What is a Resistance Ball?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A resistance ball, or exercise ball, is an inflatable sphere designed for use in an exercise or physical rehabilitation program. Usually made from durable vinyl, exercise balls can be used for abdominal exercise, lower back workouts, yoga, and pilates. Some people use resistance balls as office chairs.

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

Resistance balls were first created to aid in the rehabilitation process of people with spinal injuries or neurological disorders. In the 1990s, the balls became a part of various fitness programs. Most physical therapists, personal trainers, and coaches utilize the balls within their jobs.

Also known as a swiss ball or stability ball, a resistance ball can come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Some are designed to hold up to five or six hundred pounds (226.8 to 272.2 kilograms), while others may accommodate up to one thousand pounds (453.6 kilograms). Though they are designed to withstand this pressure and weight, they are not completely puncture proof.

While selecting a resistance ball, a person should read all of the information listed with the product. Larger balls are generally preferred by novice users, as they provide additional support and stability. They are also considered beneficial for people with back problems, or for use as an office chair. For a more intensive workout, a smaller ball may be used.

If the ball is being used for core exercise, the user should fit the ball to his or her own body. To do this, one can bend his or her knees to a 90 degree angle, thighs parallel to the floor, and sit on the ball. If the feet are evenly on the ground in this position, the ball will fit.

To inflate the ball, a hand pump or an electric air compressor may be used. Some fitness balls can be inflated with a needle pump as well. Remove the ball's plug, insert the pumping device, and inflate the ball. Though full inflation results in a very firm ball, it is not necessary to fully inflate the ball for use. After inflating to the desired size, remove the pump and replace the ball's plug.

Some resistance balls are burst-resistant. While these balls can still be punctured, they are built with a stronger vinyl that prevents rapid deflation. By slowly deflating when punctured, this type of ball can help ensure the user's safety. While a regular resistance ball usually has a textured surface, a burst-resistance ball is typically slick and shiny.

Should a resistance ball burst, repairing it for further use is not recommended. Using a patched ball can compromise the safety of the user. Instead, a new ball should be purchased.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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Discussion Comments


I saw something hilarious happen the other day at the gym. There was this group of guys who always seems to be doing some kind of really silly and intense looking workout. One of them had climbed on top of a medicine ball and was bouncing on it with weights in both hands.

I don't know what he hoped to accomplish. I can't believe that that actually makes you any stronger. But he got four or five bounces in to it when the ball popped and he went crashing to the floor. It made this bursting sound that echoed through the gym. He was fine and I was rolling on the floor with laughter. Talk about getting what is coming to you.


I have a resistance exercise ball at home and it is the only piece of workout equipment that I own. Between the ball and my own body weight I can get a great full body workout without spending the time or money at the gym.

It was cheap too. It is a solid ball and I was able to buy it online for just under $30. I feel like I am in great shape and I am working out more efficiently than ever.


Doing a resistance ball workout is a great way to strengthen your core. The ball allows you to do a lot of dynamic movements that are not possible on anything else. The natural tendency of the ball to roll and its inflated flexibility mean that it creates tensions and resistance at a lot of unpredictable points. It is great at developing the small twitch muscles that are key for having a solid core.

The medicine ball has gotten really popular in gyms across the county and there are lots of great workouts that have been designed for it. You can find many online for free.

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