Improve Your Push-Ups

Photo Credit: Super Ralf CC-BY-SA-3.0

The basic push-up is a great exercise to strengthen the shoulders, arms and back. Military physical tests include push-ups as a measure of fitness and strength. The basic push-up is performed with the body weight supported by the palms and the toes with the body in a stiff, straight line from head to heel. Keep your elbows under your shoulders. Lower your upper chest toward the floor, stopping about 1 to 2 inches from the floor and then push back up from the floor using your arms. Once you are strong enough to perform 75 to 100 push-ups, try some variations to improve the effectiveness of your push-up workout. 
In the start position, place one ankle over the other so that your body weight is resting on the toes of one foot. Perform 50 repetitions and then switch your feet so that your weight is now resting on the toes of the other foot. Repeat 50 more repetitions. 
The torso rotation push-up is a strenuous upper body workout. From the start position for the basic push-up, rotate your upper body to the left as you push up and lift your left arm upward over your head. Your upper body should form a “T” shape so that the front of your body is facing left. Bring your arm back to the floor as you rotate your torso back to the start position. Repeat on the right side.
The plank-style push-up will increase your core strength and stability, as well as workout your arms and chest. Place your forearms on the floor instead of your palms. Hold your body straight for about 10 seconds and then lower your body just a few inches. Push back up and hold for another 10 seconds. 
Elevate your feet on a bench for a powerful push-up workout. Use a low bench or foot stool in the beginning and move up to a regular height bench once you can do 50 to 75 elevated push-ups. Keep your palms under your shoulders for stability.

Stability Ball Exercises for a Strong, Toned Back

The stability ball, also called an exercise ball, is a superb way to improve your strength, flexibility and muscle tone. You can focus on your whole body or work specific muscle groups. Warm spring days are just around the corner and so are backless, short-sleeve and sleeveless fashions. You will want your shoulders, upper back and arms to be toned and firm for spring and summer fashions and trips to the beach. Try these three upper body strengthening and toning stability ball exercises to get you in shape fast.
Performing push-ups using a stability ball adds an extra dimension of strengthening and toning to the regular push-up.  Begin with the stability ball underneath your body with your hands and feet on the floor. Keep your palms flat on the floor directly under your shoulders. Breathe in and squeeze your abdominal muscles. Walk your body backward until the stability ball is under your stomach and extend your legs out, but keep your toes on the floor. Place your palms on the stability ball underneath your shoulders. Squeeze the ball with your hands and press upward with your arms to lift your body off the ball. Hold the position for a few seconds and then lower your body back toward the ball. Exhale when pushing upward and inhale when lowering your body back down. Keep your spine in a straight line from the top of your head to your heels. 
Photo Credit:
Leg extensions strengthen your chest, arms and upper back. Start by draping your body over a stability ball placed under your stomach. Place your hands palms down on the floor under your shoulders. Breathe out and tighten your abdominal muscles. Lift your feet off the floor and try to keep your legs together. Make a straight line with your body from your head to  your heels. Point your toes for maximum extension. Hold this position for a few seconds. The longer you can  hold the position, the better. Exhale, relax and then repeat the extension. 

Concentrate on your back and shoulders with a shoulder extension workout. Position yourself on the stability ball with it in the middle of your body and your hands and feet on the floor. Stretch out your legs, but keep your toes on the floor. Walk backward until the ball is directly underneath your stomach and both legs are stretched out straight with your toes on the floor. Stretch your arms straight out in front of your body. Try to keep your body straight and avoid arching your back. Slowly bring your arms back until you form a Y shape. Continue bringing  your arms back until they are straight out from the shoulder and form a T shape. Hold this position for a few seconds and then bring your arms back to the start position. Breathe out and repeat the exercise.