Doing medicine ball slams can be useful but you may want other options. Discover some alternatives to medicine ball slams with similar benefits.
Among the other benefits they offer, medicine ball slams will help you strengthen your abs, obliques, latissimus dorsi, shoulders, coordination, and cardiovascular health to some extent.
Whether you don’t enjoy medicine ball slams, you want to be silent at home, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these alternatives to medicine balls can help you train similar areas of your physical health.
1. Alternative “slams”
The name medicine ball slam implies that you have to use a medicine ball for this motion. And if you actually want to let go of the resistance throughout the movement this is true.
However, you can also do similar “slams” with other types of fitness equipment options if you hold on to the resistance.
Some examples of medicine ball alternatives include a dumbbell, sandbags, kettlebells, resistance bands if you have a high anchor, cable machine, etc.
By doing the same motion with these you work similar muscles as a regular medicine ball slam which makes them a good alternative.
One downside of this option is that you likely cannot be as explosive as with a medicine ball, the exception being resistance bands.
Especially with weights like a dumbbell and kettlebell you want to make sure you can control the momentum at the bottom of the movement.
2. Sledgehammer swings
The next alternative to medicine ball slams also simulates the exact same movement very closely. For sledgehammer swings you need a sledgehammer and an object to hit, a big tire is often used.
To do the exercise you simply hold the sledgehammer tightly with both of your hands and swing it downward. Sledgehammer swings basically offer the same benefits as the medicine ball slam.
One downside of this alternative is that the setup is not as convenient.
Storing a big tractor tire and a big hammer at home is just not as convenient as a medicine ball. It is also not as easy to progress and measure that progress in the weight you use.
That being said, it can be a challenge to find other plyometric, explosive, exercises for similar muscles as the medicine ball slam.
Sledgehammer swings are one of the few exercises that offer you this option.
3. Wood chop exercise
For this next exercise, you want a compact type of resistance that you can hold with both of your hands. A dumbbell or other free weights like a kettlebell, medicine ball, exercise sandbags, etc. are great.
Even so, you can definitely also use resistance bands at home or a cable machine in the (home) gym. Take the following steps to do a wood chop with a dumbbell:
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Let your arms with the dumbbell in your arms hang down for now.
- Bring up the dumbbell to one side while keeping your arms slightly less than stretched. If needed you can turn your hips too. For this, you will likely need to lift the heel of one foot off the ground.
- Swing the dumbbell down and to the other side, again keeping your arms slightly less than stretched. Make sure you can still control the weight at the bottom of the movement. Again you can twist your hips if needed.
Make sure you don’t twist too far and keep your back straight to avoid any injuries. Especially if you have a sensitive back you want to turn your hips to avoid twisting your spine too far during the wood chop exercise.
Medicine ball slams make you lower the resistance in a straight line down. On the other hand, the wood chop exercise goes more diagonally.
This makes this alternative focus more on your obliques and less on your abs compared to the medicine ball slam.
4. Straight-arm pulldown
For the straight-arm pulldown, you will need either a cable machine or good resistance bands with a high anchor.
As an example, take the following steps to do a straight-arm pulldown with the cable machine:
- Set the cable machine as high as possible and preferably use a straight bar handle. You can also use a variety of other handles.
- Grab the handle, take a step or two away from the cable machine, and stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width and your face towards the machine.
- Slightly fold your knees and tilt your upper body forward until it is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground while keeping your back straight. Let your slightly less-than-stretched arms point upward toward the cable pulley.
- Lower your arms until they reach your waist. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the movement.
- Move your arms back up into the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
The straight arm pulldown engages muscles like the latissimus dorsi and rear deltoids (back of the deltoid shoulder muscle).
You may recognize the same arm movement that is responsible for a lot of speed in the medicine ball slam.
If you like the explosive aspect of the medicine ball slam you can also do the straight-arm pulldown at a high speed. Make sure you do not let go of the cable machine handle out of habit.
5. Front raises
To slam the medicine ball down it first has to be raised upward. This next medicine ball slam alternative will focus on the muscles used for this first part of the exercise.
Take the following steps to do a dumbbell front raise:
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one dumbbell with both of your hands. In starting position you just let the dumbbell rest against your body. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- Slowly move the dumbbell upward until your arms are horizontal.
- Lower the dumbbell back into starting position in a controlled movement.
The dumbbell front raise exercise focuses on your anterior, aka your front, deltoids. Training these muscles is certainly not the primary goal of medicine ball slams but it is part of the exercise.
6. Knee and leg raises
For the next medicine ball slam alternative, you will need equipment like a pull-up bar or a gym machine called the captain’s chair. You basically need to get in a position where your legs hang freely.
You preferably want to use the captain’s chair since your grip strength may fatigue faster than your abs if you use a pull-up bar. Take the following steps to do a knee raise on a captain’s chair:
- Grip the captain’s chair handles and rest your forearms on the padding. Your back should be against the back padding and your legs hanging, not resisting gravity yet.
- Raise your knees held together upwards to at least hip height. Let gravity do its work on your lower legs throughout the exercise.
- Lower your legs back into the starting position in a controlled manner.
Leg raises are a similar motion but while keeping your legs stretched. Both of these can be done at a fast speed to mimic the core workout of medicine ball slams as much as possible.
If you do use a pull-up bar make sure it is sturdy enough for this more explosive version of the exercise.
7. High knees
Take the following steps to do high knees:
- Stand up straight with your arms folded at the elbows at more or less a 90-degree angle.
- Move up the thigh of one leg until it is about horizontal and keep the lower leg more or less pointing downward. At the same time move the arm of the opposite side forward slightly and the arm of the same side back slightly.
- Move the higher leg down and land on the front of your foot. At the same time move up the other leg similar to the previous leg. Swing your arms so that get in the same position as the previous step but with the opposite side forward.
- Alternate between the positions in step 2 and step 3.
While it is not the primary focus of medicine ball slams, this exercise does engage your cardiovascular system, hip flexors, and coordination skills.
The high knee exercise can also help you train these areas in an explosive manner.
If you value these areas of your physical fitness, something like sprinting can be a great option too.
8. Pike crunches
For the pike crunch, you will need something like an exercise ball. Once you have that, take the following steps to do a pike crunch:
- Put your hands in front of the exercise ball and your chins on the ball.
- Stretch your body and arms. In starting position you want your shoulder to be above your elbows.
- Slowly lift your hips as far as comfortable and safe. At the same time roll the ball forward by moving your legs more to the front of the ball.
- Lower your hips back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
Keep your movements slow and controlled to make your abs and obliques really work hard and to avoid bad technique.
At first glance, pike crunches look completely different than medicine ball slams but this exercise is more or less the same movement but done horizontally.
A ground slam with a heavy medicine ball will definitely be more challenging for your muscles but pike crunches can be a fun alternative that engages similar muscles with more focus on coordination and balance.
9. Battle rope slams
Battle ropes are long heavy ropes that you can swing in a variety of ways to engage different muscles. Slams are an exercise that resembles the medicine ball slam.
You simply hold one rope in each hand, bring them up, and slam them down with the help of your core and back muscles.
This alternative will likely focus more on your shoulder muscles compared to the medicine ball slam. However, all in all, battle rope slams are still an exercise that offers you a good workout in very similar areas.
10. Overhead medicine ball throws
This next exercise makes use of the relatively unique benefit of being able to throw the medicine ball. You will need enough room or a sturdy wall to throw it to.
Take the following steps to do an overhead medicine ball throw:
- Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold one medicine ball with both of your hands in front of you. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- Lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on factors like knee health.
- Stretch your legs while at the same time swinging your arms forward and upward. Try to time it so your arms are completely up at the same time as your legs are fully stretched. You can lean slightly backward throughout the movement.
- At the top of the movement let go of the medicine ball to throw it.
Overhead medicine ball throws are more of an alternative in the sense that it is another explosive medicine ball exercise.
The focus of overhead medicine ball throws is more on the lower back, erector spinae, shoulder, and leg muscles.