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BREAK IT DOWN: The Wall-Ball Toss

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Develop core stability and cross-body coordination.

The wall ball toss is a powerhouse move, training coordination of your upper and lower body while improving your ability to generate power through your shoulders, core, and hips.

At first glance, the exercise seems simple enough: Hold a soft medicine ball at chest height, then squat down; as you stand, toss the ball toward a wall at a point over your head.

All it takes, though, is one rep to realize how deceptive this move is.

First, coordinating the squat with the ball toss can be difficult. A common pitfall is to separate the components of the exercise: Squat first, then throw the ball using just the arms. But ideally, your arms and legs are moving fluidly together.

The goal is to harness your hip power so your arms act as a guide for the ball as it ascends to a point high on the wall. In reversing the move, you bend and lower your arms as you catch the ball and simultaneously lower back into a squat.

Maintaining good form can be challenging. It’s important to perform a full squat, with your abs braced, chest upright, and thighs at least parallel to the floor — do not succumb to quarter-squats, hunching over, or dropping the ball below your chest as you become fatigued.

That said, fatigue is guaranteed.

The wall ball toss is a plyometric move that quickly elevates your heart rate, making it a great conditioning tool. Just remember to breathe through the exercise, perform it with purpose and speediness, and don’t be afraid to stop and reset to keep your form on point.

1. Stand an arm’s length from a wall. Hold a soft medicine ball at chest level. Inhale to squat down and exhale to quickly stand, driving your hips forward as you extend your legs.

Tip: Keep an upright posture with the ball at chest height.

2. Rise up, throwing the ball upward with a slight forward arc to hit the wall. Aim 4 to 5 feet above your head. Increase that height to 10 to 15 feet as your skill and power improve.

Tip: Direct your gaze up at the spot on the wall where you’re aiming the ball.

Tip: Extend your arms overhead to guide the ball while using the power from your hips to achieve height.

3. Begin immediately to squat and prepare to catch the ball as it deflects off the wall. Perform three rounds of 20 seconds of wall ball tosses, followed by 20 seconds of rest.

Tip: Lower into a full, great-form squat at the bottom of each rep.

Tip: Move your arms up and down fluidly to the pace of the squat.


Maggie Fazeli Fard
is an Experience Life senior editor.

Photography by: Kelly Loverud; Fitness Model: David Freeman

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Health & Fitness

Small Shifts to the USDA Dietary Guidelines

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The recent updates to the USDA nutrition guidelines recommend lowering sugar and alcohol intake and opting for breastfeeding over infant formula.

Every five years, a government-appointed committee draws up a national healthy-eating menu. Since the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans was issued in 1980, this nutritional advice has been broadly focused on our health, but it also affects food-stamp policies and school-lunch menus.

It influences processed-food formulations for the food-manufacturing industry, as well — and this is where politics and big business enter in.

More than half of the members of the panel formulating the 2020–2025 guide have food-industry ties. And those involved in adding first-ever advice for pregnant mothers and toddlers are all connected to baby-food makers.

“My concern is that these guidelines, heavily influenced by the food and beverage industry, will dictate what kinds of food are offered at schools and set the eating habits of children, particularly Black and brown children, for the rest of their lives,” says pediatrician Yolandra Hancock, MD, an obesity expert at George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health.

Despite her own reservations, Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, has been pleasantly relieved by this panel’s work. “I was concerned about this when the committee was first appointed because so many of the members had worked with companies making products high in sugar, salt, and fat. But the committee surprised me. It stuck to the science and came out with recommendations quite consistent with previous recommendations, but even more restrictive.”

Among the new guidelines:

  • The committee reduced the recommended limit for alcoholic drinks from two to one daily.
  • The panel advised lowering daily consumption of added sugars by 40 percent, cutting intake from 12.5 to 7.5 teaspoons, or a maximum of 120 calories or 30 grams.
  • For the first time, the guidelines recommended breastfeeding versus infant formulas, stating that being breastfed “may reduce” the risk of obesity, type 1 diabetes, and asthma.

For her part, Nestle — who served on the 1995 committee — recommends the dietary guidelines be taken with a grain of salt compared with our own intuitive common sense.

“I always have concerns about the guidelines’ increasing complexity — it’s now 835 pages,” she says. “From my standpoint, [journalist] Michael Pollan’s seven-word mini-haiku takes care of things quite nicely: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’”

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