Exercise balls are probably one of the most popular pieces of fitness equipment ever invented. You can find one of these in pretty much any gym, fitness studio, or physical therapy center on the planet, as these big inflatable stability balls offer a ton of benefits from building strength to balance training to muscle rehabilitation. There are only two different styles to choose from, the traditional full-size ball and the half ball, and I’ll go over what the main differences are below. Besides that, there’s really not much to these things in terms of design, so finding the best exercise ball for you really just comes down to size, quality, and price.
I’ve always loved to find the best fitness equipment, so since these are relatively cheap, I went ahead and bought 3 of the highest-rated exercise balls so I could personally try them out and see which brand really made the best exercise ball. After a few weeks of testing each ball out with different workouts and exercises, I compared the quality and prices of each and it was actually a fairly easy decision between the 3 different balls. The Black Mountain Exercise Ball was by far the best exercise ball of the bunch. It’s professional grade quality, ultra-high strength with an anti-burst feature, and with a price under $30, it really can’t be beat.
That’s the traditional full-sized ball, though. If you’re looking for the half ball, your best option is the BOSU Balance Trainer. BOSU is the company that actually owns the patent on this half-sized dome design, so if you see another brand trying to sell it, be aware that it’s probably a knock-off. BOSU makes 3 models: the regular, the Pro, and the Elite, and I’ve tried all three. The regular model is the best value in my opinion. The Pro is actually the same exact ball as the regular model just with a longer warranty, and the Elite is made with a higher-quality material but at double the price tag it just doesn’t make much sense.
If you’re interested in hearing how and why I chose the two exercise balls above as the best options in their respective categories, keep reading and I’ll show you everything I looked at when making my decision. For starters, check out this quick product list so you can see the exact models I tested and compare the features of each one.
Black Mountain Exercise Ball
• Professional grade high-quality material, free of BPA & phthalate
• 2000 lb strength rating with anti-burst technology
• Available sizes: 45 cm, 55 cm, 65 cm, 75 cm, 85 cm
• Available colors: Black, blue, purple
• Includes ball pump and starter brochure
• 92% positive user reviews on Amazon
The Black Mountain Exercise Ball was my #1 choice out of the traditional full-sized balls that I tested. It offers nice premium quality, a high strength rating with an anti-burst feature, and a lifetime warranty all at a very low price. What more could you ask for?
Duraball Pro Exercise Ball
• Ultra-thick material, free of BPA, latex, & phthalate
• 4400 lb strength rating with anti-burst technology
• Available sizes: 55 cm, 65 cm, 75 cm
• Available colors: Silver, gold, purple
• Static, burst, and cyclic load tested for ultimate durability
• 86% positive user reviews on Amazon
The Duraball Pro Exercise Ball was a close #2, the only setback was its near-$100 price tag. The Duraball offers a super high-quality product with a ridiculously strong anti-burst material, but at 5 times the price of the Black Mountain ball, I didn’t think it was worth the money.
Gaiam Balance Ball
• Premium quality material with soft grip pattern
• 300 lb strength rating with anti-burst technology
• Available sizes: 55 cm, 65 cm, 75 cm
• Available colors: Blue, green, purple
• Includes ball pump and 2 bonus workout DVD’s
• 88% positive user reviews on Amazon
The Gaiam Balance Ball might not have been my top choice, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I rather enjoyed the Gaiam’s unique grip pattern and thought their material was nice, they just lacked a little in the strength department that made the other two more desirable.
BOSU Balance Trainer
• Thick premium material used for ball side with strong plastic platform
• 300 lb weight capacity with anti-burst technology
• Available in only one size
• Available colors: Blue, pink
• Includes pump, owner’s manual, and workout DVD
• 93% positive user reviews on Amazon
The regular BOSU Balance Trainer was my top pick out of the two models that BOSU makes. It’s very nicely made, durable and strong enough for any mix of workouts, and at half the price of the Elite model, it offers the most value for your dollar.
BOSU Elite Balance Trainer
• Ultra-thick rubberized material with better honeycomb grip
• 400 lb weight capacity with anti-burst technology
• Available in only one size
• Available in only one color
• Includes pump, owner’s manual, wall chart, and workout DVD
• 85% positive user reviews on Amazon
The BOSU Elite Balance Trainer is higher-end model from BOSU. It’s made from a much tougher rubberized material and is designed for more rigorous training than the regular model. I loved everything about it except the $200 price tag.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Product List
2. Why Use An Exercise Ball?
3. Choosing The Best Exercise Ball For You
3.1 Traditional vs. BOSU
3.2 Which Is Right For You?
4. Finding The Right Size For Your Body
5. Comparing Each Exercise Ball
6. Best Exercise Ball Workouts
Why Use An Exercise Ball?
Let’s start this guide by answering the question some people may be asking: why even use an exercise ball? While they might seem like a simple product, exercise balls are recommended by personal trainers, physical therapists, and doctors alike for the numerous muscular and spinal benefits they offer your body.
The first and most important benefit is obvious: core training! What is your ‘core,’ exactly? Your core is the group of muscles in your torso area such as abdominals, obliques, and lower and mid back (to name a few). This group of muscles has been deemed your ‘core’ because it provides the foundational strength that supports the entire rest of your body. Without a strong core, the rest of your body cannot find the stable ground it needs to continue improving. Now you see why all those workout channels always stress to get those six-pack abs!
All kidding aside, it’s extremely beneficial to your health to have a strong, stable core, and exercise balls are considered by many to be the best core trainers on the market. The constant instability of the ball provides an unpredictable challenge to all of your core muscles, causing your abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles to scramble as they try to maintain your body’s balance. Over time, these muscles strengthen, and your stabilization will drastically improve as your body learns to control the movement of the ball using strictly your core muscles.
This carries over into many different aspects of your life. Training your core will improve your balance, which is great for everyday activities and even better if you’re athletic and into sports. A strong core also improves your posture, ultimately leading you to improved spinal health and less risk of back injury when you’re older, which brings me to my next point below.
If you’ve ever been inside a physical therapy office, you’re likely to have seen at least one or two of these stability balls floating around. Doctors and medical examiners have found that training using an exercise ball hits the deepest muscle fibers in each of your core muscles, which is majorly beneficial for those who’ve experience a back injury or for those who suffer from back pain. Working those deep fibers refreshes your muscles and provides instant relief to any areas that may be in pain. In addition, the ability to hit those deep muscle fibers is what makes the exercise ball such a terrific core trainer. There’s very few other pieces of equipment that can reach that depth of the muscle.
The beauty of exercise balls is that they’re extremely versatile. You can use one by itself, or in conjunction with a bench, weights, and more in order to pump up the intensity of your workouts. This is where the half-sized exercise ball comes in. The half ball provides a challenging, yet stable-sided platform for you to perform all sorts of weight lifting exercises as you balance train. Lay the flat side on the ground, stand on the ball side, and perform exercises like rows, curls, or squats for added variety to your strength training routine. According to an article on Fitness Magazine, a study found that training with an exercise ball (versus training without one) improved muscular endurance by 57% in just a matter of 10 weeks. Talk about benefits!
Great For All Experience Levels
The final benefit I wanted to mention is that exercise balls are great no matter what your level of experience is. Whether this will be your first venture into fitness, or you’re been working out for decades, the benefits offered by exercise balls are equal across all experience levels. They provide a great way to build your core muscle group that will ultimately lead to a stronger, healthier body.
Choosing The Best Exercise Ball For You
Traditional vs. BOSU
There are really only two types of stability exercise balls: the traditional full-sized ball, and the half ball.
The full-sized exercise ball has been around for ages, going by a number of different names such as stability ball, Swiss ball, yoga ball, and more. This is the original balance trainer, and it comes in a variety of different sizes depending on your body size (guide on finding the right size further down the page). Most people use it to train their core strength as the instability of the ball is the perfect challenge to work your stabilizing muscles and build a solid, stable core. In addition to core training, the full exercise ball is a great way to add a balance challenge to many other exercises, and it also offers benefits in physical therapy as discussed above.
The half exercise ball, on the other hand, is a more recent invention created by a company called BOSU. It’s essentially a flat platform on one side, and half of an exercise ball built into the other side. The BOSU half ball has been gaining massive popularity since it was first introduced in 1999 because of the high versatility it offers for both balance training and strength training. It can be used for all of the same purposes as a regular full-sized exercise ball, but it’s also a great strength training tool because you have the flat platform to expand your exercise options ten-fold (skip down to the Exercise Ideas section if you want great workout ideas using the BOSU ball).
So Which Is Right For You?
Both the full-sized ball and the half ball each offer a lot of great benefits, but determining which type is the best exercise ball for you really depends on how you will be exercising. I would say the traditional full-sized ball is better for basic core training, so if you’re strictly looking to build up the strength in your core muscles (abs, obliques, etc.), then the full size is for you. The constant instability of the ball is much more challenging on the core than the flat-sided half ball. However, if you’re looking for a wider variety of options to train the rest of your muscle groups in addition to your core, then I think the half ball is a much better option. The dual-platform design gives you twice as many options to use the ball in conjunction with strength training, weight lifting, and more advanced workout routines.
Finding The Right Size For Your Body
Exercise balls come in a variety of different sizes, but which size is right for you? Believe it or not, there is actually a guide to finding the ideal size for your specific body, and there are a couple different ways for you to figure this out quickly and easily. The first way is by actually sitting on a ball in person (if you have easy access to one, that is). When sitting on a properly inflated exercise ball, you want your legs to be bent at a 90-degree angle, just like the woman below.
However, if you don’t have access to sit on an exercise ball right now (which most of us don’t), don’t fret! There is another easy guide to help you choose the right size. Most people actually pick their exercise ball size based on their height. If you’re under 4’11”, the best exercise ball size for you would be around 45 cm. If you’re between 4’11” and 5’4″, the best size would be around 55 cm. If you’re between 5’4″ and 5’11”, you should go with a 65 cm ball. And if you’re over 5’11” tall, a 75 cm would be the ideal size for you. Just to make things easier for you, I’ve put together a simple chart below to show you height-to-ball size ratios.
This guide is about 98% accurate in helping you determine the best exercise ball size for you. With that being said, it is important to note that everyone’s body type is different. Just because two people are both 5’6″ doesn’t necessarily mean they have the same torso length and leg length. The sizing guide above was created by Spine-Health.com (a reputable medical and fitness website), and takes into account average body sizes as well as variations in torso length and leg length. However, if you know you have considerably longer legs than what is average for your height, you may want to consider going up in size.
Comparing Each Exercise Ball
As I said in the introduction to this post, there really isn’t much variation between different exercise ball brands. Choosing the best exercise ball comes down to who’s got the best quality and durability, at the most reasonable price. Since most exercise balls are in a similar price range, quality and durability were my top priorities when comparing each exercise ball that I tested.
These two characteristics usually go together; if a product is made with good quality material, chances are it’s going to hold up pretty well too. When comparing the quality and durability of each exercise ball I tested, I looked at a couple of things: the material the ball is made with, the tested strength rating of the material, and anti-burst technology. Now, you may be asking, what on earth is anti-burst technology? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. If your exercise ball somehow gets punctured, certain high-quality materials have an anti-burst feature where the ball will slowly and safely deflate rather than blow up and let all the air out at once. This feature is crucial to ensure your safety, can you imagine how it would feel if you were laying back on the ball and it all of a sudden popped like a balloon beneath you? Ouch.
To make things fair, I’ve separated each exercise ball out into two categories: full-sized ball, and half-sized ball. Because of their differing purposes and designs, I couldn’t exactly pit them against each other, so I scored models in their respective size categories.
In the full-sized exercise ball category, I tested 3 of the hottest-selling exercise balls on the market. There was the Duraball Pro, the Gaiam Balance Ball, and the Black Mountain Exercise Ball, and each was made with premium materials and had considerable quality. The Duraball Pro and the Black Mountain ball stood out because of their professional grade BPA-free and phthalate-free materials (aka super high-quality and skin-safe), and the Gaiam stood out because of its unique dot-style grip pattern that helps your body remain steady on the ball. In the quality department, I’d say all were pretty equal.
When it came to durability, the Duraball Pro and Black Mountain dominated. The Duraball features a monstrous 4400 lb static strength rating with the Black Mountain at a comparably massive 2000 lb strength rating, both of which are clearly more than capable of holding up during your workout. These huge strength ratings are part of the reason why these two brands are such hot sellers over the thousands of other products on the market. They’re firm and they feel great to sit on. In addition, both of these stability balls feature the anti-burst technology that I spoke about above, so even if you somehow managed to puncture one of these ultra-tough exercise balls, it would deflate safely. The Gaiam includes the anti-burst feature as well, but with a max weight rating of only 300 lbs, it disappointed in the durability section.
After seeing the Gaiam fall so short in the durability department, I had my choice narrowed down between Duraball and Black Mountain. The decision was actually quite easy from here. Both are premium quality products with ridiculously high strength ratings, but with the Duraball Pro priced at nearly $100 and the Black Mountain priced under $30, it was a no-brainer. The Black Mountain Exercise Ball was the clear winner!
Black Mountain Ball
Pick A Ball
In the half ball category, I tested both the regular BOSU Balance Trainer and also the BOSU Elite Balance Trainer (BOSU’s higher-end model). Both have the same design, but are made with different materials. The regular model is made with the same traditional material of a full-sized exercise ball, so it’s good quality and is strength-rated to hold over 400 lbs. The Elite model, on the other hand, is made of a higher-quality rubberized material with a better honeycomb grip that’s rated to handle over 2000 lbs. The regular model is designed for the average athlete or fitness enthusiast, whereas the Elite is designed for more serious athletes that will be putting the ball through more rigorous workout routines.
So with that in mind, the Elite model clearly takes the cake when it comes to quality and durability, but whether it’s worth twice as much money as the regular model is completely up to you. The regular model is priced just over $100, and the Elite is nearly $200. While I normally always opt for the highest-level model of things, I personally stuck with the regular model because I believe it’s a better value for your dollar.
BOSU Elite Balance Trainer
Regular BOSU Balance Trainer
Best Exercise Ball Workouts
Now that I’ve taken you through the process of figuring out the best exercise ball for you, I wanted to wrap this post up by giving you some workout ideas for your awesome new piece of equipment! Below are some of the best exercise ball workout videos in the industry, one for full-sized stability balls, and the other for the BOSU half ball.