There are a few things that cost $10 and have made my life significantly better: overpriced espresso drinks, a multipack of Pilot G2 pens, and my humble Pilates ball. Allow me to explain why. At the start of the pandemic, I began an at-home barre practice. As a cycling instructor and strength training enthusiast, I never expected dance-inspired classes built on a foundation of pulses, slow exercises, and mobility to become one of my favorite ways to move. But alas, more than two years later, I’m still a dedicated barre gal. 

Many of the workouts utilize props, including weights, core sliders, and resistance bands, plus a yoga mat, chair, and a small Pilates ball (also known as a core ball, balance ball, or yoga ball). When I first started, I used my bodyweight or the equipment I already had, including a pair of ankle weights that most definitely saw the Jane Fonda’s Workout era, plus some old resistance bands. I often used household items in place of props like weights (hello, paint cans) and core sliders (paper towels FTW), but try as I might have, it was not easy finding something that replicated a core ball. I knew I was missing out on targeting key, tiny muscles, so I decided to buy one.

I did as anyone would do, and searched “core ball” on Amazon. This one from Trideer was one of the first to show up. With more than 6,500 five-star reviews, it stuck out from the other sea of nine-inch PVC spheres. Plus, at only $10, it was almost half the cost of the one my virtual barre studio tried to sell me. The next day, my exercise ball arrived at my doorstep and I tore open the box, unaware of just how obsessed with it I’d be after a few months. (Cue the “Thank you for changing my life” meme.)

What’s a core ball?

If you’ve never seen or heard of a core ball before, it looks like a stability ball—except mini. They’re usually between eight or nine inches in diameter, and they’re meant to help you tap into sleepy inner thigh and deep core muscles while protecting your back, neck, and shoulders

How do you use a core ball?

There are innumerable ways to use this handy fitness ball, which is a huge reason why I think it’s such a must-have for anyone—regardless of your workout of choice. 

When doing a barre or Pilates workout, I often place the ball in between my inner thighs while standing and gently squeeze it for targeted hip adductor activation. When I’m laying down doing bridge lifts, I’ll keep the ball in between my thighs and squeeze as I lift to work my glutes and hip abductors or under one foot to add instability, thus working my hamstrings. For seated core strength moves, I like to keep the ball right at the base of my spine, which lifts me up a few inches and takes the pressure off my neck and shoulders, all while engaging the tiny core muscles we don’t normally train. These core balls are also great for wall sits, donkey kicks, push-ups, stretches, and yoga poses like high planks.

Why I love the Trideer Pilates Ball

I’ve had the Trideer Pilates Ball for more than two years and it’s one of a few things that doesn’t gather dust in my pile of workout stuff. First of all, the ball comes with a few extra plug stoppers, as well as a straw to inflate it—no hand pump needed—making it better and more efficient than some of its competitors. It also has a non-slip exterior for my fellow Perpetually Perspiring People. I inflated it enough that it still had a good amount of give, because I’d be using it mostly for exercises between my thighs and at the base of my spine. 

As soon as I started using the exercise ball, I noticed how strong it is, thanks to its “anti-burst” technology. Whether I had all my weight on it for ball holds or wall sits, it didn’t pop or deflate. What’s more, it’s the most travel-friendly piece of workout equipment I own, since it squishes flat and weighs less than half a pound. And at only $10, it’s an affordable way to level up your home gym

I’ve found that barre, Pilates, and stretching workouts are more effective since implementing this core ball into my routine. As a certified fitness instructor myself, I can easily see how it can be excellent for beginners, too, since it makes you well aware when your muscles are activating. After just a few seconds of performing a move with the mini exercise ball, I start getting the shakes, which is more than enough validation that it’s doing its job.