This weeks FITNESS TIP: Stability Ball or Medicine Ball push ups
Push-Ups in themselves are hard enough, but we're going to make them a little tougher/more fun. By using a stability or medicine ball, most exercises become much more difficult. This is due to the fact that a stability ball makes you 'stabilize' on it, making your muscles do much more work than they normally would without it. This will give you more strength along with more balance and core strength.
The muscles that are affected by this work out are mainly your pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders), and triceps. But also to a less degree, forearms and back (latimus dorsi) lats. There are also other back muscles involved that will be strengthened as well as your core (abdominal muscles) when you focus on proper form keeping your midsection aligned properly. During this exercise focus on the quality of form and movement, not quantity of repetitions at first.
For starters, grab a stability or medicine ball (bigger = easier, smaller = harder). Don't have one? Use a basketball or soccer ball. Position your hands about shoulder width apart on the ball, utilizing the entirety of your hand to hold onto the ball. Do not just rest your hands upon the ball, but instead grip the stability ball. Draw in your belly button slightly and lightly contract your gluteus muscles (butt). This helps keep pain from entering into the lower back area. Make sure feet are hip-width apart. Slowly bend the elbows keeping them close to the body, leading with the chest and ensuring the abdomen stays steady and does not allow the lower back to slouch. Stop once arms are bent at 90 degrees while while keeping legs spine and neck in a straight line, and pause for a moment. While staying perfectly steady, push back up with arms still close to body and not arching the lower back or bringing the head forward. As you do this the ball is going to shake, and that is normal.
A good beginner exercise with the stability ball is just to hold Push-Up position. Not only will it exercise your arms, shoulders and chest, but it will work on your abdomen nicely. Have someone hold the stability ball softly in place so that you can get a better hang of just the motion, and so that you don't fly off of it. This exercise will greatly increase the strength of your chest and shoulders.
For a more challenging and advanced workout, try medicine ball push ups with one hand on the floor and the other on a medicine ball. This will build upper body and core strength while improving balance.
Another variation is to put your legs and feet up on a stability ball. This will change the angle of the push-up. Keep your abdominals tight to keep the ball in place and to help balance your lower body. Slowly begin to lower yourself while maintaining perfect form.
Ball push ups are a great way to add variety to your current strength training program. It is also a fantastic exercise for kids, as seen in the video below: