How Do I Choose the Best Fitness Ball?

C. Mitchell

Choosing the best fitness ball usually is a matter of finding a ball that will suit your height, strength and workout regimen. There are many kinds of fitness balls. Some, such as the larger stability balls, are designed for core stretches and sit-up work, and others, such as medicine balls and weighted balls, are used primarily for lifting and agility training. The first thing to do is to determine what kind of fitness ball exercises you want to perform. Then, look for a ball that will give you a challenging workout without causing injury or strain.

A woman does pushups with her feet elevated on a fitness ball.
A woman does pushups with her feet elevated on a fitness ball.

The most important part of choosing any sort of fitness device, balls included, is ensuring that you are choosing a product that is appropriate for your size and overall fitness level. A fitness ball can be a great way to liven up your workout and exercise muscles that do not often get much attention. When used without regard to sizing and other precautions, however, they also can cause injury and strain.

Sizing a stability ball is quite simple. These are large, typically rubber or latex inflatable balls that strengthen abdominal and spinal muscles. Stability ball exercises primarily involve leaning against the ball or stretching over it. To get the safest workout, fitness experts usually recommend that you choose a ball upon which you can comfortably sit. When you place your feet flat on the floor, you knees should form a perfect right angle with the ground. If your hips fall below your knees, try a bigger ball; if your legs cannot comfortably touch the floor with bent knees, go with something smaller.

Most medicine balls come in a standard size but can vary tremendously in weight, usually from 4-15 pounds (about 2-7 kg). Lighter balls might not feel heavy at first but are often able to provide an intense workout, particularly for beginners. Choosing a heavier ball might seem like a good way to get results fast, but this is not always true. Working with a ball that is too heavy for you can lead to discouragement or, worse, serious injury. Fitness experts usually recommend starting small and gradually building up to more intense workouts.

The same general rules apply to other fitness ball products, including abdominal balls, kettle weights and weighted rubber balls. Practice lifting these weighted balls off the shelf and over your head for a few repetitions to get a feel for how heavy they really are. Try to carry the ball around for a bit, too, if you can. Numbers do not speak as loudly as muscle fatigue, and getting a sense of weight at rest can be a good way to better conceptualize your workout.

After you have your size and weight parameters set, think about the sort of exercises you will be doing with the fitness ball. If you intend to do only occasional sit-ups with a stability ball, for instance, you might look for a model that can be easily deflated and stashed out of sight. Alternatively, if you want to do a lot of work with your fitness ball, you might consider products that come with optional accessories, such as harnesses or resistance bands, to make your exercise time even more productive.

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