Ever the fitness enthusiast, Khloé Kardashian, who’s 7 months pregnant, recently wrote an ode to an arm exercise she practiced before getting pregnant: push-ups on a Swiss ball.
“Doing push-ups on an exercise ball totally changed my arms,” she writes on her blog.
To try it, begin in a hands plank with your palms on the ball slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and press your heels against a wall for stability. Keeping your body in a straight line, bend your elbows to lower your belly to the ball with momentum, and use the resulting bounce to help you extend your arms and return to a full plank. Continue without breaks — Khloé does 30 to 50 reps at a time, but you can start with sets of 8 to 10. “Your arms will feel like Jell-O when you’re done,” she says of the benefits — but is the move any better than plain old pushups? And is it safe?
Exercise physiologist Jacque Crockford, a certified strength and conditioning coach and American Council on Exercise-certified health coach, confirms that Khloé’s approach is “quite effective.” Compared to a regular push-up, which works the shoulders and upper chest muscles, elevating your upper body on a Swiss ball shifts the effort to the lower part of your chest and to the backs of your arms. “This may help to build up muscular strength before progressing to the push-up on the ground, as there is less body weight to move when in the slightly angled position,” she says, adding that the move also improves cardiovascular endurance.
That said, Crockford says the move is best performed without a bounce (the fun part!), since velocity that helps you get back up cuts down on the effort you actually exert to resist gravity. Ultimately, this reduces the move’s benefits.
It’s why Crockford suggests first-timers slow things down — and, while you’re at it, point your fingers toward the ground, and stick with a firm ball to protect your wrists.
If you have wrist, elbow, or shoulder issues (or a baby belly that gets in your way), you may want to skip the move altogether in lieu of a good ol’ modified pushup performed with your knees on the ground, according to Crockford. It’s easier on your wrists and lower back and still builds strength, she says, so you can ultimately plank it out or use the ball a la Khloé.
While generally loathed, another exercise that’s particularly useful for home workouts is the no-equipment burpee: “They’re a great way to get the heart rate up, improve upper body strength, and engage the core, all in one move,” Crockford says.
With a doctor’s approval, Crockford’s alternatives are safe for Khloé and other pregnant woman seeking strong arms FTW.