How to Choose a Russian Juggling Ball
The term Russian ball in juggling, refers to a juggle ball that is partially fill, as apposed to normal juggling balls that are fully filled or solid. The principle behind a Russian ball, is that the filling goes to the bottom of the ball, making the center of gravity of the ball lower so it is easier to balance and catch.
The Russian ball gets its name, because it was Russian Jugglers who made this style of ball popular. The most influential juggler was Vladik Miagkostupov. He made and sold this type of ball starting around 1995. Victor Key used Russian balls in the Cirque du Soleil production Dralion, 1999. The other Russian Juggler that made a big impact on the popularity of Russian balls was Alexander Koblikov (Ukraine).
History of Russian Balls
This type of ball is a very old idea. Juggles in the 1800’s and 1900’s used partially filled balls for balancing. Many old jugging acts finished their show with a balancing pose, and many of these balls where partially filled to make the trick easier. Most likely historical jugglers also used partially filled balls for toss juggling. In those times juggler were very secretive and never shared props or technical information with other jugglers. It is often disputed/wondered if Enrico Rastelli used Russian balls. From video footage is seem like this is not the case, as you cannot see any ball wobble when the balls are thrown in the air, a tell tale sign of a Russian ball.
Russian Ball Fillings
There are many version and kinds of Russian balls made. Below are the principles that effect how the Russian ball works/behaves. The Russian effect is how much the filling effects the balance and flight (wobble) of the ball.
- a thin light ball shell with a high density filling has the most Russian effect
- a thick heavy ball shell with a low density filling has the smaller Russian effect.
- liquid silicone for filling, produces the lowest Russian effect, as the liquid moves much slower to the bottom of the ball than a solid filling.
- if the filling material has low friction it will increase the speed the material fall to bottom of the ball, increasing the Russian effect. Micro Glass beads has less friction than sand, or salt. So it produces more effect.
- higher density filling will produce a lower center of gravity of the ball, so it is easier to balance.
- higher the density of filling causes the more the ball will wobble when thrown, unless throw with a very flat no spin toss.
Russian Ball Shells
When choosing a Russian ball, other than the filling, the other important factor is what the surface of ball is like. If the surface of the ball is sticky, the balls will not release from hand smoothing, as it will stick to an adjacent ball. But if the ball surface is slippery than it has no grip and is harder to juggle because is it is slippery in your hands.
- PVC balls have the most grip, but are sticky on the release ( Play SRX, Sil-x and Sil-x Hybrid)
- TPU ball are less grippy but still have a slight stickiness on the release. (Henrys HIX)
- EVA ball has has a slight grip and smooth release. ( Radfactor EVA Russian)
- HDPE ball has the least grip and are slippery. With no friction on the release. (pool balls and wiffle balls, Norwik and others)
There are also several ball, that use a blended blow molded material. For example the Play Juggling Plug&Play or the Radfactor Premium Russian Balls. These both are between EVA and HDPE, and have good characteristics.
Which size Russian Ball is Best
Refer to our Choosing a Juggling Ball Size article to determine what is the best size ball to fit your hands and how many balls you are juggling.
Popular Russian Juggling Balls for Sale on Renegade
Russian Ball Plugs
Different brands of ball all have different kinds of plug. The Play Plug&Play ball has a silicone fill plug. The Hernrys HIX ball has a weld plug, and Radfactor has a hot glue plug. This are the most common types. The advantage of the Plug&Play is you can change the filling or filling weight some other types you cannot open the ball to add or change the weight/filling. On many of the balls with a removable fill hole it is very small so you can only add/subtract/change fine material, like sand. In the photo right to left
- Renegade Russsain X-Large Glass, non-removable plug
- Play Sil-x implosion, removable plug ( sil-x 100 mm size non-removable)
- Renegade Russian Glass, removable plug
- Play Plug&Play removable silicone plug
- Radfactor hot glue, non-removal plug
- Play SRX removable plug
- Henrys HIX welded plug non-removable
Large Sized Russian Balls
Large sized Russian balls are made for single ball manipulation or for stacking balance tricks. Usually a Russian ball over 100mm is too large for toss juggling. Renegade is the only company that make oversized Russian balls. They are made with a thick vinyl shell and filled with micro glass beads. They can be custom orders depend on what you want to use them for.
Weights of Russian Balls
There is a wide range of weights offered for Russian balls, but the trend is that they are usually light weight around 95-120 grams. Most are around 100 grams. This is because many Russian balls are intended for numbers juggling( five balls or more). They need to be light for the start, when you have more than 3 balls in one hand. However for 3-5 balls 100 grams is pretty light. I think the optimal weight for 3-5 ball juggling more is 125-150 grams. Though this is a matter of option.
Do Russian Balls work or are they a gimmick?
Are Russian balls easier to juggle? For sure they are easier to balance, or to catch for a stall. Like catching the ball on your foot or neck. But for toss juggling it is hard to say they make much difference. My opinion is there are much more important factors than any effect partial filling vs full filling may have on your level of juggling. Proper technique, practice regiments, using balls that are the right size and matched weight are much bigger factors. Though there are several advantages to a Russian ball over some other types of balls. They do not roll when dropped, the cost of a Russian ball is generally lower, and they are very durable.