A core ball can make your workouts more interesting. But more than the fun factor, it unlocks a wide range of useful core exercises.
A core ball (also called – exercise ball, gym ball or yoga ball) is an inflatable PVC ball you can use for bodyweight workouts and to improve balance and posture.
Most core balls are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a flexible and durable material. PVC also has anti-bursting properties, meaning that if the ball gets punctured, it will deflate slowly, preventing injury.
A good-quality core ball can last a long time, even with frequent use, making it a worthwhile addition to your home gym equipment.
Read on about the benefits of an exercise ball and some of the best exercises you can do with it.
Benefits of an Exercise Ball
A core ball is portable, lightweight, and versatile, to name only a few of its benefits. Let’s take a closer look at the main advantages of using it.
- Portable. Exercise balls are quick and easy to inflate with a hand pump or foot pump. Since you can deflate them after use, they don’t take up much space.
- Lightweight. An exercise ball can weigh under 2 pounds while supporting 2,000 pounds or more. Its light weight, together with its resistance, make it worthwhile.
- Versatile. You can use a core ball for a wide range of exercises targeting most muscle groups, from simple yoga postures to high-interval intensity training (HIIT). You can also use it as an alternative to a chair.
- Relieves back strain. Core balls were originally used by physical therapists for injury rehabilitation. Simply stretching on a core ball can stretch your lower back muscles and provide relief after long periods of sitting or standing.
- Improves core stability. An exercise ball enables you to train deep abdominal muscles and some back muscles that play a key role in core stability. And since an exercise ball engages all your core muscles, you don’t have to worry about muscle imbalances.
- Enables a wider range of motion. Doing crunches on an exercise ball improves your range of motion compared to doing the exercise on the floor. This helps improve core strength.
- Improves posture. The core improvements an exercise ball brings lead to a better posture. This can prove useful for runners or if your work involves sitting for many hours.
Is sitting on an exercise ball good for your back?
While an exercise ball has notable benefits, sitting on one all day may not be a good idea. A 2013 study investigated the use of stability balls, stability ball chairs, and regular chairs through rotation in an office setting for 3 months.
The 193 participants self-reported better posture and energy levels sitting on a stability ball compared to a regular chair. The use of stability balls also decreased pain associated with an office chair.
However, 42% of participants reported pain using a stability ball alone. These findings indicate that it may not be ideal to use a stability ball all the time.
What’s more, a 2016 study found that sitting on a ball for 90 minutes a day instead of a chair improved core endurance but did not reduce lower back pain.
Other research also indicates that sitting on a stability ball instead of a chair in an office doesn’t bring with it any notable benefits.
Choosing the Right Exercise Ball
The color definitely matters, but there are a few other factors you need to consider when choosing a core ball. These include size, texture, weight capacity, and type of pump. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.
Core balls usually fall within five broad diametrical sizes. Choose a size depending on your height.
- 18 inches (45cm) – Suitable for people 5’ and under.
- 21 inches (55cm) – Good for people 5’1” to 5’8”.
- 25 inches (65cm) – Suitable for people 5’9” to 6’2”.
- 29 inches (75cm) – Good for people 6’3” to 6’7”.
- 33 inches (85cm) – Suitable for people 6’8” and taller.
Note that these numbers may vary from brand to brand depending on the thickness of the ball. Test the ball in person before buying, if possible. Sit on it upright and make sure that:
- Your feet lie flat on the floor.
- Your knees are level and create an angle of 90 degrees or greater at the hips and knees.
- Your body is in a vertical line from your ears to your pelvis.
Most exercise balls have an anti-burst capacity of around 1,000 to 2,000 pounds. Even if the ball somehow gets punctured, it won’t burst as long as you apply less than the maximum weight capacity on it. It will simply deflate slowly.
Make sure to check the ball’s weight capacity. Usually, the more you weigh, the higher the capacity should be.
Core balls are often covered in dimples, ridges, or some other textured surface. This is beneficial as it provides a better grip even if your palms are sweaty.
Most gym balls are durable by design. But some may have a heavy-duty wall. This can reduce the risk of punctures if you use the ball outside, such as on grass.
Core ball pumps can be operated by hand or foot. Hand pumps are often faster and easier to use. But if you have an arm injury or suffer from arthritis of the hands or arms, you might prefer using a foot pump.
So, what are some of the best core exercises with a ball you can do?
Core Strength Exercises With a Fitness Ball
For each of the following exercises, aim to do 12 to 15 reps. If it’s your first time using a core ball, a single set can be enough to build strength. As your core becomes stronger, you can do 2 and then 3 sets.
Squats with a core ball work your abs, glutes, and quads and promote good form. For this exercise, you’ll need a wall.
1. Place the stability ball between your back and the wall and stand straight, facing away from the wall.
2. Place your hands on your hips and, with the weight on your heels, lean back against the wall.
3. Lower yourself slowly into a squat until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
4. Engage your quads, hamstrings, and core, and squeeze your glutes.
5. Return with a controlled movement to the starting position.
Crunches on a stability ball or core ball remove the impact of the hard floor on the spine. The ball also makes it easier to perform the exercise correctly to increase core muscle strength and endurance.
1. Sit on the gym ball with your feet flat on the floor at hip width.
2. Straighten your back and cross your arms on your chest.
3. Engage your core.
4. Lean back, feeling your ab muscles tightening.
5. Breathe deeply three times as you maintain the position.
6. Return to the initial position to complete a crunch.
The bridge exercise with a workout ball works not just your abdominal muscles but also your hamstrings and glutes.
1. Rest your legs on the workout ball and lie with your back on the floor.
2. Engage your core.
3. Raise your hips and buttocks off the floor and hold the bridge position for three deep breaths.
4. Return to the starting position to complete a rep.
Add a twist to the classic plank exercise with this fun variation.
1. Lie with your stomach on the ball and feet and hands touching the floor.
2. Move your hands away from the ball until the ball presses into your upper thighs.
3. Hold your feet suspended above the floor while keeping your hands planted on the ground under your shoulders.
4. Engage your core and maintain the position for three deep breaths.
5. Return to the starting position to complete a rep.
Next up, one of the most enjoyable though not necessarily easy yoga ball exercises.
1. Lie on your side with your arm on the floor for support and the ball between your legs.
2. Engage your core.
3. Raise your legs off the floor, holding the ball between your legs. Maintain the position for three deep breaths.
4. Return to the starting position and complete half of the total reps.
5. Then switch sides and do the remaining reps.
Spinal roll down
This exercise helps you loosen up back muscles and improve flexibility and spinal range of motion. For it, you’ll need a small core ball.
1. Hold the exercise ball between your feet and stand up straight, looking straight ahead.
2. Drop your chin down and gradually bend your neck, upper back, and lower back while keeping your arms hanging down straight in front of you.
3. Hold the flexion in the hips and continue the movement until your hands touch the tips of your feet. Your head should hang loose.
4. Pause for a few moments and then slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep.
Note: For this variation, do only 6–10 reps.
This exercise engages all your major core muscles and helps define a six-pack. You will need a small core ball for it.
1. Hold the core ball to your chest and sit with bent knees and feet on the floor.
2. Lean back slightly.
3. Engage your core.
4. Rotate to the right and twist from your low back, holding the ball at your chest. Your feet should be flexed, heels touching the floor.
5. Return to the initial position and rotate to the other side.
6. Do up to 15 reps per side to complete a set.
Last but not least, an exercise that strengthens your core and lower back muscles.
1. Lie on the stability ball with your face down, tips of the feet propped on the floor, and hands behind your head.
2. Lift your torso and squeeze your glutes so that your body forms a straight line.
3. Hold the position for a few moments and then slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep.
Before you start integrating core balls into your workouts, here are some things to remember:
- Up your core ball game by varying exercises and doing more sets.
- Core balls come in different sizes. For some exercises, you need small ones.
- Sitting on a core ball most of the day doesn’t have any proven benefits.
- Use an exercise ball regularly to relieve back strain and build a stronger core.