Strengthen Your Chest and Light Up Your Abs With Stability Ball Push-Ups

Keep your body in a straight line, core tight as you do stability ball push-ups.
Image Credit: Antonio_Diaz/iStock/GettyImages

Stability balls are definitely and underrated piece of gym equipment. Add one to a chest press or dumbbell row and these moves get way harder. Now, add the stability-ball push-up to your routine to take your strength and stability to the next level.

  • What is a stability ball push-up?​ Also known as a Swiss ball push-up (or medicine ball push-up), this exercise involves performing a push-up with your hands on a ball instead of the ground.
  • What muscles do stability ball push-ups work?​ This exercise focuses on your core, chest and shoulders.
  • Who can do stability ball push-ups?​ This is an intermediate-level exercise and is great for people looking to progress their body-weight push-ups.

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Ready to try this challenging push-up variation? Here's everything you need to know about stability ball push-ups.

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How to Do a Stability Ball Push-Up

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Skill Level Intermediate
Body Part [ "Chest", "Abs", "Shoulders" ]
  1. Begin in a high plank with your hands pressed into the ball, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower your chest to the ball, elbows at a 45-degree angle from your ribs.
  3. Try to tap your chest on the ball if possible but don't rest your body on the ball.
  4. Push into the ball to return to the starting position.

Tip

Adjust your hand position depending on ball size, says New York-based physical therapist Sam Becourtney, DPT, CSCS. If you're using a wider ball, take a wider hand position. Similarly, if your stability ball is smaller, take a more narrow stance.

How Often Should You Do Stability Ball Push-Ups?

You probably shouldn't be doing push-ups ​every​ single day, as the repetitive movement can cause back pain or inflammation over time. But there are no strict rules on how often you can do this exercise. You can use this move during any upper-body workout or build them into a full-body session.

"It all comes down to the individual's goals," Becourtney says. "If your goal is to increase motor skills or muscle recruitment ... as well as the core, then this is an ideal exercise to use upwards of two to three workout sessions per week."

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3 Reasons to Do Stability Ball Push-Ups

1. Increased Core Strength

Training on an unstable surface, like a Swiss ball, is a great way to strengthen the stabilizing muscles of your core, according to Becourtney. Since the ball can roll side to side, using it really targets your obliques (sides of your torso), as they help keep your body from falling to the side.

And building core stability can make a big difference in your day-to-day life, from your posture while sitting to your general movement, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

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2. Stronger Shoulders

While regular push-ups strengthen your shoulders, the Swiss ball variation demands even more from the rotator cuff stabilizers in order to support the body, Becourtney says.

Generally, the joints that make up your shoulders are unstable, according to the NASM. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that support the unstable joints. Strengthening these muscles can help keep you injury-free.

3. Stronger Chest and Triceps

As with the standard variation, stability ball push-ups will strengthen the muscles in your chest. But they can also target your triceps if maintain more narrow hand position on the ball.

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Common Stability Ball Push-Up Mistakes

1. Dropping the Hips

When you do a push-up on a ball, your upper body sits higher than in a normal push-up. Since you're on an incline, it's easier to let your hips sag or drop during the exercise.

Unfortunately, this mistake takes away the core-strengthening benefits of the exercise, Becourtney says. So make sure to keep your core braced and tight throughout the whole movement.

2. Gripping the Ball Too Hard

If you feel unstable, you may feel inclined to grip the ball a little too hard, but this often worsens your control of the surface. It can also cause you to clench your fingers, which can be uncomfortable or painful. Instead, spread your feet wider to give yourself a more stable base.

3. Placing the Hands Too Wide

Although you don't want your hands to be too close together, you also don't want to place your palms too wide apart, either. This small mistake can increase your chance of slipping off the sides and falling onto the ground, Becourtney says. Keep you hands under your shoulders.

Stability Ball Push-Up Modifications

1. Using a BOSU Ball

This piece of exercise equipment is half stability ball, half flat base, and it makes an excellent modification for standard Swiss ball push-ups, according to Becourtney. He recommends you place the BOSU ball side down, placing your hands on the flat base. That way, you'll have a little added movement, while still giving your hands a firm surface.

2. Putting Your Legs on the Ball

If placing your hands on the stability ball feels too challenging, flip the exercise around and put your legs up instead, Becourtney says. This will give you a little more balance, while still adding the challenge of an unstable surface.

Stability Ball Push-Up Progressions

1. Put Your Hands Closer Together

Placing your hands closer together (aka diamond push-up) is a more challenging variation, as it isolates more of the movement to your triceps, Becourtney says.

2. Lift a Leg in the Air

Lifting one leg in the air will definitely make this exercise more difficult, as it gives you less points of contact to balance on. However, if you decide to try this progression, make sure to keep your core as tight and consider widening your feet a bit to give your body some more stability.

3. Combine the Two

Want to try the ultimate progression? Place your arms close together and lift a leg up.

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