Elite Crossfit Ball Slam Technique Secrets THEY Don’t Want You to Know About

Hope you had fun with that title – I sure did ūüėČ

Ever wonder why we do ball slams?crossfit ball slam

You know, the exercise we use medicine ball slammers for?

Well, not only will I tell you about WHY we do them, but I’ll even cover how to do them properly.

The Purpose of Ball Slams in the Crossfit Curriculum

At my Crossfit Level 1 certification, I was having trouble with dumbbell squat cleans.

I was doing a great job of jumping and getting my hips open, but I kept catching them really high and then riding them down into the squat (instead of catching in the squat).

Enter….ball slams.

I was taught that one of the main takeaways for the ball slam was to teach how to use your legs to PULL yourself down into a squat. ¬†That’s how you do ball slams, you pull the ball with your arms and your legs to finish in a squat and slam the ball on the ground.

Who knew?

How to do Crossfit Ball Slams Correctly

  1. Start with feet in squat position.
  2. Extend ball overhead completely with straight arms.
  3. Pull down close to body.
  4. Release ball around stomach height but keep hands close to ball.
  5. Bounce ball and then scoop underneath to catch.

See also: Crossfit Ball Slams, Crossfit Journal

The Real Takeaway

Yes, it’s easy to half-ass this movement and just slog through it.

But focus on catching in a squat to get the full benefit of the movement.

Just like all the other movements, the devil (and the benefit) are in the details.

Got questions? ¬†Sound of in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

How To Make Paleo Ketchup and Mayo


When I was transitioning into paleo, I found that the hardest things to break were the little things. I love ketchup, which usually has sugar added to it, not to mention other preservatives.

The following recipes are for a paleo-friendly ketchup and mayonnaise. I say paleo-friendly because there is vinegar in the recipe, which is technically not paleo, but I use it since it does not spike insulin levels like sugars/grains do.

I recommend storing them in squeeze containers, which you can pick up at Chef supply stores (like Chefsmart). They make you look cool and like you know what you’re doing in the kitchen ūüôā

Paleo Ketchup

(adapted from here)

1 small can (384 mL/12 oz) of plain, sugar-free tomato sauce
1 small can (6 oz) tomato paste
2 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider)
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
a pinch of ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Let cool and transfer to container and then into fridge.

This recipe omits the sugar/artificial sweetener. Also, this does not last as long as store bought (no preservatives) so its good for a few weeks.

Paleo Mayonnaise

This is actually really easy to make with a blender. I adapted the recipe from here (I dropped out the salt). I think this is delicious compared to store bought mayo and now I use it a lot.

1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup oil (canola or olive)
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. mixed pepper
1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Add all ingredients except oil to blender. Set blender to a lower setting like ‘Cream’ and start it up. SLOWLY add oil in a thin stream until mayo starts to thicken, at which point you can add more quickly. Finished mayo will not blend anymore in blender, but will still be runnier than regular store bought mayo. Transfer to container and refrigerate.

This contains raw eggs so it doesn’t keep very long (1-2 weeks). It only makes a cup and I think it tastes great so it doesn’t last that long for me.

Note on oil: I use 3/4 cup canola oil and 1/4 cup olive oil. Using all canola is a little bland, but using all olive is too strong a taste for me (not to mention a bit pricey). Use whatever combo you like best. I’ve also used the light olive oil with good results (but that’s also pricey).

[Originally Published 10/12/11.  Revised and updated 9/11/14]

8 Essential Steps to Nailing Your First Strict Muscle Up

strict muscle up During one of the breaks at my Level 1 Certification I remember watching the Big Dogs jump up on the rings, each of them banging out a series of kipping muscle ups.

I was blown away. I’d never seen that before…and it was awesome!

Then another guy stepped up and said “Yeah, but can you do it strict?” He then proceeded to hop up, set a false grip, and then slowly pull up and over the rings.

It was absolutely gorgeous. Majestic even, like a unicorn with a flowing mullet, pulling an American flag across a rainbow. And man, I wanted that.

Learn to Do it Strict For Long Term Progress

The muscle up is one of the holy grails for beginners. Most people just can’t wait to get their first one because that particular set of skills (to put it in Liam Neeson terms) is an almost tangible divide for most Crossfitters. Can you do a muscle up or not? Are you in or are you out?

The good news is that if you already have a decent amount of upper body strength, then you can probably just learn to false grip and then kip one out. But the less-good news is that ONLY doing kipping muscle ups won’t get you any stronger. In order to get stronger, you need to learn and practice how to do a strict muscle up from a dead hang. ¬†If you can do one strict muscle up, you can bang out at least three kipping ones. Here is the progression that I use to teach strict muscle ups in our box.

1) Basic Requirements

You need to be able to do 3 dead hang pullups.

2) Mobility

Getting warmed up and prepared for the range of motion required for the strict muscle up is important. ¬†Here are four pieces that I have pulled or adapted from MobilityWod.com. ¬†You don’t have to do all of them before you train; 2-3 held for 1-2 minutes per side should be sufficient.

  • Overhead band distraction
  • Prone bully stretch with kettlebell assist
  • Thoracic spine foam roll
  • Skin the cat or modified skin the cat

For more in-depth information, take a look at the original MobilityWOD videos that these movements were adapted from:

Episode 53
Episode 122 

3) Dip

There’s a two item “Things to Get Good At” list:

  • Ring support – Holding at top with full extension at elbow in 10-15s increments
  • Ring dips – Full range of motion, either with a band or unassisted

4) Transition

Focus on doing slow, tight negatives correctly before turning it around and working positives.  When you are ready to start doing positives, remember that going back up on the positive side should feel exactly like when you came down on the negative.  And keep that those thumb knuckles in contact with your torso at all times.

5) False Grip & Pullup

Setting a good false grip makes hitting that transition a lot easier, because it sets you up to go right into the dip.

6) Putting the Pieces Together

Put the three elements together (pullup+transition+dip) to start doing modified muscle ups.

7) Full Version

Once you get good at the seated L-muscle ups, you can give it a shot on full-height rings.

8) Programming

If you’ve already got the requisite strength (the ability to do dips and pullups) you should just be able to practice making the transitions tight with the seated muscle ups and then be able to do strict muscle ups after a week or two. ¬†If you don’t have that strength base just yet, you are going to have to train consistently (3-6 times per week) for 4-6 weeks. ¬†Build up time in the support, build up your dips, work your transitions, and work your seated muscleups. ¬†Laddering your reps 1-2-3-1-2-3 is a great way to get in volume without burning yourself out. Either way, a few weeks of consistent practice and you’ll be the one people are watching on the rings, each of them thinking “Dang, I wish I could do that.”

Working on that first strict muscle up and have a question?  Already got one and have some advice?  Sound off in the comments.

[Originally published 10/30/12.  Revised and updated 9/2/14]