7 Core-Strengthening Push Up Progressions for Female Athletes

Sophia McDermott Drysdale


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bodybuilding, Nutrition, Women's Fitness



4. Push Up on Medicine Ball with One Hand

Push ups with one hand on a medicine ball load your arm unilaterally and force the whole shoulder girdle to stabilise. The uneven surface also forces your core to work overtime to keep your body in a plank position.




  • Aim to do 10 repetitions each side while keeping your hips square and level on the medicine ball.
  • Once you have mastered this exercise, you are ready to progress to push ups on a physio ball.


5. Push Up on Physio Ball with Single Leg Raise

Performing push ups on a physio ball forces your stabiliser muscles into action. As with the chair or bench push up, raising one leg forces the core to work harder to keep the body symmetrical.



  • Aim to do 10 repetitions with one leg raised and 10 repetitions with the other leg raised.
  • It’s important to lower your chest to the floor with your shoulders in line with your wrists. There is an inclination to drift backward in this variation, which takes the load off the shoulders. Counter this by engaging the lats to ensure the shoulders remain in line.



6. Push Up on Physio Ball with Crunch

This exercise incorporates the rectus abdominus and the hip flexors.




  • Aim to do 20 repetitions.
  • Keep your shoulders in line with your wrists and use your pecs, delts, triceps, and lats to stabilise and brace as you bring your knees to your chest.
  • Keep your hips low to ensure that you are activating your core. Raising your butt disengages your core and means your hip flexors end up doing all the work.



7. Push Up with Single Arm Dumbbell Rows

This challenging variation incorporates the rhomboids, lats, rear delts, and even the biceps. The supporting arm and core have to work super hard to stabilise as the weight is lifted unilaterally.



  • Aim to do 20 repetitions, alternating arms for the rows.
  • Lower your chest almost to the floor to ensure maximum range of movement when lowering down for the push up.
  • The aim is to perform the single arm row while keeping the plank shape and the hips square.


Be Realistic and Build a Foundation

For some women, expecting to pump out 20 plyometric push ups on a medicine ball might be a little unrealistic at first. Start slow and work your way up to the more challenging exercises. Perform the push up with with a full range of motion, which means chest almost to the floor or to the object you are using to push against. When you can perform 3 sets of 20 repetitions with the right posture and controlled breathing, move onto the following exercise. 


Work your way through these pushing movement progressions to build a strong and stable upper body, along with a core that supports it.


This article was originally published on Breaking Muscle AU.


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Photo courtesy of CrossFit Empirical.

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