What are gym balls good for?

Have you ever gone to the gym, noticed a gym ball or two in the corner and wondered what they’re for and how to use them? A gym ball is in fact really popular, mighty piece of fitness equipment which can be used to improve balance, core strength and posture. It is a great addition to your home gym and will make your workouts more challenging, producing results quickly. They’re inexpensive and easy to inflate (they usually come with a hand pump) when needed and to deflate as required.

Gym ball crunches


Gym balls, also known as Swiss balls, yoga balls, stability balls and exercise balls have been around since the 1960s. The idea of these is that due the instability of the ball, the body has to recruit many muscles in order to keep balance. Therefore, by just sitting on the ball you will need to engage multiple muscles which wouldn’t be needed when sitting on a chair, bench or other hard surface. And that’s before you consider exercising on it or grabbing some weights - just sitting on the ball is already forcing more muscles to work. 

Which muscles does a gym ball work?

The main muscles worked when using a gym ball are the core and lower back muscles. The core is made up of many muscles all of which need to engage when using this : 


Obliques (side muscles)


Pelvic floor


What are the benefits of a gym ball?

The main benefit of performing exercises on a gym ball as opposed to on a stable surface such as a bench or the floor, is that core muscle activity is much higher when performed on a gym ball, strengthening the core muscles and improving flexibility, balance and stability.

What exercises can you do on a gym ball?

There are countless exercises which can be performed using a gym ball, all of which make the exercise more challenging and will improve core strength including:

Sit ups


Press ups

Wall squats

Glute bridge

Lunges (check out our guide on the benefits of lunges for a full breakdown of the exercise)


Gym ball workout with dumbbells


As well as exercises using just body weight, you can add in dumbbells to your gym ball training and perform a number of exercises. Here are a few examples:

Seated dumbbell shoulder press

Seated dumbbell bicep curls

Chest flys (lying on your back on the ball, feet flat on the floor and knees at right angles)

Rows (lying with on your front the ball, legs straight out with toes on the floor)

What size gym ball do I need?

Gym balls come in various sizes and it’s important to choose the right size for you. When sitting on the gym ball, with your feet flat on the floor, your knees should be at a right angle. Generally, the size of gym ball to choose is based on your height as follows:


Gym Ball Size

Between 5' and 5’5"


Between 5’6"and 6’1”


6’2” or taller


It’s worth noting that the firmer the ball the more difficult the exercise will be. If you are new to gym ball workouts, you may wish to put slightly less air into the ball to begin with and as you get used to it and become stronger, inflate it fully for a really challenging workout.