How to Do a Stability Ball Push-Up

pushup on an exercise ball

You're probably familiar with the stability ball, though you may know it by another of its many names, like Swiss ball or balance ball. 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.

Performing exercises like the plank and the push-up using a stability ball has been shown to activate twice the number of core muscles. This is because the ball is an unstable surface, and to keep yourself balanced on the ball while doing the exercise, you use many stabilizer muscles that don't often get a good workout on weight machines, for example. The end result is a better core workout and improved balance.

This variation of the push up increases the difficulty, as well as the effectiveness of the standard push up.

The Benefits of Functional Exercise and the Stability Ball

Most trainers and coaches prefer to have athletes perform functional exercises, rather than just push weights around. Functional exercise is generally an exercise that requires you to use your body as resistance instead of weights. Such exercises require more muscles to be activated (stabilizers 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. During functional exercises, a machine doesn't control the movement patterns, so your muscles must control it.

Keep in mind that 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.

The stability push-up requires a stability ball, and is much harder than it appears. In additional to being a great upper body and core training exercise, it's also great for shoulder stabilization and is much harder than it appears. In additional to being a great upper body and core training exercise, it's also great for shoulder stabilization.

Performing the Stability Ball Push-Up 

See the picture as a guide to what is described below.

  1. Lay with your chest on the stability ball.
  2. Place your hands on the ball at the sides of your chest.
  3. Place your toes on the floor, legs straight.
  4. Push your body up until your arms are almost straight (do not lock your elbows).
  5. Hold and balance for two seconds.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.


To add further challenge to your stability ball push-up workout, you can try a variation. Instead of putting the ball under your hands and pushing up, 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 you 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. Slowly lower your upper body 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.
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