Choosing and Using the Right Exercise Ball

There have been thousands of fitness products over the years. Most of them waste away after a few months but sometimes one comes along that actually works and is backed up by science. One such product that has been around since 1963 in the exercise swiss ball. It was developed by an Italian plastics manufacturer for use in treatment programs for newborns and infants. It was later transitioned into physical therapy and neuro-development treatment. From there it easily found its way into the fitness and athletic training world and it’s here to stay.

If you’ve ever been in a gym you’ve seen the numerous sizes of exercise balls to choose from. You might have never thought about it before, but what size ball is right for you? Exercise balls come in several sizes, the most common being 45cm, 55cm and 65cm, but can range from 35cm-85cm. These three common sizes will accommodate the average population. To choose an exercise ball you can use a sizing chart that will use your height to give you a corresponding exercise ball size. They usually use the following ratios.

  • 45cm = 4’7”- 5’
  • 55cm = 5’1” - 5’6”
  • 65cm = 5’7” - 6’1”
  • 75cm = 6’2” - 6’8”
  • 85cm = 6’9” and over

You can also check the fit of an exercise ball manually by sitting on one. Simply choose an exercise ball, sit on it with your feet hip-width apart and sitting up straight. Your knees should be slightly below your hips in this position. If your knees are higher then you need a bigger ball. If your knees are well below your hips you need a smaller ball.

Depending on how you plan to use the exercise size ball will also determine which ball to choose. Exercise balls also come in different weight ratings. Load ratings start at about 300 lbs. and can go as height as 2200 lbs. If you're just planning on performing some core exercises, with just your body weight, a minimal load rating should work fine. Yet, if you plan on doing heavy dumbbell chest or shoulder presses you might want to choose a ball with a higher load rating. Most balls have the load rating stamped on them near the filler plug.

Dozens of different combinations of exercise ball size and load rating are available. So now that you know how to choose the right one to use, how do you use it? For years exercise balls were only used in the fitness industry for core exercises and still is today with great success. Yet, over the last 10 years, the functional training explosion has happened. Now exercisers are using the exercise ball for a variety of movement because of the slightly unstable environment it provides. Requiring your body to recruit more and different muscles to perform the exercise. From a simple dumbbell shoulder press or lying, dumbbell chest press to a full squat standing on top of an exercise ball are now common practice to advanced exercisers.

Choose the right size ball for your height. Choose the right load rated ball for the exercise you're going to perform.  Use your imagination with an exercise swiss ball to push your body to new heights!

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