How to Do a Stability Ball Push-Up: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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If you want to move beyond the basic push-up or the plank on a stability ball to build upper body strength and control, try stability ball push-ups or BOSU push-ups. You're probably familiar with the stability ball, though you may know it by another of its many names, like Swiss ball, exercise ball, or balance ball. A BOSU stability training is flat on one side and has half of a stability ball on the other side.

These variations of the push-up are both more difficult and more effective than the standard floor push-up. The stability push-up can be used as part of a total body strengthening routine.

Also Known As: Push-ups on exercise ball, exercise ball inclined push-ups

Targets: Chest, shoulders

Equipment Needed: Stability ball or BOSU stability trainer

Level: Intermediate

How to Do a Stability Ball Push-Up

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Lay with your chest on the stability ball. Place your hands on the ball at the sides of your chest. They will be shoulder-width apart. If you're using a BOSU, start in a plank position with hands on the flat side of the ball.

  1. Place your toes on the floor, legs straight.
  2. Push your body up until your arms are almost straight (do not lock your elbows).
  3. Hold and balance for two seconds.
  4. Return slowly to the starting position and repeat.

Benefits of the Stability Ball Push-Up

Like standard push-ups, this exercise works your chest and shoulder muscles. In addition, you activate twice the number of core muscles when you perform exercises like the plank and push-up on an unstable surface like the stability ball.

The push-up is a functional exercise using your body as resistance instead of weights. Such exercises require more muscles to be activated (stabilizer muscles and core muscles) during the movement.

In this way, a push-up works more muscles than a bench press. When you add in the requirement of balance, you also increase muscle fiber activation. This exercise is also beneficial for shoulder stabilization.

Other Variations of the Stability Ball Push-Up

You can perform this exercise in different ways to meet your skill level and goals.

Stability Ball Push-Up on Knees

If you are having difficulty doing the push-up with a straight body alignment, try the kneeling version.

  1. Kneel in front of the ball, keeping your torso and hips in a straight line while doing the push-up.
  2. Push your body up until your arms are almost straight (do not lock your elbows).
  3. Hold and balance for two seconds.
  4. Return slowly to the starting position and repeat.

Inverse Stability Ball Push-Up

To add further challenge to your stability ball push-up workout, you can try the push-up with the stability ball beneath your legs.

  1. Kneel facing the stability ball.
  2. Roll yourself forward over the ball carefully, walking your way forward on your hands while allowing the ball to roll beneath your back toward your legs. Stop when the stability ball is resting beneath your shins and the tops of your feet. Your arms will be supporting your upper body, and your lower body will be supported on the stability ball.
  3. Straighten your body and point your toes. Your hands should be flat on the floor in the familiar push-up stance.
  4. Lower your upper body slowly toward the floor by bending your elbows. Keep your body steady on the ball and don't move around. When your arms reach right angles at the elbows, stop and hold the position a moment or two.
  5. Push yourself back up until you reach the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you can prevent injury and get the most from this exercise.

Not Perfecting Floor Push-Up First

You should master the basic push-up and then progress to the stability push-up in order to perform it safely. Do not attempt stability push-ups until you can do 20 basic push-ups.

Misalignment

Your torso and hips should be rigid an in a straight line. Don't allow your low back to sag, as that will hyperextend your back and could result in an injury.

Flared Elbows

Your elbows should be tucked at your sides, not flared out.

Safety and Precautions

You should not do push-ups if you have an injury (such as a shoulder injury or a pec, tricep, or bicep strain). End the exercise if you feel any shoulder pain or hear a clicking noise in your shoulder. Use caution if you have any wrist or elbow injury. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to see if this is an appropriate exercise for you.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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  1. Shiravi S, Letafatkar A, Bertozzi L, Pillastrini P, Khaleghi Tazji M. Efficacy of abdominal control feedback and scapula stabilization exercises in participants with forward head, round shoulder postures and neck movement impairment. Sports Health. 2019;11(3):272-279. doi:10.1177/1941738119835223