Too weak for the medicine ball press? Here’s how to get the strength to do this triceps blaster.
Go to any gym and see if you can find someone who’s doing presses on a heavy ball or basketball.
Even men struggle with this exercise. In fact, I have never seen a woman doing this unique triceps-isolating movement with her knees off the floor.
It’s just a really hard exercise that requires a strong core — not the kind of core that one uses for a heavy deadlift, but a different kind of core strength.
It also requires healthy rotator cuff tendons.
Finally, the movement of the ball while pressing adds to the challenge.
No matter how still you can keep the ball, that’s the issue: You must keep it still. This takes work.
If you normally do close-grip bench pressing, this doesn’t mean you can right off the bat perform medicine ball presses. Don’t bet on it.
Med Ball Press: Not Just a Show-Off Exercise
Though you may see the med ball press as a “show off” exercise, it has great virtues.
It really targets the triceps, making them tighter, firmer and shapelier, and even bigger.
As mentioned, it requires a strong core, but it’s also a superb core strengthening exercise.
How to Get Strong Enough for Ball Presses
To get stronger for the medicine ball press, do chest pressing motions. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not as straightforward as plopping down on a chest press machine and going at it.
There is a method to this. The protocol should be an 8-12 rep max with load progression over time. The best exercises are:
- Bench press
- Horizontal chest press
- Pushup including narrow grip
- Bench dip
Avoid this Mistake
Endless sessions of struggling with the medicine ball press itself is not the key to getting strong enough to efficiently carry out this exercise.
I learned to do it not by struggling with it, but by getting stronger with the other four exercises.
Then one day I tried the medicine ball press and was, from the very first time, able to do five repetitions, without my knees touching the floor, but rather, by keeping my body aligned from head to toe.
I picked this correct form up from having been doing pushups and developing my upper body strength with the other exercises.
Why not just dive head-first with knee ball presses?
Because you’ll have a very difficult time getting off your knees. The knee approach encourages bad form.
You may end up bowing to the ball with your butt sticking into the air. Your arms may weirdly flare out.
With such deranged form, you may never get strong enough to perform clean, ruler-straight ball presses with your knees off the floor.
But by getting strong on the other exercises first, you can then move right into knee-less ball pressing.
Though the “bowing to a statue” cheat move can be pretty much eliminated by rocking forward on the knees, and though the arms can be repositioned not to flare out, the knee method is still not an efficient technique.
After all, using your knees will make you better at … using your knees.
But hey, if you can eventually get off your knees, then great. However, going from those four exercises straight to knee-less presses is more effective.
NOTE: If you can do just one ball press-up without your knees, do NOT let this discourage you! This is better than eight knee press-ups.
If you can do only one ruler-straight ball press — you’re on your way to doing 10. Each session, you do however many knee-less reps are possible, even if it’s still just one after two weeks.
Eventually you’ll be doing two, then three, then four, then eight.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.