Medicine ball slams are an awesome plyometric core and full-body exercise. They’re not always feasible for everyone, though.
Whether you’re working out in an apartment and can’t get away with slamming a ball on the floor, or if you just would prefer a different way to work your core, we’ve got you covered. Outlined below are some of the most effective medicine ball slam alternatives you might want to try.
1. Dumbbell “Slams”
Let’s say you’re working out in a gym with limited equipment or in an area that frowns upon medicine ball slams for whatever reason. If this is the case, a dumbbell “slam” is a good replacement exercise to consider.
For this exercise, you’ll need a pair of light-to-moderately-heavy dumbbells. Grab a weight in each hand, then follow these cues:
- Hold the weights in a neutral grip with palms facing inward
- Press the weights up over your head, maintaining a neutral grip
- Inhale and brace your core
- As you exhale, explosively “slam” the weights, bringing them straight down toward your sides as you bend your knees and lower into a half squat
- Keep holding onto the weights for the entire exercise — you don’t actually want them to slam on the ground!
- Inhale and press the weights back up to repeat the movement again
2. Cable “Slams”
If you have access to a cable machine, you can also use it to simulate a medicine ball slam. Start by hooking a rope attachment to the end of the cable, adjusting it so it’s at the highest point on the machine.
Grasp one end of the rope attachment in each hand, then walk backward a few steps to create tension (think about setting up the same way you would if you were going to do a straight-arm cable pull-down) with your arms extended overhead.
From here, follow these instructions:
- Inhale and brace your core with your arms extended overhead
- Exhale and “slam” the rope attachment down toward the ground with as much power as possible
- Bring your arms down to your sides and end in a half squat position (don’t let go of the rope attachment)
- Inhale and reach your arms back overhead so you can start again
If you’re looking for a good lateral medicine ball slam substitute, kettlebell woodchops are a great exercise to work into your routine. They still challenge your core and give you a chance to work on generating power, but they’re less noisy, and you don’t have to worry about a ball bouncing back and hitting you.
Here are some cues that will help you perform kettlebell woodchops correctly:
- Start by standing with the feet about shoulder-width apart as you grasp the kettlebell with both hands
- Hinge the hips slightly and bring the kettlebell over to your right side (it should start slightly above your right knee)
- Inhale and brace your core
- Exhale and extend your hips as you swing the kettlebell overhead and over to the left side (it should end at a 30-45 degree angle from the head)
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the exercise
- Inhale and return to the starting position
Remember to initiate the rotation from your hips and upper back, rather than the knees or your lower back. Keep your core braced through the entire movement.
4. Dumbbell Thrusters
For those who are looking for a med ball slam substitute that they can do with dumbbells, thrusters are another effective option. They mimic many of the same movements executed during a medicine ball slam, and they do a great job of targeting all the major muscles of the body.
To do a dumbbell thruster correctly, follow these instructions:
- Stand with the feet about hip-distance apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand
- Bend your arms and bring the dumbbell up so they rest in front of the shoulders
- Inhale and lower into a squat, aiming to bring your hips at least parallel to the floor
- From here, exhale, push into the floor, and rise up out of the squat
- As soon as you’ve returned to the standing position, press the dumbbells straight up overhead
- Inhale and lower into a squat to perform another rep
5. Battle Rope Slams
Because you primarily use your arms to move the ropes, it’s easy to assume that battle rope exercises are meant to only work the upper body. In reality, though, your core also has to do a lot of work during this movement.
When doing this exercise, start by holding one battle rope in each hand in front of the hips. Stand up straight with your feet and hands spaced about shoulder-width apart. From here, follow these cues:
- Inhale and brace your core
- Raise both arms up over your head
- Exhale and lower your arms explosively down toward the floor
- Slam the ropes on the floor as hard as you can, ending in a half squat position
- Inhale and set up for another rep
You can also do this exercise with alternating arms if you want to work on each side of the body individually.
6. Kettlebell Swings
A kettlebell swing helps you practice your hip hinging while also increasing your power output and getting your heart rate elevated. They’re great for strengthening your core, too.
When doing kettlebell swings, be sure to keep these guidelines in mind:
- Start with the feet about hip-distance apart, the kettlebell sitting on the ground about six inches in front of you
- As you reach down for the handle of the kettlebell, hinge the hips and send them backward (remember, this isn’t meant to be a squatting exercise)
- Grasp the handle of the kettlebell and, as you inhale, lift it off the ground and pull it through your legs behind you (keep it as close to the body as possible)
- On an exhale, bring the hips forward, squeeze the glutes, and let the momentum from this movement send your arms and the kettlebell away from your torso
Some people find it helpful to keep their upper arms glued to the sides during this exercise. It helps them to ensure they’re using the momentum from their hips and core to move the kettlebell, rather than letting their arms do too much of the work.
7. Kettlebell Snatches
The kettlebell snatch is a more advanced kettlebell exercise that can replace medicine ball slams while providing many of the same benefits. Here are some cues that will help you perform the snatch correctly:
- Stand with the feet about hip-distance apart and the kettlebell on the ground about six inches in front of you
- Sit your hips back and grasp the kettlebell as you would for a swing, but with only one hand
- Swing the kettlebell back between your legs on an inhale, then exhale and swing the bell forward with the momentum from your hips
- As the inertia from the kettlebell starts to pull your arm upward, shrug your traps (upper back muscles), release the fingers, push into the handle of the kettlebell with your palm
- This movement will send the bell up and over your hand so it lands on the other side of the wrist (remember, your wrist never flips)
- As the kettlebell moves over your hand, lockout your arm in a single-arm press position overhead
- From here, turn the palm toward you and swing the kettlebell back down into a swing position as you inhale
Remember, this is an advanced exercise. It’ll take some practice before you’re able to nail the movement. Try practicing with a lighter kettlebell to minimize bruising on your wrist.
At first, sprinting might seem like a strange alternative to medicine ball slam. In reality, though, sprinting is a very explosive exercise and a great option if you want to work on your power output.
Remember, there’s more to sprinting than just running as fast as you can. Here are some cues to help you with your sprints:
- Maintain an upright posture with the chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, and core engaged
- Think about moving your feet in a circular motion (raise the thighs until they’re parallel to the ground, then drive your knees up and down)
- Land on the forefoot and push off with the toes
- Hold the arms at 90-degree angles, driving elbows straight back to help you create more momentum
- Think about kicking your butt as you push off the ground with your toes (this helps to complete the circular motion)
If you don’t have access to a track or treadmill, you can also practice these movement patterns by sprinting in place, as shown in the video above.
Put These Medicine Ball Slam Alternatives to the Test
If you’ve been on the hunt for some effective core and power-generating exercises that don’t involve throwing a ball on the floor as hard as you can, you’re in luck.
Put these medicine ball slam alternatives to the test today. Add one (or more) of the exercises described above to your next workout and get ready to feel the burn!