7 Secrets To A Better Wall-Ball Shot For Crossfit

Written by Jack

If you’re a Crossfitter, you probably remember Open Workout 17.4? (Also 16.4)

Or maybe you’ve blocked it from your memory! I know sometimes I wish I could. 🙂

Just in case you don’t recall… it was:

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 13 minutes of:

  • 55 deadlifts, 225 lb.
  • 55 wall-ball shots, 20-lb. ball to 10-ft. target
  • 55-calorie row
  • 55 handstand push-ups

Here’s the short version of how it went for me this year…

Crushed the deadlifts. Felt fine. Walked over to the wall, picked up the ball, set out to start with a big set, and let the ball drop after 10 reps. Then proceeded to finish 55 wall-ball shots in sets of 5-7. Not good… Not fun…

I made up lots of ground in the row and HSPUs… but the damage was done. You can just imagine how long those wall balls took doing those tiny sets…

Listen: I already KNEW wall balls weren’t my jam. But 17.4 got up in my face and showed me just how much I needed to get my wall balls on…

And after a couple months of solid examination, practice and training I can honestly say that my wall ball shots are no longer a weakness. I wouldn’t call them a strength. Karen and I certainly aren’t on the best of terms. However I no longer feel dread when I see them come up in a WOD.

Now, at 5’6” I feel like I’ve done a pretty effective job at breaking the wall ball shot down and creating the most efficient movement pattern possible to make the most of the vertical challenge I’ve been dealt.

So I want to share my 7 “secrets” to a perfect wall ball shot. Here ya go…

    1. Find your sweet spot distance. Mine is outstretched arms plus about an inch from my fingertips to the wall.
    2. Use feet spacing to maximize your height versus mobility. The more narrow your feet are, the taller you will stand. Find your minimum foot width where you can still easily hit the depth standard of hip crease below knees.
    3. Control and explode. You’ll quickly burn yourself out if you try to explode from the bottom of your squat. So cruise from the bottom to about a ¾ squat and then explode up from there while projecting with the arms.
    4. Align with the ball. You should feel like the ball is a structural extension of your arms as you project it up. If you don’t have that good ball connection you can’t transfer the power from your full body effort into the ball to drive it up.
    5. Rest your shoulders. As you release the ball, let your arms drop to your sides. Then, as the ball starts its descent, bring your hands back up to head height for the catch. This tiny rest adds up over high reps of Wall Balls
    6. Eyes on the ball. As soon as the ball makes contact with the wall, make sure your vision is laser focused on the center of the ball as it comes back down. This allows you to catch the ball in perfect balance so you don’t waste energy recentering it.
    7. Breath. Keep your body calm, loose and relaxed so that you can breath naturally. I find my most natural cadence is a partial exhale on catch and decent, a slight breath hold through the bottom transition, another exhale exploding the ball up, and inhale while waiting for the ball to come back down.

Remember: Everyone is different so you’ll need to experiment with each of these 7 elements to find your own perfect variation. However I think using them as a guideline is your fastest way to achieve your own personal expression of the “perfect” wall ball shot.


About the author


My grandfather gave me my start in fitness. He said he just wanted to keep me out of trouble. But he shaped the person and the coach I am today. Sport quickly became the center of my life.

I competed in Laser Class sailing at an international level, as well as skiing, football, hockey and more. My first coaching passion was alpine skiing where I spent 20 years as a coach, instructor and ski school director.

But my greatest passion has always been helping people get fit. I’ve devoted my life to study and intense personal practice. I’m a firm believer in practicing what I preach, and in testing my theories on myself. I’m obsessed with the world of health, fitness and nutrition.

Then a few years back I stumbled — grudgingly — on Crossfit. To be honest I started out as a “hater” who believed the negative hype. But after giving it a try, I became increasingly hooked. I dabbled for a couple years, and then in the Spring of 2016 I really started taking it seriously.

I now consider myself a Crossfit Masters Athlete. I’m immersed in it completely. And I want to share my journey here at Smooth Is Fast.

NCSA-CPT, NCCP 3, CSIA Lvl 4 Course Conductor, CSCF 3,
Biosignature Certified, MAT Lower Body Certified, AKC Certified Coach

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