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August 01, 2022 8 min read

For men, fighting a flabby chest is a lifelong battle. The medicine ball push-up is a highly effective bodyweight exercise to help you build muscle in your pecs and triceps.

Traditional push-ups, the bench press, and dumbbell chest fly sometimes fail to achieve proper pectoral activation.

Often the majority of load gets put, improperly, on the shoulders and biceps. Incorporating a medicine ball or two, or a dumbbell, is a strength training hack for every man who wants to build his pectorals and triceps, and tone his chest.

What is a Medicine Ball Push-Up?

The medicine ball push-up is more challenging than the basic push up. This bodyweight exercise is similar to the diamond push-up. The medicine ball, however, does provide an form advantage. Because of the spherical shape of the ball, it allows you to get a deeper press with more pectoral involvement and less shoulder involvement. It also allows you to get more reps in, due to the slight incline that it provides.

The medicine ball push-up also offers superior triceps activation than a standard shoulder-width push-up. 

There are a few variations and progressions of the medicine ball push-up, which can add variety in your routine and help you push past your pectoral plateaus. There are also some regressions that will be discussed, to help prepare you for the medicine ball push-up. First, we will talk about the standard medicine ball push-up with one single medicine ball.

How to do a Standard Medicine Ball Push-Up (Form)

A medicine ball push-up traditionally uses a single ball with two hands. This is the easiest variation of the medicine ball push-up, and should be mastered first before attempting advanced movements such as the two handed medicine ball push-up, or the alternating medicine ball push-up. 

To execute a standard medicine ball push-up:

  1. Grab a medicine ball weighing anywhere from 5 to 20 lbs.  The smaller the ball, the more difficult the movement is going to be. Smaller medicine balls will offer less stability, and are therefore proprioceptively challenging. Changing the size of the medicine ball can offer helpful muscle confusion to your strength training routine.
  1. In the starting push-up position, place the ball under your chest and hold onto the top of the ball. Your hands should be off to the top/sides of the ball and directly under your shoulders.
  1. Keep your back straight as if you were doing a standard push-up. Your back should be straight, as if you were in a plank position.
  1. Slowly drop your chest to the ball, bending your elbows. Your elbows should be diagonal, not flaring out to the sides, but not pointed directly behind you.  (Note: Flaring your elbows out to the sides is a sure fire way to reduce pectoral engagement. If you’re still doing this in your regular push-ups, you might want to master that form correction first.)
  1. Perform 5 sets of 10-30 reps with a full range of motion, depending on your ability and training style. 

Medicine Ball Push-Up Variations

If you’re looking to increase the intensity on this exercise, there are several ways to do it. Whether it’s adding another medicine ball, incorporating a stability ball, using dumbbells or turning it into a high intensity exercise. There is probably a way to make the medicine ball push-up or alternative close grip push-up work for you.

Medicine Ball Push-Up Progressions (Advanced)

1. Two-Armed Medicine Ball Push-Ups

The two-armed medicine ball push-up adds a proprioceptive challenge due to the unstable surface that involves supporting yourself on two balls. This is better with two smaller medicine balls, because only one hand goes on each ball. 

How to do a two-armed medicine ball push-up:

  1. Grab two medicine balls weighing anywhere from 5 to 12 lbs.
  1. In the starting push-up position, place the balls slightly farther than shoulder-width apart. You can bring them closer in as you get more comfortable with the movement and want to progress it.
  1. Keep you back and legs straight, as if you were doing a standard push-up.
  1. Press your chest down until you reach the imaginary plane that is the top of the medicine balls.
  1. Keep your core tight on the way down and focus on stability.
  1. Perform 6-20 repetitions, depending on your ability and training style.

2. Alternating One-Armed Medicine Ball Push-Up

If you’re looking to increase the cardio and mobility challenge of this workout, then the alternating medicine ball push-up is for you. This is an advanced movement, and it should only be attempted after the two-armed medicine ball and the single medicine ball push-ups are both mastered. This is a great exercise to incorporate in a full-body circuit training work out. 

To perform the alternating medicine ball push-up:

  1. Use one medicine ball, approximately 5-10 lbs.
  1. In the starting position, have your arms about shoulder width apart, or slightly wider.
  1. Place one hand on the medicine ball, keep the other hand on the floor, and complete a push-up.
  1. Push yourself up with a lot of power, causing your torso to “jump” off of the ground. 
  1. Pass the medicine ball to the other hand and repeat.
  1. For a great cardio intensive, strength-endurance workout, do 4-6 sets of 8-20 repetitions with 40 seconds of rest in between.

3. Stability Ball Push-Up

If you really want to take your medicine ball push-up to the next level, then upgrade to a stability ball. Stability balls are the large inflatable balls that you see at every gym. Most of them time stability balls are used as tools to make certain exercises easier. In this case, the stability ball push-up is, ironically, a less stable version of the medicine ball push-up. 

To perform a stability ball push-up:

  1. Place the stability ball out in front of you. The first few times you try it, it’s a good idea to place the stability ball against a wall for added support.
  1. Put both hands on the ball, shoulder-width apart.
  1. Bring your chest down to the ball slowly. Keep your elbows pointed behind you. Do not flare them out to the sides.
  1. Come up once you hit your chest on  the ball.
  1. Repeat 10-30 repetitions, depending on your ability and training style. For a killer chest workout, do 5 sets of this with 1 minute of rest in between.

Medicine Ball Push-Up Regressions

If you have trouble with the unstable nature of the medicine ball, don’t fret! You can always regress the movement until you’re ready to do medicine ball push-ups. There are a few ways to do it. Most of them involve ditching the medicine ball.

1. Dumbbell Diamond Push-Up

Dumbbells can effectively be used in place of a medicine ball. Thus, we have the dumbbell diamond push-up.  If you are working out at home and do not have access to a medicine ball, this is your best alternative. However, even if you have access to medicine balls, you still might want to consider a dumbbell push-up. 

How to perform dumbbell diamond push-up:

  1. Grab two large, heavy dumbbells. Place them together and hold onto the handles.
  1. Place the dumbbells below your chest, just under the center.
  1. Come down slowly on each rep. Keep your elbows pointing diagonal. Not out to the sides, but not directly behind you.
  1. Repeat until failure. Do 4-6 sets for a killer chest workout.

2. Two-Armed Dumbbell Push-Up

The two-armed dumbbell push-up, or commonly referred to as simply a “dumbbell push-up,”  is essentially a push-up with your arms and chest at an incline. If your weights are suited for this, this could be an excellent alternative to traditional incline push-ups. There is little stability challenge in this one, compared to the stability balls. It provides just enough of an incline to remain challenging in advanced strength training. 

How to perform a two-armed dumbbell push-up:

  1. Grab two large, heavy dumbbells. Place them shoulder-width apart, vertically, and hold onto the handles.
  1. Place the dumbbells just under your shoulders. Don’t have them too far out ahead of you, or too close to your torso.
  1. Come down slowly on each rep. Try to keep your elbows pointing generally behind you, not flared out to the sides.
  1. Keep your lower back straight. You want your lower body and core to be tight throughout the whole set.
  1. Perform 10-40 repetitions, depending on your training style and ability. Do 4-6 sets of this with a 1 minute rest interval for a killer chest workout that rivals the bench press.

What are the Benefits of a Medicine Ball Push-Up?

The medicine ball push-up is an excellent tool for getting pectoral engagement when the bench press, seated chest press and cable fly aren’t enough.

Medicine ball push-ups are also a great hack for superior triceps engagement. 

The medicine ball can also be used to assist diamond push-ups, making them easier to knock out higher reps. Traditional diamond push-ups, which are done on the floor, can be difficult to accomplish with a complete range of motion.

The medicine ball adds an incline, thereby decreasing the amount of range of motion needed.

You get the pec engagement that you want, without the sloppy form that comes with exhausting yourself with diamond push-ups. Improving your push-ups will improve your pectorals and triceps activation. This translates to gains on the bench press.

This study suggests that push-up performance and bench press performance are correlated so much that push-ups can be used to  predict your one rep max bench press.

The medicine ball-push up will result in noticeable physical changes in your body. This advanced bodyweight exercise will tone up the pectorals and allow you to wear your fat better. Although pectorals training exercises help, growing unwanted fat in the chest may related to hormonal imbalance and low testosterone. For a testosterone boost that helps you get the body and energy levels that you want, try  ALPHA-AF

This unique formulation uses the botanical, Bryonia, to promote testosterone production and reduce unwanted estrogens in our body. For an added testosterone boost, pair ALPHA-AF with 1-ANDRO in the  MASS STACK.

When you’re doing everything you can to build muscle and create a big, lean chest, you want to use every tool in your arsenal, and that includes targeting your nutrition first.

Common Form Mistakes

The medicine ball push-up has the potential to get sloppy. The unstable nature of a sphere on a flat surface alone increases the muscular challenge. 

3 common form mistakes to avoid are:

  1. Flaring your elbows out to the side: Just like the standard push-up, you don’t want to be flaring your elbows out on the medicine ball push-up. This will shift the load unnecessarily to the shoulders and biceps, which misses the point of this exercise. You want to point your elbows out diagonally—not the side, and not directly behind you.
  1. Letting your hips drop down: It’s called a push-up, not a butt-up! This is a rookie mistake, but when an unstable surface is added, it’s easier to slip up. Try to keep your hips up and your lower back and lower body in a straight line while executing these movements.
  1. Lack of pectorals activation: We all have a mind-muscle connection that allows us to feel the muscle we’re using. We can also choose to prioritize one muscle over the other, helping us take control of our prime mover muscles. In both the standard push-up and the medicine ball push-up, try to actively squeeze your pecs. The pectorals are responsible for the pushing motion, or at least they should be. It’s a lot like how the glutes, not your back, are supposed to be the prime movers for deadlifts and RDL’s.
  1. Use your core muscles: Keep them tight throughout the exercise. The push-up is a full body workout. Proper push-ups require great core strength. If your push-up isn’t up to par, take a look at building your core muscles and improving overall core strength.

Final Verdict

The medicine ball push-up is just one of many great chest exercises that you can incorporate into your weekly  chest building routine

The medicine ball is a valuable tool that you can incorporate into our basic push-up. The power of the sphere is demonstrated in its ability to force adjustments to our form.

The medicine ball push-up is a fantastic alternative to the close grip barbell bench press and the diamond push-up. The medicine ball can help you overcome PR plateaus and help you build a chest you’re proud of.