How to Do a Stability Ball Pushup

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

pushup on an exercise ball
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Also Known As: Pushups on exercise ball, pushups on Swiss ball, exercise ball inclined pushups

Targets: Chest, shoulders

Equipment Needed: Stability ball

Level: Intermediate

If you want to move beyond the basic pushup or the plank on a stability ball to build upper body strength and control, try stability ball pushups. 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. This variation of the pushup is both more difficult and more effective than the standard floor pushup. The stability pushup can be used as part of a total body strengthening routine.

Benefits

Like standard pushups, 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 pushup on an unstable surface like the stability ball. The pushup 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 pushup 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 good for shoulder stabilization.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Lay with your chest on the stability ball.
  2. Place your hands on the ball at the sides of your chest. They will be shoulder-width apart.
  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.

Common Mistakes

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

Not Perfecting Floor Pushup First

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

Body Alignment

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.

Modifications and Variations

This exercise can be done in different ways to match your level of fitness.

Need a Modification?

If you are having difficulty with doing the pushup with a straight body alignment, try the kneeling version. Kneel but keep your torso and hips in a straight line while doing the pushup.

Up for a Challenge?

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.

Safety and Precautions

You should not do pushups if you have a shoulder injury. 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.

Try It Out

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

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