How to Choose the Right Exercise Ball

Where to buy 'em and how to use 'em

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

My favorite 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 abs and back and increase stability.

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

How to Choose 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, you might be wondering if you can use an exercise ball. Yes, you absolutely can.  Just make sure the ball you buy is burst-resistance and can accommodate your weight.

Where to Buy

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

How To Use Your ExerciseBall

Exercise balls challenge you by putting your body in an unstable environment.

When you lie on the ball, your legs and abs immediately contract to keep you from falling off. Add an exercise to that (like a chest press or a crunch), and you've just increased the intensity of the movement. Bonus: Exercise balls are versatile enough to use for just about anything, including:

  • Abdominal training. Doing crunches, twists and other traditional exercises on the ball adds difficulty to the movement by recruiting more muscles as in this Core Workout.
  • Sitting around. Just sitting on an exercise ball can be a challenge 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 of these beginner ball exercises.
  • Flexibility, yoga and pilates exercises. The ball is great for stretching and relaxing, such as in this Relaxing Stretch on the Ball workout or this Yoga on the Ball workout.
  • 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.

Exercise Ball Workouts and Exercises

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