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7 Medicine Ball Slam Alternatives At Home

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Core strength is vital for a healthy and functional body. One of the most popular workouts to increase core strength is the medicine ball slam.

While this exercise can be effective, it does have limitations and may not be suitable for everyone. 

As a certified personal trainer, I work with sports teams and athletes who need maximum core strength to be able to do what they do.

The med ball slam is one of my favorite moves to include as part of a plyometric circuit. But it’s not the only dynamic core activating exercise that I use. 

In this article, I’ll lay out 7 effective medicine ball slam alternative exercises and variations that you can use to keep your core maximally engaged and prevent training boredom.

Steve's medicine balls
Steve’s medicine balls

The importance of core strength

Stability, balance, and proper body operation all depend on the core muscles.

They support motion and assist in transferring force from the lower to the upper body and vice versa. There’s barely a movement we do that doesn’t involve the core in some fashion.

A strong core can enhance athletic performance in a variety of activities, including running, lifting, and sports, as well as posture, injury risk, and recovery time. 

As a result, it is vital to include activities that specifically target the core muscles in your fitness regimen.

The medicine ball slam is a popular exercise for building core strength. It is a good exercise for building explosiveness and coordination as well as core strength and power. 

The medicine ball slam can help to enhance general stability, posture, and balance by working the core muscles, which include the abs, obliques, and lower back.

The exercise’s high-intensity level can also boost the heart rate and promote fat burning.

How to do the medicine ball slam

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a medicine ball at chest height.
  2. Lift the ball above your head, fully extending your arms and standing on your toes.
  3. Use your core muscles and upper body strength to forcefully slam the ball down onto the ground in front of you.
  4. Catch the ball as it bounces back up and lift it back up above your head to repeat the movement.

Medicine ball slams – muscles worked

Medicine ball slam - muscles used

Primary muscles:

  • Abs
  • Upper back
  • Triceps
  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings

Secondary muscles:

  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Quadriceps

Personal training tips

Pay attention to your form: Just as with any exercise, good form is essential when performing medicine ball slams. Be sure to maintain a strong core, activate your glutes, and use controlled movements.

Start with a lighter ball: Starting with a relatively light ball will help you to focus on form and prevent injury as your body gets used to the exercise. 

Contract your core: As you lift the ball overhead and smash it to the ground, contract your core muscles.

Use your legs: As you lift the ball above and crash it down, use your legs to produce power. As you lift the ball, flex your knees and push upward with your legs.

Prevent hyperextension: As you hoist the ball overhead, avoid hyperextending your back. Maintain a tight core and a straight back.

Land soft: As you slam the ball to the ground, softly land on the balls of your feet.

Slam the ball: Too many people just ‘drop’ the ball – you should instead throw the ball hard into the floor. The value of the exercise is in the speed of the execution.

Muscles worked in the medicine ball slam

The core and upper body muscles are the main areas that the medicine ball slam targets.

The explosive slam motion, which involves flexion and rotation of the trunk, engages the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis. 

The process of lifting and slamming the ball also involves the use of the shoulders, back, and arm muscles.

The specific muscles engaged are the deltoids, trapezius, rhomboids, pectoralis major and minor, biceps, and triceps. 

The forceful upward action of the ball during the slam activates the glutes and hip flexors as well. 

In summary, the medicine ball slam offers a total-body workout with an emphasis on strengthening the core and upper body muscles.

Limitations of the medicine ball slam

The medicine ball slam is one of my favorite dynamic functional exercises. But it’s also got a few limitations. Here’s a breakdown of four potential negatives with this exercise:

Restricted Range of Motion: Because the medicine ball slam primarily uses the arms and shoulders rather than the core muscles, it has a limited range of motion.

As a result, while the exercise may be useful for increasing upper body strength and power, it might not be ideal for complete core activation.

Injury Potential: The medicine ball slam is a high-impact exercise that puts a lot of strain on the joints, especially the wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

If good form is not maintained or a big weight is used during the exercise, this can raise the risk of injury, especially for seniors.

Space and Equipment Requirements: The medicine ball slam demands a substantial amount of room and equipment, as it involves throwing a heavy ball onto the ground.

When working out in a crowded gym or at home, or when there aren’t many medicine balls available, this can be challenging.

Limited Progression: While the medicine ball slam can be a useful workout for generating explosive power and strength, it may not provide enough progression or variability over time to continue to push the body and drive future adaptations.

Benefits of alternative exercises

The greater diversity of a workout that alternative exercises offer is one of the key advantages.

Using alternative exercises can help keep workouts interesting and challenging, which can increase motivation and adherence to a fitness program.

Alternative exercises can also lower the risk of injury because the medicine ball slam is a high-impact exercise that, if done incorrectly over a long period of time could put stress on the joints.

Alternative exercises also have the benefit of targeting specific muscle activation.

Other exercises might target particular muscles or muscle groups in different ways, although the medicine ball slam mostly targets the core muscles.

This can help to address any muscular imbalances or limitations a person may have.

There are also times when core exercises have a therapeutic benefit.

If you’ve struggled with a lower back injury, for example, ball slams might not be your best option. In such cases, you need an alternative.

What to look for in a medicine ball alternative exercise

There are a few important things to bear in mind when selecting about substitute exercises for the medicine ball slam.

The exercise should, first and foremost, offer a level of core engagement and muscular activation comparable to the medicine ball slam. 

The exercise should also be risk-free, and suitable for your level of fitness. The capacity to perform the exercise with good form and technique, as well as variety and accessibility, are other key factors.

Choosing exercises that you enjoy and that align with your overall fitness objectives and preferences are also important factors. 

Equipment needed for these exercises

  • Kettlebell
  • Battle Ropes
  • Plyometric box
  • Dumbbells
  • Medicine Ball

7 Medicine ball slam alternatives that replicate the same movement pattern

Medicine ball slam alternative infographic

1. Box jumps

Equipment needed for box jumps:

  • Step-up box

How to do box jumps:

  1. Stand in front of a sturdy box or platform with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower yourself into a quarter squat position, swinging your arms behind you.
  3. Quickly explode upward, swinging your arms forward and jumping onto the box with both feet.
  4. Land with both feet on the box, making sure to fully extend your hips and knees.
  5. Step or jump back down to the starting position, landing softly with bent knees.

Box jumps muscles worked:

  • Core
  • Quads
  • Calves
  • Glutes

Are knee problems preventing you from doing box jumps? Check out our top 10 box jump alternatives.

2. Jump rope

Equipment needed to jump rope:

  • Jump rope

How to jump rope:

  1. Hold the jump rope handles in each hand, with the rope behind you and the handles at waist height.
  2. Swing the rope over your head and jump over it with both feet.
  3. Land softly on the balls of your feet and keep your knees slightly bent to absorb the impact.
  4. Continue to jump over the rope in a continuous motion, swinging the rope over your head each time.
  5. To increase difficulty, try jumping higher or faster, or doing variations like single leg jumps or double unders.

Jump rope muscles worked:

  • Core
  • Quads
  • Calves
  • Hamstrings 
  • Glutes
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Forearms
  • Wrists

3. American kettlebell swings

The American kettlebell swing divides opinion, especially amongst kettlebell purists.

Personally, I like it. I like the huge range of motion, the fact that it trains the shoulders without relying on them to work against too much resistance, and I like the compound element of the lift.

There are also excellent functional fitness benefits to the exercise.

Equipment needed for American kettlebell swings:

  • Kettlebell

How to do American kettlebell swings:

  • Hold the kettlebell with both hands in an overhand grip
  • Keeping your back straight, tilt your hips back and drive them forward using your glutes – this puts momentum into the kettlebell
  • Swing hard, so the kettlebell is almost immediately overhead – just don’t lean too far back and risk the kettlebell going behind you!
  • At the top of the swing, squeeze your glutes together hard
  • Keep your legs mostly straight throughout the whole exercise – the only joints to move a lot are the hips and shoulders
  • Repeat as many times as required

American kettlebell swings muscles worked:

  • Core
  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Intercostal
  • Obliques

Don’t have access to kettlebells? Check our kettlebell swing alternatives for 9 exercises to work the same muscles the same way.

4. Plank jacks

Equipment needed for plank jacks:

  • None

How to do plank jacks:

  1. Begin in a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your wrists directly under your shoulders.
  2. Engage your core and keep your spine neutral, making sure your hips aren’t sagging or piked up.
  3. Jump your feet out to the sides, keeping your upper body and hips stable.
  4. Quickly jump your feet back together to return to the starting position.
  5. Continue to alternate jumping your feet out and in while keeping your upper body and hips stable.

Plank jacks muscles worked:

  • Abs
  • Obliques
  • Lower back
  • Shoulders
  • Quads
  • Glutes

5. Mountain climbers

Equipment needed for mountain climbers:

  • None

How to do mountain climbers:

  1. Begin in a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your wrists directly under your shoulders.
  2. Engage your core and keep your spine neutral, making sure your hips aren’t sagging or piked up.
  3. Lift your right foot off the floor and bring your right knee towards your chest, while keeping your left leg straight and engaged.
  4. Quickly switch legs, bringing your right leg back to the starting position while bringing your left knee towards your chest.
  5. Continue to alternate legs in a quick, running-like motion while keeping your hips low and core engaged.

Mountain climbers muscles worked:

  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Abdominals
  • Obliques
  • Intercostals
  • Quads

6. Dumbbell thrusters

Equipment needed for dumbbell thrusters:

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Adjustable Dumbbells

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Classic
Read our best adjustable dumbbell guide here

These are the dumbbells we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 50 hours of research and compared over 100 dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells make sense for most home gyms as they save space.

The Nüobell dumbbells go all the way to 80lbs per hand. This means they are much more versatile than most 50lbs adjustable dumbbells. You can use these for heavy shrugs, squats and bench press etc.

The main reason they are the top pick is because of their shape. They actually feel like real dumbbells and are not awkward to lift like some others.

How to do dumbbell thrusters:

  1. Begin by holding two dumbbells at shoulder height with your palms facing inward and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower your body down into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the ground, while keeping your chest up and your back straight.
  3. Once you reach the bottom of the squat, push up explosively through your legs while simultaneously pressing the dumbbells overhead until your arms are fully extended.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back to shoulder height while descending back into a squat position, and repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.
  5. Remember to engage your core throughout the exercise and maintain proper form to avoid injury.
  6. Start with a lighter weight and gradually increase the weight as your strength improves.

Dumbbell thrusters muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Core
  • Deltoids
  • Lats
  • Hamstrings

7. Medicine ball wall slam

Equipment needed for med ball wall slam:

  • Medicine Ball

How to do the med ball wall slam:

  1. Stand in front of a solid wall, holding a medicine ball with both hands.
  2. Position your feet shoulder-width apart and stand about an arm’s length away from the wall.
  3. Place the medicine ball on one side, with your further arm extended fully.
  4. Keeping your arms straight, forcefully slam the ball into the wall just above your head.
  5. Catch the ball as it bounces back off the wall and repeat the movement for the desired number of reps. Interchange both sides of your body as starting point for the move.
  6. Remember to engage your core throughout the exercise to maximize its effectiveness.

Med ball wall slam muscles worked:

  • Core
  • Quads
  • Deltoids
  • Lats

Medicine Ball slam alternatives: The bottom line

The medicine ball slam is one of my favorite dynamic core exercises. If you are able to, you should definitely include it in your routine to develop core strength and power.

But you should also inject variety with a range of medicine ball slam alternatives.

Make use of the seven alternatives presented here to create a dynamic circuit that will challenge your core while also churning through the calories.

Having trouble finding a safe, enjoyable beginner weight lifting routine that actually produces results, look no further – here’s a complete 12-week routine that gets results fast.

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Steve is a certified personal trainer, current home gym owner, former gym owner, and copywriter. He joined his first gym at age 15 and, five years later, he was managing his own studio. In 1987, he became the first personal fitness trainer in New Zealand.

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