Stability balls are more than just fun to sit and bounce on; they’re a great way to improve strength, cardio endurance, and balance.
Stability balls, also called exercise balls, balance balls, Swiss balls, or fitness balls, are more than just fun to sit and bounce on; they’re a great way to improve strength, cardio endurance, and balance.
By tackling basic moves like push-ups, squats, and planks on an unstable surface, muscles get more bang for their buck.
Stability balls are also great for getting back into shape after an injury because they can reduce muscle and spinal strain during certain movements.
To get the most from a bouncy fitness routine, make sure to choose the correct size stability ball.
Note: some moves below use a larger or smaller than normal ball. For most exercises, though, it's best to have correctly sized equipment.
Most balls come in three diameters based on the user’s height: 55 cm for those between 4’11” and 5’4,” 65 cm for people between 5’4” and 5’7,” and 75 cm for tall drinks of water between 5’11” and 6’7.”
A good rule of thumb for finding the right fit: Sit on the ball and make sure the hips and knees are at right angles with the floor.
Reps and sets will depend on fitness levels, but for most of these exercises we recommend doing 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 20 reps.
After a few workouts, try bumping up the reps to really test that strength.
These moves take the stability ball way beyond the basic crunch.
1. Overhead Ball Squat
For this one, complete a traditional squat, while holding the stability ball with the arms extended overhead. Adding weight while keeping the torso in an upright position engages the shoulders and deltoid muscles. Go for 10 to 15 reps of this bad boy.
2. Wall Squat
Put those quads to work with this power move. Stand about three feet from a wall with feet shoulder-width apart and the back to the wall. Place the ball between the lower back and the wall and squat down slowly until the legs form 90-degree angles at the knees. Use the ball to support the back as it rolls from the lower back to the shoulder blades. Slowly stand up again, and repeat for 10 to 15 reps.
3. Standing Ball Squeeze
This may look funny, but it seriously works the hips, lower back, and inner thighs. Stand upright and place the ball between the legs, so the center is about even with the knees (it should not be touching the floor). Squat down until knees form 90-degree angles, squeezing the ball to stay balanced. Hold the position as long as possible, working up to 30 to 45 seconds per set. Note: For this move, consider using a ball that’s not the perfect fit. A larger ball makes this move more difficult, while a smaller ball is a little easier on the thighs. Beginners can also use a chair or wall for help with balance.
4. Hamstring Curl
Lie on the floor with arms extended perpendicular to the torso and lower calves and heels resting on the ball. Engaging the glutes and abs, lift the hips up from the floor. Use your outstretched arms for stability—you'll feel wobbly! Exhale and slowly bring the knees in towards the hips, so the feet are resting flat on top of the ball. Pause for a few seconds in this position and then inhale, straightening legs out again. Keep those hips up the whole time to get maximum gluteus maximus benefits. Aim for 10 to 12 reps of this total-body move.
5. Squat and Reach
Get the blood flowing with a slow and steady squat that works your arms and abs as well as legs. Hold the ball with straight arms so it’s about level with the face. Squat down, bringing the ball all the way to the left side, just above the left foot. Hang tight in this position for three slow breaths, and then untwist the torso and return to standing before repeating on the other side. For the best results, keep that butt down in the squats and hold arms straight out in front of the torso. Try 10 to 15 reps of this twisty move to get the arms, core, and legs in tip-top shape.