How to Choose the Right Exercise Ball

Where to Buy and How to Use Them

Ben Goldstein

Fitness fads come and go (remember the Shake Weight?) but, every now and then, a trend comes along that actually makes sense. One such trend is a new focus on core strength and functional training which involves strengthening the torso for better workouts and fewer injuries.

A popular and useful tool for core strength is the exercise ball. Physical therapists have used them for years, but fitness experts now know it's one of the best ways to strengthen the abdominal wall and back muscles as well as increase stability.

Here's what you need to know about choosing and using an exercise ball.

Choosing an Exercise Ball

Before you buy a ball, make sure it's the right size for your height. To test it, sit on the ball and make sure your hips are level or just slightly higher than the knees:

  • 55 cm: 4'11" - 5'4"
  • 65 cm: 5'5" - 5'11"
  • 75 cm: 6'0" - 6' 7"

If you're overweight or obese, look for an exercise ball that is burst-resistant and can accommodate your weight.

Where to Buy

You can buy exercise balls almost anywhere, sporting goods stores, places like Walmart, Target, and on Amazon, or online fitness sites like SPRI and Power Systems. Our favorite ball is the Spri Elit Xercise Balance Ball. It's very high quality and has the perfect level of firmness for almost any activity.

How to Use Your Exercise Ball

Exercise balls challenge you by putting your body in an unstable environment. When you lie on the ball, your legs and abdominal muscles immediately get to work to keep you from falling off.

Add an exercise like a chest press or a crunch to increase the intensity of the movement.

Exercise balls are versatile enough to use for just about anything, including:

  • Weight Training: Use the stability ball as your new 'weight bench' to add difficulty to the movements and incorporate the muscles of your legs, glutes, and abs.
  • Abdominal Training: Doing crunches, twists, and other traditional exercises on the ball adds difficulty to the movement by engaging more muscles as in this core workout.
  • Sitting Around: Just sitting on an exercise ball can be a challenge for your core in itself, and it's a great way to improve your posture when sitting in front of a computer or watching television. Practice by sitting on it and raising one foot off the ground and balancing, or try some beginner ball exercises.
  • Flexibility, Yoga and Pilates Exercises: The ball is great for stretching and relaxing, or you can try a yoga workout on the ball.
  • Playing Around: It's a workout tool but, don't forget, it's also a ball. Your kids will love playing with it, just keep an eye on them so they don't hurt themselves.

Disclosure: Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."