Home Gym Must-Have: Fitness Ball

Sue Fleming explains why core strength is so important, and how to find the right fitness ball for you.

A fitness ball is an excellent addition to your home gym. Once used by physical therapy patients in rehabilitation, they can now be found at almost every gym. An exercise ball strengthens your core muscle group, the deep abdominal muscles and muscles of your lower back. These important muscles stabilize your body.

Think of your body as a wheel. Your core is the hub of the wheel, your arms and legs are the spokes. If your core is weak, it will be difficult to strengthen other parts of your body. Often, people arch their back or release their abdominals when performing an exercise. This is usually the result of weak core strength. Many people compensate for this lack of strength by using hip flexor muscles when performing abdominal exercises. The exercise ball strengthens the abdominals through the full range of motion without using the hip flexor muscle.

The fitness ball is especially useful for people with lower back pain because the ball supports the back muscles during the exercises. Plus, core strength is important in developing and improving overall muscular strength.

Here's what to look for when purchasing a fitness ball:

The recommended ball size is one that allows you to bend your knees at a ninety-degree angle. When sitting on a ball with your feet flat on the floor, your ankles should be directly under your knees in a straight line.

  • If you’re 4'8" to 5'4" in height, get a 55 centimeter ball.
  • If your height is 5'5" to 6',  look for a 65 cm model.
  • Those 6' and taller need a 75 cm ball.

You can use a larger ball if:

  • Your legs are longer
  • You’re overweight
  • You’re using a ball only for stretching

You can use a smaller ball if:

  • You have shorter legs
  • You’re at the lower end of the height range