Taking a look at the different types of exercise balls
An important factor when planning effective workouts and staying motivated is variety. Not only should you vary your training techniques, but why not vary your equipment or fitness accessory as well? This article will help you demystify the different types of balls that can be found in our facilities and I will share my favorite exercises with you.
What are the different types and uses of exercise balls?
The Swiss Ball
The Swiss Ball is the ideal tool for a “Total Body” type workout and allows you to easily increase the difficulty of a basic exercise. Swiss Balls come in different sizes and it is important to choose the appropriate size for your height. Refer to the chart at the end of this article and select the size that best suits you. The Swiss Ball has several uses, notably, it allows to work on stability, coordination and is very often used by different health professionals for injury rehabilitation, posture, etc.
The Medicine Ball (or weighted ball)
The Medicine Ball is used primarily as a weight (as shown in the image in this article). Initially used to work the abdominal muscles, the Medicine Ball has now become popular for fitness and sport in general as it can be used in a wide range of exercises. It allows you to work on muscular reinforcement as well as on power and explosiveness during certain exercises. By using it to shift your weight, it improves stability and coordination.
The BOSU (or half ball)
The BOSU is very practical fitness accessory as both surfaces are utilized. It is more stable than the Swiss Ball, therefore very useful as a first introduction to ball exercises. The BOSU allows you to vary the exercises, especially for the abdominal and stabilizer muscles, and to increase or decrease the difficulty of any exercise. In addition to being a very useful tool in rehabilitation, it will allow you to improve your stability and coordination.
Unlike the Medicine Ball, the Slam Ball is heavier and does not bounce as they are mostly filled with sand. They are very practical for any exercise that requires a stronger impact or simply as a heavy object since they can weigh up to 50 lbs. or more. The Slam-Ball allows you to work on your power, coordination and even your cardiovascular capacity.
Wall-Balls are larger than Medicine Balls, which are not designed to be thrown. They are also stiffer and lighter than Slam-Balls, which allows us to throw them easily on appropriate surfaces. Wall-Balls often range in weight from 6 to 20 pounds, allowing them to be used for a variety of exercises. Exercises done with Wall-Balls will improve coordination, muscular endurance and cardiovascular capacity, among other things.
Here are 10 exercises to try for each type of ball
1A) The Dead Bug
This is my favorite exercise to work on engaging the abdominal wall. A slow, controlled movement will give you a good feel for the abdominals, especially in the lower ab area. For an added challenge: Focus on working one side at a time.
1B) Stirring The Pot
A basic isometric plank on the floor is uninspiring and isn’t challenging enough? Why not try it on a Swiss Ball? Set up in a plank position with your forearms on the stability ball, and start making a slight circular movement of the arms while keeping your torso steady. It is important to keep your elbows tight to your body in order to avoid strain on shoulders.
2A) Reverse Bridge on Medicine Ball
A Two exercises in one! Not only does it allow to work the stability of your core muscles but it will work on your posterior chain muscles as well, notably the hamstrings and glutes. Still too easy? Try doing it with one leg on the ball!
2B) Russian Twist with Medicine Ball
The Russian Twist is widely used, so incorporating the Medicine Ball increases the difficulty and engages the abdominals as well as the upper body. The more you extend your arms in front of you, the more challenging it becomes.
3A) BOSU Mountain Climber
This exercise will work your stability, coordination and abs. For an abdominal workout: perform the exercise very slowly, and for a more cardiovascular challenge: increase the pace while keeping your core as still as possible.
3B) BOSU Squat
Want a bigger challenge? Perform this next exercise as slow as possible. Place a BOSU Ball on the ground with the rubber side facing up. Hold on to a stable surface and place one foot on each side of the rubber surface. Squat while keeping your knees aligned throughout the movement. An even bigger challenge? Flip the BOSU ball and do the movement with the smooth side up!
4A) Ball Slam
Engage your abs as you throw the Slam-Ball to the ground. It will not only work on a muscular level, but by increasing the pace or doing multiple reps, it will work your cardiovascular capacity.
4B) Slam-Ball Lift
Keep the Slam-Ball close to you throughout the entire movement and work with your legs while keeping your back straight and abs contracted on your way down. You will feel your whole body working in this exercise.
5A) Deep Squat and Wall Ball Throw
With this exercise, your entire body will be working to push the ball onto the target. Why not challenge yourself and perform as many reps as possible in 2 minutes?
5B) Lateral Wall-Ball Toss
This exercise will not only effectively work your abdominals, it will also give your upper body a great workout. Great exercise for those who play tennis, field hockey, golf, volleyball and much more!
Swiss Ball Size* Chart :
Height of individual
Ideal Swiss Ball Size
1.65m and under
1.65m to 1.85m
1.85m and over
*may vary depending on the exercise performed*
Physigraph images, taken from the HexFit software used by Nautilus Plus personal trainers