Not only does the Ab Wheel work, but it provides a key part of training you may be missing out on!
It may be challenging, and it may leave you with sore abs the next few days, but today we’re going to discuss why the Ab Wheel is one of the best training tools you’re not using.
If you’re ready to improve your core strength and translate it to the rest of your training in performance-boosting ways, read on!
- Do ab rollers really work?
- Keys to optimal ab roller training
- 5 Ab roller progressions for newbies
- Advanced variations for ab rollers
- FAQs about ab rollers
Do ab rollers really work?
Yes, ab rollers really work. Ab rollers specifically target and are consequently beneficial for strength and core training. Ab rollers are also useful training tools for absolute beginners. There are many ways to perform some great exercises with the ab wheel at any level of training experience.
Some of the reasons you might not have experience with the ab wheel are that it’s quite intimidating if you don’t know how to progress these movements.
What Does “Work” Mean?
This is a key question: what do you actually want from your ab wheel work? How are you measuring if the ab wheel works?
Will It Give You Abs?
No, the ab roller alone won’t do all the work for you. Abs are the result of a muscular trunk and a low body fat percentage.
An ab roller can significantly strengthen and build the abs, while it also contributes to fat-burning if your diet matches.
Will It Build a Stronger Core?
Yes – in all of the ways that people tend to ignore. Keeping the trunk stable and consistent while extending the hip and shoulders is a key skill for better health, well-being, and carryover to other training.
This is going to be perfect for powerlifting, weightlifting, and even some hinging movements from gymnastics.
Keys to optimal ab roller training
The most important part of making ab rollers work for you is ensuring that you perform every ab wheel movement properly. Doing so is a matter of two key principles for optimal ab roller training
The first principle concerns a neutral spine position. It’s important to start an ab roller exercise from a neutral spine position because it affects performance during any kind of strength training. A neutral spine position is a fairly narrow range of positions that support the proper use of the musculature of the core, as well as help to secure the spine. These add up to a stronger, safer position for all of your movements. If you can find a neutral spine and maintain it through the movement, you’re going to get the most out of your ab wheel training.
The second principle is to keep the internal space constant throughout the ab roller movement. The internal space refers to the space between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the hipbone. Maintaining the internal space doesn’t apply to some beginners’ movements. However, internal space remains a principle in all strength training (especially in squats and deadlifts). Opening up the intern space means you’ve lengthened the spine and lost core control which negates the ab roller workout.
Maintaining the internal space is the challenge of the ab wheel. You need to be humble when you’re ready to move along. You can cheat the movement by opening up through the core and you’re missing out on the point of the exercise.
5 Ab roller progressions for newbies
1. Ab Wheel Cat-Cow
This exercise is a great place to start building the strength and control in the core that you’re going to need for an ab rollout.
With your arms slightly bent on the ab roller, think about rounding and extending the back through the full range of motion. As you get more comfortable, you can begin to move the roller forwards and backwards gently.
This will help you to stabilize the shoulders for the exercises to come, and learn to control the ab wheel with the core. This is also just a great way of building strength. During this phase, it’s also useful to build core strength with movements like leg raises and long planks.
If you’re struggling with this, you can also perform the exact same movement on an exercise ball to develop familiarity before progressing to the ab wheel:
2. Ab Wheel Banded Kneeling Rollout
This is a simple movement – like the kneeling rollout – but with a resistance band tied to the hips. This allows you to support your weight and make the movement easier.
It’s not going to be easy, but this is a more specific and challenging way to train the abs. This allows you to build the strength to perform an unassisted kneeling rollout.
To progress this movement, we recommend working to add repetitions first, then using a lighter band and resetting your reps as you build strength. This allows you to carry more of your own bodyweight, just like adding weight to a barbell as you get stronger.
As you progress, you can also introduce standing but bent knee variations:
3. Kneeling Roll Out
Once you’ve been able to perform a target number of repetitions on the assisted kneeling rollout with a sufficiently light band, it is time to go for it without assistance.
We recommend taking this nice and slow to focus on control rather than rushing the movement. The slower and more controlled you can perform the movement, the better you’re going to develop strength.
Being able to do a kneeling rollout is pretty cool, but it’s also only a stepping stone to what you CAN do. When you want to progress this, focus on a slower descent, pausing at the bottom position, or gently adding more range at the end of the movement!
As before, the key method is just to add repetitions (and overall reps in a workout) to build more strength.
4. Banded Standing Rollout
The bands are going to make the movement easier, but it’s definitely still going to be more difficult than an unassisted kneeling rollout. There’s a lot of challenges to pulling yourself all the way up again!
The same progression/advice applies from earlier: start with a heavier band and add repetitions, reduce the band and add reps, and then slowly taper down until you’re using only 15-30lbs of elastic support.
These are a great training method and it’s important to make sure you’re being strict with them. The ab roller shouldn’t move without the hips moving or you’re probably using the shoulders. As with everything else, keeping that inside space consistent through the movement is also key!
There are two ways to use this kind of movement. First, you can attach the band to your ab wheel and a structure behind you:
Or, normally, you might attach the band to something behind you and feed it around your hips:
5. Standing Rollout
This is the main goal most people have when using an ab roller. It’s the gold standard and, if you can do one of these, you’re in a great place. There’s a lot of challenge and this should only come once you’ve developed great control and some surplus strength from banded rollouts.
Standing rollouts should begin with a little knee bend and should also focus on controlling the range. Adding pauses at the end of these movements is a great choice, but as ever the main focus is on banking those repetitions.
Advanced variations for ab rollers
The steps from here can be quite tough, but if you’ve gotten this far you can look at making the rollout even more difficult and effective!
The first option is to off-set your rollouts. These are great movements for improving your oblique, anti-rotational, and shoulder strength. Just perform a regular rollout (any kind) and think about rolling in an arc towards one side.
These are tough as hell, but they build amazing core stability and can be a great choice for athletes in overhead sports. They’re also just a great challenge and can help you continue to progress over time.
Single Arm Rollout
This is tough, but if you can get 2 little rollers you can progress towards the single arm rollout by following the same progression we’ve already outlined.
It’s also possible to just train for this movement with the offset rollout, but this is definitely much more difficult. The single-arm rollout is going to require huge core control and anti-rotational strength.
As with other forms of the rollout, you can perform these from a kneeling position:
Or from a traditional standing position:
FAQs about ab rollers
Does the ab wheel burn belly fat?
It doesn’t directly burn belly fat, as no exercise can specifically target belly fat. However, it does two things that will really help with the appearance of your torso.
- First, it is a great strengthening exercise which will increase whole-body calorie demands. This can help you burn fat when combined with a suitable diet.
- Secondly, it will definitely build serious muscle and strength in the region if you eat a protein-rich diet and focus on consistently progressing your repetitions/challenge.
How many ab rollers should I do?
As many as you can do with good technique, up to a limit of around 10-12.
If you can do that many/more repetitions each set, it’s time to progress to the next exercise.
If you can’t do this many, then the focus is on getting out some high-quality repetitions and adding more over time. Start with what you can manage and improve it whenever you can!
Are ab rollers bad for your back?
Absolutely not, especially if you’re doing them properly. If anything, better core control and well-progressed ab rollout is a great way of securing the spine for heavy lifting and sports.
The ability to control your core while you extend your hips/shoulders is incredibly important for sports performance and long-term health and well-being. This protects you from injury.
The only time you’re going to get injured doing ab rollouts is when you’re doing something too advanced for your experience, or performing them incorrectly. We recommend really paying attention to the videos in this article and taking time to get everything right!
Ab rollers work, but only if you learn to use them properly and you train, patiently, through progressions. Training is the key to making ab roller work for you. Ab wheel results come from the way you use it. The ab wheel really works when you approach it as we’ve laid it out here – so take your time and work through the positions slowly. This is a great way of building core strength and stability in ways you might not have put time into before.