The Upper-Body Endurance Combo Workout

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier offers 4 combo drills to test your core and upper-body strength and your muscular endurance.

The winter sports season will be here before you know it. Do you have the necessary upper-body muscular endurance to unleash long, powerful slap shots late in hockey games or throw a pivotal cross-court pass in a basketball tournament? Do your core strengthening exercises help you get solid enough to stay on your feet and not get taken down at a crucial time on the wrestling mat?

The following four combo drills—all performed from a push-up position—simultaneously test your upper-body and core strength and determine your muscular endurance limits. The short and intense drills can be done in five to 10 minutes at the end of a full-body workout during pre-season conditioning. They will help you maintain your upper-body and core strength and endurance during winter sports.

Do the drills on non-consecutive days to ensure adequate recovery.

RELATED: 4-Week Upper-Body Muscle-Building Workout


  • Light medicine ball or basketball
  • Exercise mat (optional)
  • Water bottle
  • Timer


  • Initially assume a push-up position for each combo drill and perform one set per drill.
  • Each core part of the drill is superset with five Push-Ups per arm.
  • Keep your back straight and your abdominal muscles tight, and don't let your lower back sag throughout the drills.
  • Rest 30 seconds between drills and hydrate before, during and after the workout.
  • Finish with cool-down upper- and lower-body static stretches.

Combo Drills:  Core-Building Movements Superset with Push-Ups

Clock Drill

  • With your right hand on a ball and your left hand on the floor or a mat, lift your left foot off the floor and keep it raised. 
  • Move the ball diagonally forward to the one o'clock position for one count. 
  • Move the ball to two o'clock, counting two seconds, then three o'clock (ball positioned about even with your waistline) for a three-second hold, etc., until you reach the six o'clock position (ball behind you toward your right foot). 
  • After counting six seconds, drop your knees to the floor, place the ball atop your left hand with your right hand on the floor, and return to push-up position. 
  • Raise your right foot off the floor and bring the ball down diagonally toward your left foot to the seven o'clock position for seven seconds, then eight o'clock, etc., until you reach 12 with the left arm atop the ball extended in front of your head for the 12-second hold. 
  • Without resting, return to a basic push-up position (both feet on the floor) and do five Push-Ups with your right hand on the ball, then five with the ball under your left hand. 

The clock movements with one foot off the floor ideally challenge the core muscles as long as you focus on those muscles while moving the ball in different directions. Your upper-body muscles will also be working hard throughout the clock movements and Push-Ups. The continuous clock phase of the drill superset with Push-Ups and minimal rest promotes core and upper-body muscular endurance.

Ball Roll Drill

  • Starting in the push-up position with your left hand on the ball, raise your right foot, roll the ball to your right hand and continue laterally rolling the ball from one hand to the other non-stop for 30 seconds. 
  • Without rest, bring your left foot off the floor and repeat for 30 seconds. 
  • Return to standard push-up position and superset with five Push-Ups with your left hand on the ball and five more with your right hand on the ball.
Check out the video above to see strength and conditioning coach Todd Durkin's advanced Push-Up variations, including the Ball Roll Push-Up.

Clockwise/Counterclockwise Ball Movement Drill

  • Start with your left foot off the floor and your right hand on the ball. 
  • Keep your hand on the ball while moving it clockwise for 15 seconds (small circular motion), then 15 seconds counterclockwise.  
  • Repeat with your right foot off the floor/left hand on the ball. Superset with the Push-Up routine as in the prior drills.

Prone Planks/Push-Ups With Feet on Ball

  • Start in push-up position (hands shoulder-width apart) with both feet on the ball.
  • Raise your right foot (left foot stays on ball) and hold the position for 30 seconds. 
  • Without rest, lower your right foot to the ball, raise your left foot and hold for 30 seconds. 
  • Bring your left foot back on the ball, raise your right foot and do five Push-Ups. 
  • Switch to left foot raised/right foot on ball for five more Push-Ups.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock