The ab wheel rollout is probably one of the top 3 core exercises of all time.
As simple as this exercise looks, it is important that you do it correctly for it to work.
So how do you properly use an ab roller?
Let’s dive right in.
THE AB WHEEL ROLLOUT TUTORIAL
The bulk of your abdominal muscle training should come in the form of core stabilization exercises.
Contrary to popular belief, your core training should not come from repetitive spinal flexion, i.e sit-ups.
The ab wheel rollout is an extremely effective exercise in teaching you to activate your core stabilizers and in strengthening the abs the correct way.
Don’t underestimate this exercise, performing it correctly is a lot harder than it looks.
AB WHEEL ROLLOUT FORM VIDEO
BENEFITS OF THE AB WHEEL ROLLOUT
- Strengthens the entire core musculature including the rectus abdominis, the lateral obliques, the transverse abdominis and also the gluteus maximus
- Effectively teaches core stabilization by strengthening the abdominal muscles’ ability to resist spinal extension
- Performing this movement correctly will fortify spinal health and help decrease lower back pain
MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE AB WHEEL ROLLOUT
- Rectus Abdominus
- Transverse Abdominus
PERFORMING THE AB WHEEL ROLLOUT WITH PROPER TECHNIQUE
- Get an Ab Wheel and position in front of you while you kneel on a mat or a pad (you can find a good ab wheel cheap on Amazon)
- Grab the handles of the ab wheel, and place your full weight on the device
- From this kneeling position, cross your legs behind you, and lift your feet off the mat (this will help stabilize you but make the movement a bit more challenging)
- Next, I want you to lock your shoulders into place, and keep your back in neutral alignment
- In fact, you could even round your upper back and maintain a semi-rounded position throughout the exercise
- As with all functional exercises, brace your core tight and squeeze your glutes (this will bring your hips into a neutral position)
- Begin the movement by rolling the wheel out in front of you while keeping your core tight
- It is CRUCIAL that your torso alignment does not change throughout the movement
- If your low back position changes IN ANY WAY, you are defeating the purpose of this exercise
- Roll out only as far as you can keep you low back straight!
- Pause for a second at the fully extended position, while keeping your core tight
- Reverse the movement by tightening your ab muscles even further and returning to the starting position
- Don’t forget to keep your elbows straight the entire time.
The Ab Wheel is just one of The Best compound exercises you should be doing
To see a list of them all, be sure to check out our E-book that goes over all of the best compound exercises for each body part!
We also go over them all in The Best Compound Exercises of All Time.
COMMON MISTAKES WHEN PERFORMING THIS EXERCISE
NOT MAINTAINING A NEUTRAL SPINE
A key mistake people make when using the exercise wheel is letting the lower back change arch or change its alignment.
Letting your lumbar spinal alignment change can lead to lumbar strain and increase your risk of injury. You must keep your core tight and engaged the entire time.
If your lower back arches during the rollout, stop the exercise. Only roll out as far as you can keep it in a straight line. Over time you will be strong enough to reach full extension.
LETTING YOUR SHOULDERS FLAIL OUT OF THEIR SOCKETS
This can lead to shoulder and chest tendon strain.
Lock your shoulder blades into position by retracting your scapula.
The only movement from your shoulder should come from flexion as your body is extending down. At no point should your shoulders move in any other direction.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Does the ab wheel really work? Are they good?
Yes, ab wheels are one of the, if not the best ab exercise you can do. You just have to make sure that you are doing it properly by keeping your upper body in a neutral (or even slightly rounded) position throughout the entire movement.
Will the ab wheel give me abs/ six-pack?
No, the ab wheel by itself will not give you abs. It will help strengthen and hypertrophy your ab muscles, but the only way to develop visible abs is to drop your body fat percentage. I go over 10 ways to lose body fat here.
Can I do ab wheel rollouts with a barbell?
Yes, just load up the barbell with short plates (10 lb plates should do the trick). The exercise is exactly the same.
Interestingly enough, loading the barbell with heavier weights will not make the exercise more challenging.
The challenge lies in being able to maintain a neutral spinal position, not in pulling the weight back towards you.
Is there an ab roller exercise for beginners? Can I use a stability ball?
The stability ball rollout is a great variation for beginners who are just learning this movement. The only thing you have to understand is that the bigger the ball, the easier the exercise becomes.
Simply place your hand on the ball and roll out using the same technique mentioned above.
Similarly, you can also do barbell rollouts by loading a barbell with 25 lb plates on each side.
How can I do ab wheel rollouts from a standing position?
The standing rollout is a very advanced core exercise that should only be attempted by trained individuals. Always start this exercise from your knees if you aren’t experienced.
With that said, Ross Enamait has a great ab wheel rollout progression to teach you how to do this exercise from your feet.
This variation allows you to do a complete full range of motion.
I am using this ab wheel which has a kinetic spring – making the exercise a bit easier.
How do you do ab rollout without wheels?
You can imitate this exercise by doing plank walkouts.
From a high plank position (aka the push-up position), walk your hands forward until you can’t anymore.
As always, make sure to keep your spine in neutral alignment at all times. Do not let your spine sag at any time, and only go out as far as you can keep good form.
I don’t feel this exercise in my abs. What is the effectiveness of the ab roller?
Many people will feel this exercise in the chest and arms rather than their core muscles. This is because you are focusing too much on moving the wheel back and forth.
Instead, you need to concentrate on simply splaying your body forward while keeping your core extremely tight. Practice pausing at the bottom of the movement for 1 second and then come back up by squeezing your abs even harder.
I guarantee you will feel it.
How many reps should I do?
In general, you should aim for as many repetitions as you can do with proper form. I recommend trying to get anywhere from 5-12 repetitions per set.
Is the ab roller bad for your back?
If you are experiencing pain, stop the exercise. Back pain during AWR is usually due to poor form, i.e letting your lumbar spine arch/extend. Your back should never change its alignment during this exercise.
You can develop a serious lower back injury if you are not careful.
It actually helps to concentrate on rounding your upper body slightly by hollowing in your chest and core. Maintain this position throughout the movement.
If you still have pain, then focus on performing planks in the meantime.
I Have Shoulder Pain When I Do Ab Wheel Exercises
This is probably because you are letting your shoulder internally rotate too far when doing this exercise. Before you start the exercise, retract your scapula and screw your shoulder blades back into their sockets.
Maintain this position throughout the entire movement.
Do not let your shoulders come out of their sockets.
If you still experience pain, then focus on stretching your chest and your shoulders.
Can You Do The Ab Wheel Every Day?
Performing at least 3 sets for 6-12 repetitions, 2-3 times per week will be more than adequate to build a strong core.
Which is Better? Ab Wheels or Dragon Flags?
They are both great exercises for building core strength. Neither is better than the other.
I personally prefer reverse crunches/dragon flags as they require less equipment.
How Can I Integrate This Great Exercise Into My Training?
Check out our workout template for busy individuals to learn how to incorporate the ab wheel rollout and every other functional exercise into your training routine.
AB WHEEL ROLLOUT ALTERNATIVES
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.