The ab wheel rollout workout is one of the most underrated core workouts. Typically, crunches and Sit-ups are prioritized because of their popularity and the “obvious effect on the core muscles” judging from the position of these exercises. 

The ab wheel has been around for years, and the reason why it remains popular is because of its unique “anti-extension” feature that challenges your core in a non-conventional way. Although arching your back is a great way to stretch, in situations where you are aiming for a strong set of abs and obliques, the Ab Wheel effectively engages your core and all the muscles on your trunk as you extend your arms overhead during the exercise. It is also great for improving your shoulder mobility. 

One can’t argue that the ab wheel rollouts are more than effective for strength training and sculpting core definition. Now, if you’re serious about learning the tricks and tips of ab wheel rollouts and developing your fitness level, we got everything you need to know right in this article. Below is the breakdown of the sections we will discuss.

This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:

  • How To Do Ab Wheel Workout Correctly
  • Ab Wheel Workout Benefits
  • Common Ab Wheel Workout Mistakes To Avoid
  • Ab Wheel Workout Muscles Worked
  • Ab Wheel Workout vs Crunches
  • Our Trainer’s Suggested Ab Wheel Rollout Progression
  • Ab Wheel Workout Variations
  • Ab Wheel Workout Alternative Exercises
  • FAQs About Ab Wheel Workout

How To Do Ab Wheel Rollout Correctly

What You’ll Need: 

  • Ab wheel: The ab exercise wheel comes in different materials and makings. Make sure to look for one made with reinforced rubber, as this provides more durability for long-term use. A steel or iron center provides sturdiness, while foam-covered handles support the grip well for preventing discomfort or strain.

Alternative Equipment: 

  • Stability ball: In the absence of an ab roller, you can opt for a stability ball that will allow you to access the right form and posture for a full ab wheel rollout but on a higher platform and more beginner-friendly level.
  • Barbell with light plates: The Barbell makes another great alternative equipment to the ab wheels. One of the alternative exercises we recommend in a later section includes the use of a barbell, so keep reading and stay tuned for that.

Step 1: Find Your Stance

Go on all fours on the floor. Put your knees slightly close together and the hands shoulder-width apart on the handles. Hinge the hips above your knees and pre-tense your shoulders and hips. Angle your torso to 45º for the starting position. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Keep your chin tucked from start to finish and a straight line on your upper body from knees to ears.

Step 2: Breathe In, Roll Out

Maintain a neutral spine. Slowly roll the wheel forward in a controlled manner using your full weight. Breathe in as you roll the wheel forward. Stretch your arms only to the point where you can feel your spine in a neutral position. You should feel your abdominal muscles and your entire body working hard to maintain your balance and perform the ab wheel rollouts correctly.

Step 3: Breathe Out, Roll In

Remember to pause at the bottom of the movement to keep your abs engaged and achieve more tension on your rectus abdominis. As you slowly roll back to the starting position, breathe out. The entire movement should challenge your core to be fully engaged while the rest of your body works to keep your back upright or planked properly.

4 Ab Wheel Rollout Benefits

1. Greater Core Strength

In order to use the ab wheel correctly, one is required to have a stable spine and a good core strength foundation. At the same time, regularly implementing ab wheel rollouts help strengthen the core further and results in a healthy core overall. 

Ab muscles are essential in every human movement we perform. It functions as a central unit that navigates our actions. Therefore, a strong core crosses over to functional, recreational, and leisurely activities, including sports and everyday movements.

2. Higher Effectiveness Over Popular Ab Exercises

As the ab wheel exercises work the entire body, not just the core muscles, they are arguably better than sit-ups or crunches that can burn you out physically yet take their sweet time showing results. The ab wheel exercise engages more core muscles in every rep, including the rectus abdominis and obliques, so you can reap more benefits in a shorter time.

3. Engages Multiple Muscles

The ab roller exercise is notorious for recruiting the whole body. This means activating other muscles that are not the abs. We’re talking about the arms, hip flexors, shoulders, and even glutes. 

With the effort you put into every good form, you might as well consider ab wheel rollouts as full-body cardio that effectively spikes up your heart rate. In the long run, this also improves endurance and increases the calories burned, if those are two of your fitness goals.

4. Strengthens Joints & Ligaments

Ab wheels push you to engage your core as much as you can. On the other side of your torso, this strengthens your lower back and improves the integrity of the joints with regular application. This makes you less prone to injury with a healthy core at that.

Common Ab Wheel Rollout Mistakes to Avoid

Unneutral Spine

One of the common mistakes ab roller newbies make is rolling out with their back and arching their lower back in the process. Having an unneutral spine also changes the alignment of your whole torso, which then could lead to lumbar strain or a higher risk of injury. 

To fix your plank position, only roll out as far as your neutral spine could go. You could also explore regression exercises, some of which we discuss in the latter section of this article.

Rolling In-Out With Shoulders/Back

Another key mistake people make on the ab roller workout is pushing forward using the back or the shoulders as the primary muscle groups engaged. While the shoulders and back are recruited into the movement, they shouldn’t be the primary movers. 

Rolling out with your shoulders could cause your shoulders to flail out of their sockets and lead to shoulder or chest tendon strain or shoulder pain. A quick fix for this is to retract your shoulder blades before the actual movement and keep them that way throughout every rep.

Ab Wheel Rollout Muscles Worked

During the ab wheel workout, the recruited muscles are as follows:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Lateral obliques
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Transverse abdominis
  • Erector spinae
  • Deltoids
  • Gluteus maximus

Ab wheel rollouts work on multiple muscles and provide a great range of core activation, which makes them perfect for intermediate and advanced lifters. During the movement, the ab muscles, lower back, and glutes are the most used, while the deltoids, forearms, and upper back are recruited as secondary muscles.

Ab Wheel Rollout vs Crunches: Which is the Best Core Workout?

Starting off with crunches, no equipment is needed. You can do it anywhere with a straight surface that won’t hurt your back. It generally isolates the upper abs and utilizes the whole torso and hip flexors during the crunching movements. It’s definitely beginner-friendly enough to not require any further modification.

On the other hand, the ab rollout exercise utilizes an ab wheel. Unlike crunches, rollouts start from a plank position and work multiple muscles during the movement, as discussed in the earlier section. Aside from the torso and hip flexors, the entire back is recruited during rollouts. The intricacy of the exercise makes it ideal for advanced or intermediate lifters.

Our Trainer’s Suggested Ab Wheel Rollout Progression:

Ab rollouts are undeniably challenging especially if it’s your first time doing it. Consider doing these regression exercises to smoothly progress into a full ab rollout.

Exercise Ball Rollout

One of the best fitness equipment you could use in lieu of an ab roller is a stability ball. This allows you to perform the basic movements required by an ab wheel without exhausting your muscles easily. This means a hollow posture. Perform a program of 3 sets of 10 reps before progressing to a “Barbell Ab Rollout.”

Barbell Ab Rollout

A barbell can make a massive difference in allowing you to widen your grip and have more control over the movement. Start with a light plate set between 10 and 25 lbs. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps. Follow through with another 2 sets of 10 reps with an additional 10 to 15 lbs. As your abdominal muscles get stronger, progress to 3 sets of 10 reps with 10 to 15 lbs heavier weight.

Ab Wheel Hand Roller

The most prominent muscles in your mid section is your rectus abdominis which is the very sought-after six-pack abs. It supports the spine and protects the internal organs. So it’s more than just the aesthetic benefits. To effectively strengthen this deepest muscle group in your core, aim for 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps. Keep in mind to maintain proper form and perform the exercise slowly as quality always outweigh the quantity of your repetitions.

Ab Wheel Rollout Variations

The ab wheel is greatly versatile fitness equipment that allows you to perform a wide range of variations that targets different angles of your core muscles. Try out these variations on your ab wheel to upgrade your workout.

Standing Rollout

This is a rather challenging ab rollout variation that stands on the feet instead of the knees. This recruits the whole body starting from the standing position.

Eccentric Isometric Hollow Body Rollout

This eliminates an excessive range of motion and enhances the lifter’s sense of movement by focusing on every repetition performed.

Mini Plank Rollouts

Partial movements are not to be underestimated. They have a way of increasing the tension while keeping the exercise safe on the spine. You’d be surprised at how effective the mini plank rollout is, given that you need to roll only a few inches.

Ab Wheel Rollout Alternatives

You may not always have access to an ab wheel. In those cases, keep these alternatives in mind so you can still work on your core exercises with other equally effective equipment.

Stability Ball Rollout

As discussed earlier, doing rollouts on the stability ball can help you target your rectus abdominis muscle, obliques, and erector spinae. This also recruits your shoulders and upper back.

Plank Walkouts

Equipment-free and only requiring the lifter’s body weight, the plank walkout emphasizes your ability to walk your hands out to the highest point while keeping a neutral spine. All in all, this exercise targets the abs, shoulders, and forearms.

Barbell Ab Rollout

The key to progressing properly in this core exercise is to use lighter plates until you can progress to heavier ones. When done properly, this enhances coordination, mobility, and lumbar positioning. You can also alter the grip width based on your shoulder comfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

The ab wheel rollout primarily targets the upper body and recruits some muscles from the lower extremities, such as the following, in no particular order:

  • Transverse abdominis
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Lateral obliques
  • Erector spinae
  • Deltoids

Ab wheel rollouts are particularly effective in making the core tight, strong, stable, and functional. Rollouts are one of the most diverse core exercises to help you achieve a more advanced fitness level that strengthens your joints and prevents injuries at the same time.

Crunches are a great exercise if you’re aiming to target your upper abs in particular. However, when you want to work your entire core muscles and bring out the six-pack efficiently, ab rollouts are the way to go.

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