:

  • Planks – In plank position, use your right hand to place your medicine ball in front of your left hand. Then, use your left hand to move the ball back in front of your right hand.
  • Rolling pushups – In a push-up position, rest your left hand on the medicine ball and do a pushup. Then, roll the ball to your right hand. Place your right hand on the ball and do a pushup.
  • V-ups – Lie on your back with your legs outstretched, and hold the medicine ball on the ground above your head. Then, contract your core and lift your arms and legs so that your body forms a V.

Ultimately, the medicine ball functions as a way to safely target and add extra resistance to a muscle group that may be hard to reach.

Alternatively, the main purpose of slam ball exercises is to improve explosiveness, strength, core strength, power, and general functional fitness.5 Although a slam ball can be substituted in multiple exercises that require a medicine ball, popular slam ball exercises include:

  • Lateral throws – Stand in a squat position with your slam ball next to your right foot. Squat down to grab the ball, lift it up over your head, then slam it down next to your left foot. Repeat this going back to the other side.
  • Overhead slams – Stand in a squat position with the slam ball between your legs. Squat down to grab the ball, then lift it over your head and slam it back down, squatting as you do so.

To make the most out of a slam ball, it’s best to combine exercises, such as a lunge or squat, with slam ball throws that provide a combination of aerobic and anaerobic benefits.

Should I Use A Medicine Ball Or Slam Ball To Workout?

So, which of these pieces of equipment should you incorporate into your next workout? While both are excellent choices for training, let’s break down the specific pros and cons of each.

What are the pros and cons of using a medicine ball?

Here are some pros of a medicine ball workout:6

  • Easily available – You likely won’t have difficulty finding a medicine ball. They’re available at most local gyms, as well as online at whatever weight works best for you.
  • Challenges your training – Not only does a medicine ball add variety to the kinds of exercises you can do, but it also enables you to add additional resistance to traditional movements, like sit-ups or squats.
  • Strengthens your core – Every medicine ball workout requires core engagement which can help you build your core muscles and train your balance. A strong core inevitably supports the growth of other muscle groups by helping you progress in your movements and increase your overall strength.

However, depending on your abilities, goals, and experience, there are some cons of using a medicine ball in your workout:7

  • Restrictive – Different exercises are challenging at different weights. Since most people will have access to just one weighted medicine ball, this can be a drawback. For example, you might find your medicine ball is too heavy to lift overhead, but just the right weight to do sit-ups with. Having a planned workout helps when it comes to deciding the weight of the medicine ball you should go for.
  • Works for specific goals – Without specific training goals in mind, such as improved strength, coordination, and balance, you might not get the most out of a medicine ball. If you’re looking to perform an exercise that challenges your explosive power, you’re better off with a slam ball since a medicine ball cannot be thrown onto the ground without risking injury to yourself and third parties.
  • Has a learning curve – Before working out with a medicine ball, you’ll need time to practice your posture and coordination to avoid injury. If the ball is used with incorrect form, you run the risk of hurting yourself. This learning curve also needs to be accounted for to avoid feeling demotivated, as it can take time to see results from medicine ball workouts.

What are the pros and cons of using a slam ball?

Interested in learning more about slam balls? Here are some pros of using a slam ball in your next workout:8

  • Versatile – With a slam ball, you have the benefit of doing most exercises that you do with a medicine ball, in addition to overhead slams. This means you can create a functional workout with a diverse set of exercises using just a slam ball.
  • Improves reactive strength – Using a slam ball to do movements like chest passes and overhead slams trains your reactive strength. This strength is built up in your muscles from contractions that occur after they’ve been stretched in a workout. Both your muscles and the elasticity of your tendons improve with better reactive strength.
  • Improves power – Power is very similar to strength except for one crucial difference: while strength simply has to do with exerting maximum force, power is doing the same in an increasingly shorter amount of time. To train for power, it's key to prioritize explosiveness, which you can do using a slam ball.

However, just like the medicine ball, there may be some cons to using a slam ball in your workout, depending on your unique situation and workout preferences:9

  • Noisy – Unlike a silent weight ball workout, working out with a slam ball is usually noisy. It may be difficult to use this equipment for home workouts if you have downstairs neighbors. Access to a loud gym or an open outdoor area is highly recommended when using a slam ball.
  • Difficult to transport – Similar to medicine balls, carrying a slam ball around, especially when traveling, can be inconvenient. Not only can slam balls be very heavy, but they can also be difficult to pack into a suitcase or backpack. It's recommended to leave a slam ball at a home gym or public gym. If need be, the best way to transport your slam ball is by carrying it in your car to a nearby park or gym.
  • Greater risk of injury – A weighted medicine ball can be used with a typical strength workout, but to make the most out of a slam ball, it’s best to incorporate more throws, jumps, and general explosive movements. However, these exercises come with a greater risk of ligament tears, hyperextension, bone injuries, and more, especially for those who are unfamiliar with these movement patterns. You can reduce your risk of injury by practicing proper form and knowing your limits.

Find the Right Workout Ball For You With Tru Grit

Whether you're a functional athlete looking to train explosivity or an everyday gym-goer looking to engage your core better, Tru Grit’s range of workout balls can help you reach your fitness goals. Made with materials that are impact-resistant, you can choose between a wide weight range of both medicine balls and slam balls.

Challenge your strength with our vinyl-shell coated weight ball that comes in a total of 7 sizes or train for power using our PVC-coated slam ball, with texture grip that comes in 10 different sizes.

Find the workout ball that will enhance your fitness routine with Tru Grit.


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