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Chest Workouts with a Fitness Ball

Updated on July 18, 2019
Lorra Garrick profile image

Former ACE-certified personal trainer Lorra Garrick has trained men & women for fat loss, muscle building, more strength and more fitness.

The ball isn’t just for women, and it isn’t just for beginners or people with injuries. Men who are experienced with weightlifting should try the ball for at least a few chest exercises. It provides a unique twist.

Benefits of Chest Workout with a Fitness Ball

If one wants maximum strength or power output with dumbbells, using a bench is better than using a stability or “Swiss” ball. However, the ball can be used for one or two sets anyways, for its unique benefits.

  • Engages the core and neck muscles. The core is comprised of the lower back and abs. When one presses weights while lying on the ball, the core is forced to get involved, to prevent the trainee from slipping off. The heavier the weights that one uses while on the ball, the harder the core must work to keep the body stabilized and steady.
  • Though one has the option of resting their head on the ball throughout the set, this shouldn’t be done. Instead, one should keep their head off the ball. This will force isometric contraction of the muscles that support the neck. An isometric contraction is when a muscle contracts without shortening or lengthening.

Pressing weights while lying on a ball, head off of it, eventually will strengthen the neck in the sense that a person will be able to hold it up without feeling any fatigue.

  • May be easier on the shoulders. Some people may find that using the ball instead of a bench produces a more comfortable or ergonomic feel to the shoulder joints. For those who find using a bench tweaky on the shoulders, they should try the ball instead and see how it feels. They just might be pleasantly surprised.
  • May be more comfortable on the lower back. The curvature of the ball changes the way the back settles on it, versus how the back settles on a straight, hard bench. Some people may find this feel inviting.
  • Eliminates having to wait for an available bench. If the gym is crowded and it’s time to do one’s chest presses—and no benches are available—the solution is to grab a stability ball and start pressing.
  • Makes sitting up after a heavy set, while still holding the dumbbells, much easier than when using a bench.
  • Flat pressing can alternate with angled pressing. One can alternate between flat pressing and angled (incline) pressing in a single set, simply by shifting their position on the ball.

Chest Press
Chest Press

How to Lie on the Stability Ball for a Chest Exercise

This may depend on personal preference or how much core activation a person wants. One way to lie on the ball is to keep only the upper back and rear deltoids in contact with the ball.

Another way is to get further up on it so that the middle back is in primary contact. When the middle back is in primary contact, the neck is off the ball. To create an angle or incline position, one lowers their pelvis towards the floor. The more lowered the pelvis is, the more upright the torso becomes.

Dumbbell presses can be done on a stability ball, and so can dumbbell flyes. However, a barbell can be used (pre-weighted is highly preferable). Furthermore, one can situate a Swiss ball under the bar of a Smith machine and do bench presses there.

Not only that, but they can place the ball between two cable systems and perform cable flyes. Finally, they can turn over on the ball (chest on top of it, legs bent or outstretched, toes on floor) and do cable cross-overs.

If one is getting bored with their routine or has been experiencing a tweaky or achy shoulder during or after standard chest exercises, they should try a few chest workouts with a stability ball. Taller people will need a larger ball, though they can still use smaller balls. The smaller the ball, the more a person will have to use their thigh muscles to sit up after a set while still holding the dumbbells.


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