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Exercise balls can offer many benefits but you may want other options. What are some alternatives to exercise balls with similar benefits?
An exercise ball, also known as a stability or yoga ball, is a soft elastic ball. You can use exercise balls in a wide variety of ways to improve your physical health.
This includes balance, coordination, stretching, flexibility, and core training. Up to a certain weight, you can even use an exercise ball as a weight bench alternative.
Whether you don’t enjoy using an exercise ball, you want to train your muscles to a larger extent, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these exercise ball alternatives can help you train similar areas of your health.
Keep in mind that implementing these alternatives can offer benefits but like while using any exercise equipment, there is always some risk of injury. Make sure you use these equipment options in a safe way and if needed, get guidance from an expert.
1. Bosu Ball
The first exercise ball alternative is the Bosu Ball. You can describe a Bosu Ball as the top of a stability ball attached to a flat surface.
Similar to exercise balls, you can use Bosu Balls for a wide variety of fitness goals. You can stand on the flat part of the Bosu Ball for balance training.
Another option is doing crunches on a Bosu Ball to increase the range of motion and in turn, hopefully benefit muscle growth. There are also plenty of stretching exercises where the Bosu Ball can help.
While it is not the best use, Bosu Balls can also play a role in resistance training exercises. In even more exercises than an exercise ball since you can stand on a Bosu Ball.
One of the benefits of the Bosu Ball as a piece of fitness equipment is that individuals from all skill levels can find exercises for their abilities. You can also use the Bosu Ball for ankle and wrist strength which may align with your training goals.
A potential downside of Bosu Balls is that they can be pricier than some of the other options on this list. If this is an issue, the Bosu Ball is a brand name. Off-brand alternatives may suit your needs too.
Another small downside of the Bosu Ball as an exercise ball alternative is that you can’t use it as a chair throughout the day.
2. Plyo box
A plyo box, also known as a jump box or step box, is simply a box that is strong enough to deal with jump exercises.
It is not an exercise ball alternative that can be used in the exact same way, but there are some commonalities in the exercises these equipment options can be used for.
One example includes raising your feet for an exercise like hamstring bridges. An exercise ball allows you to do hamstring curls on top of that but a hamstring bridge with a plyo box is a good start.
Additionally, similar to the exercise ball you can use a plyo box as a weight bench alternative for the lying chest press exercise. In a way, even better since the plyo box can hold more weight. Besides these, there are many more plyo box exercises.
Some things more unique to plyo boxes are that they are a lot sturdier and that you can stand on them. This makes plyo boxes a helpful workout tool for things like box jumps, step-ups, box squats, etc.
One downside a plyo box requires a decent amount of storage space. Good plyo boxes can also be a bit pricey for their relatively specific training focus and compared to exercise balls.
3. Yoga mat
A yoga mat is a mat of soft material, often foam, that is used to make many exercises on the floor a lot more comfortable.
You can use a yoga mat instead of an exercise ball in a wide variety of stretching and core exercises. Especially if you plan to do a lot of exercises like crunches, sit-ups, and lying toe touches, a yoga mat is definitely not an unnecessary luxury.
The alternative is working out on the ground which is often painful.
One of the other benefits of a yoga mat is that you can use it in a wide variety of non-stretching exercises and workouts. In addition, yoga mats are easy to store, set up, and take with you.
On top of that yoga mats are also very inexpensive, certainly compared to the pain you can avoid from working out on the ground.
4. Balance board
A balance board is an unstable surface to stand on with the goal of improving balance and achieving other benefits. They come in different shapes and sizes. Some balance boards only allow you to move side to side, others can move in the full 360 degrees.
In a sense, the balance board exercises prepare you better for real-world balance situations than an exercise ball since you are actually standing on something instead of leaning with your feet on the ball and hands on the ground.
On top of that balance are also relatively cheap, often slightly cheaper than exercise balls.
The main downside of balance boards as an exercise ball alternative is that it does not offer the same training in other areas.
For mobility, core, and stretch training you will still need an exercise ball or some of the other options on this list.
5. Weight bench
A weight bench is a type of padded bench without back support that is a very standard piece of equipment at most gyms. The main area where this piece of equipment can substitute a medicine ball is in the lying chest press.
For this exercise weight benches are definitely many times better. They can hold more weight, require less balancing, are more comfortable, etc.
On top of that, weight benches can be used instead of an exercise ball in other exercises like a hamstring bridge, hip thrust, and decline pushups.
There are even a few exercises like box squats, step-ups, and Bulgarian split squats where you can use a weight bench but not an exercise ball.
A downside of a weight bench if you plan one to get at home is that it can be relatively pricey compared to an exercise ball. You also need more room to store a weight bench.
Besides that, you are not able to train all of the other fitness components to the same extent as with an exercise ball.
6. Ab wheel
The ab wheel is a small and inexpensive piece of fitness equipment that is a wheel with two handles. It may not look like much but ab wheel exercises can offer a great ab and oblique workout.
Data from one study even suggests that a regular ab wheel knee roll-out is a more effective alternative than more standard exercises like sit-ups and crunches for engaging core muscles (1).
One of the things where exercise balls stand out is the core training they enable. Ab wheels can replace the exercise ball for this training goal.
There are even ab wheels with ankle straps. These allow you to do other exercise ball exercises like hamstring curls, knee tucks, and pike crunches with an ab wheel instead.
An advantage of the ab wheel is that it is a relatively inexpensive exercise ball alternative. On top of that, it is easy to store and convenient to bring with you.
7. Free weights
Free weights are heavy pieces of fitness equipment that are not attached anywhere. Some examples of free weights are a barbell, medicine balls, dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, exercise sandbags, wrist weights, etc.
This relatively wide category of equipment options is mainly good for substituting exercise balls in core workouts. By holding extra weight in the right places during core exercises you can increase the amount of muscle mass you gain.
Some free weight options like medicine balls can even be used for balance and coordination training.
One of the benefits of free weights is that you can use them in a wide variety of exercises for many body parts. Besides that, they generally last an extremely long time. One dumbbell can potentially improve your workouts for many years and potentially even decades.
On top of that, many free weights do not really lose their value. This means that if you decide to stop using dumbbells or other free weights you can likely sell them for a very similar price as what you put into them.
A disadvantage is that free weights often require a relatively high investment compared to exercise balls. Besides that, free weights generally don’t do much in terms of stretching and flexibility.