Focus On: Stability Balls

We’ve already talked about medicine balls and resistance bands, so today I thought it would be fun to focus on another gym staple: stability balls.


They look so nice and innocent, huh?

Not only are they inexpensive and easy to find, but you can get in a killer total-body workout, particularly challenging your core, using one of these things.

So what is a stability ball aka balance ball, fitness ball, Swiss ball, birth ball (!), physioball and sports ball?

It’s a large elastic ball, filled with air, and the size can vary (more on that in a second). The major benefit of using a ball is that it challenges core muscles to keep your body stabilized, and is a great way to add extra resistance to exercises without being too heavy. Many people use stability balls in lieu of desk chairs to challenge their back and abdominals, and the ball can also be used in the labor process. The ball can be used to modify traditional strength training moves and also as a stretching tool (arching your back over a stability ball to stretch your abs is one of the most glorious feelings ever).

Does size matter?

For the most part, yes. The most common sizes are 55, 65 and 75cm, and here is a general sizing chart*:

4’11” to 5’3”: 55cm

5’4” to 5’10”: 65cm

5’11” and up: 75cm

*from this website

What are some exercises I can do with an exercise ball?

Here are some of my favorites for a total-body workout. As always, check with a doc before making any fitness changes, honor your body and your injuries.

If you’d like to complete these moves as a circuit, try for 2-3 total sets of 12-15 reps for each exercise.

Chest, triceps, shoulders: Push-ups

Tip: the closer the ball is to your thighs, the easier the exercise will be. Want to challenge yourself? Add in a pike. Push-up, pike, push-up, pike. Whew!

Back: Back extension

More challenging: add a gentle twist at the top of the motion. Hands are on your head (like you’re doing a crunch), come up and twist to one side. Lower and repeat.

Biceps: Preacher curl

image Source

Hamstrings: Hamstring curl. My all-time favorite stability ball exercise

Abs:  Ball pass

Don’t speed through this exercise- take long deep breaths and count and you raise the ball and lower it.

Oblique twist:

image Source

Quads: Split squat

Tip: Watch your front knee and make sure it doesn’t extend past your toes. Need help with balance? Hold onto a wall, weight training bench or ballet bar.

Calves: Wall calf raise

image Source

Fire it up: Add weights (like pic above), or try one leg at a time

How often do you use stability balls in your training? It’s an excellent tool to have in your home gym to add in a couple of workout moves (or bounce around for fun), whenever you’d like.

Want one of your own?

Leave a comment with your favorite stability ball exercise, and a lucky reader will win a Go Fit stability ball in their preferred size. (You’ll need a hand pump or something to pump it up- a local gym will do this for you, too)


I’ll announce the winner around midnight EST tonight.

[This giveaway was sponsored by Bella. She’s so generous]



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  1. Danielle on December 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Ball pass! I can’t wait to start doing them again after baby #2 makes her appearance 🙂

  2. kari P. on December 7, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Hi Gina, you are looking too cute with that belly. Thank you so much for sharing this exercises with the ball. lately i have been enjoying stability ball mountain climbers. Have a good night.

  3. lauren alysse on December 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    i usually just do crunches on the ball, which is so much better than regular crunches!

    thanks bella! 🙂

  4. Ashleigh on December 7, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Aww, Bella, so generous of you! I love me some old school pushups using the stability ball!

  5. Rebecca on December 7, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    I like to put my feet on the ball with hands on the ground (pushup position) go into a pike position and while I’m hanging up there do a pushup, then come back to regular pushup position and do a pushup there. That probably didn’t describe it very well haha.

  6. Karin on December 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I like the hamstring curl. But most of all, I enjoyed sitting on it when I was 8-9 months pregnant. It was so comfortable. My hubbie would tease me, because I would sit on it, and watch TV.

  7. Nicole on December 7, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    My favorite exercises using the ball I do regularly are push ups, split squats, and crunches. I also enjoy sitting on it during the day while I’m working.

  8. Anna Crouch on December 7, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Ohhhh!!! I’d love the stability ball!! I like the ab exercise where you stick the ball between your feet…lower it to the ground, then pull your legs up while you reach your arms to your feet. I don’t know the technical term 🙂 I can always feel the burn with that one!

  9. meghan@ struggle muffins on December 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Wall squats! I think that’s what they’re called anyway. Resting the ball against the wall with your low back smooshing it into the wall, sliding down until your thighs are parallel with the floor and your quads feel like they’re on fire. Yah, that’s the ticket 😉

  10. SeekingAmy on December 7, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    I the the ab ball press! I am in desperate need of a new stability ball since my dog thought my old one was a giant squeak toy! RIP 🙁

    • SeekingAmy on December 7, 2011 at 9:52 pm

      I love the* I apologize–on my phone!

  11. Lara @ six times the yum on December 7, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    The only “workout” move I’ve done on a stability ball is actually a stretch. Basically I lie on my back on the ball and let my arms and legs hang back. Such a great stretch! I’d love to try the ab moves above, as I hate crunches but want to workout my abs. 🙂

  12. Maria on December 7, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Chest flys with the stability ball are great! I honestly had no idea that sizes were so important. I’m not sure if my short self (5’3″) has actually used the right size…oops!

    Does our wonderful sponsor receive treats for her generosity? 🙂

  13. Molly on December 7, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    My favorite is the classic push up on the stability ball. Love it!

  14. Krystina on December 7, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I LOVE hamstring curls! I feel a burn so much more with the ball.

  15. Brittannie on December 7, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I love doing stability ball push ups! Burns soooo good!

  16. dana on December 7, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    i like doing side leg lifts balancing with the ball!

  17. Jen F on December 7, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    I love the pikes! I always feel it in the abs the next day 😉

  18. Kristi on December 7, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I like to do fit ball squats with weights. I’m still a beginner and I can’t wait to get fit enough to try some of these other exercises. There is a guy at the gym I go to who jumps up on one like it was a platform and then balances on one foot. He must have abs of concrete!

  19. Evee B on December 7, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Stability ball crunches kick regular crunches’ ace. That’s my fave exercise when using the ball. 🙂

  20. jodi on December 7, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I just started doing the hamstring curl on a ball not too long ago….it’s pretty killer!

  21. Emily H. on December 7, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Love me some oblique twists w/ weights or medicine ball!

  22. Esther on December 7, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    I love hamstring curls

  23. kelly on December 7, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    I like to use it for crunches!

  24. Lauren on December 7, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    I’ve only ever worked my abs on a stability wall, so i guess that would be my favorite, but I would love to try some of the moves you shared!

  25. Rebecca on December 7, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    I love to stretch on them!! and some core work, of course

  26. Amanda on December 7, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    I love doing the inchworm on the stability ball, both as a warmup for lifting and for ab work. I think all the people at my gym might think I’m crazy when I do it though 😉

  27. Maria on December 7, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks for posting this!!! I’m always looking for ways to use my stability ball. My favorite moves are the hamstring moves or putting your feet on the ball (like the first push up video) and rolling your feet in towards your chest. Great lower ab workout. FYI when I saw you write about doing stability ball push ups I had no idea this is what you were referring to 🙂 These I CAN DO! What I found was a video of a man doing them in reverse: with his feet on the ground and his upper body against the stability ball! If you could do this with a big baby bump, impressed wouldn’t even begin to cover it.

  28. Barb on December 7, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    My favorite exercise is crunches on the stability ball. Easier on the back but still challenging.

  29. Laura F. on December 7, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    I have done the “preacher curl” a couple of times in classes and I really like it! I also like using a ball for crunches! Would love to have one at home!

  30. Gabby on December 7, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    the jackknife i think its called?

  31. Lindsey on December 7, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    My favorite stability excercise is the ab jackknife move on the ball where you roll it all the way out so your in the push up position with only your toes on the ball and use your abs to pull the ball into your chest. super hard and leaves you really sore!

  32. Eleah on December 7, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    I like to do crunches with them.. I have lower back problems and can’t do them on the floor.

  33. Erin on December 7, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Gina, I love stability ball hamstring curls! They really burn! And I learned about them through your always wonderful exercise suggestions. . . in fact I’m really looking forward to trying your newest workout. Thanks a bunch!!

  34. blossjoss on December 7, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I like using the ball to stretch my abs and rolling into a back bend.

  35. Tracey on December 8, 2011 at 7:46 am

    My fav workout is definitely crunches. It seems to work so many muscle groups!

  36. liz on December 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    do you make any modifications using the stability ball while pregnant? obviously you can’t lie on your stomach, but is there anything else to watch out for?

    • Fitnessista on December 8, 2011 at 6:25 pm

      you also don’t want to be flat on your back.

  37. Nicole @ Sugar Coated Sisters on December 8, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    I love stability ball hamstring curls! The burn feels so good!

  38. Mike on December 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Great info and exercises!! Thanks for the hard work and research!!

  39. InSalutis | New stability ball workout {video} on January 17, 2014 at 3:58 am

    […] fave exercise? If you’re looking for some more ideas, check out these 20 ways to use one + this Focus On post! It’s a great way to challenge balance and work your […]

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