The core – abs, six-pack, or midsection, or whatever you call it – is your body’s power center. Some downplay its relevance, some exaggerate its importance, and others neglect to isolate and reinforce the core. No matter where you are, paying attention to your core is essential and the ab wheel rollout exercise should be included in your routine.
The core has many vital roles in performance inside and outside the gym, but by far its primary role is to resist movement and keep your spine where it should be, neutral. . One of the many exercises that do this and more is the ab wheel rollout. There are many more sophisticated exercises, but none are as effective as the ab wheel rollout.
Here we’ll “discover” what the Ab Wheel Rollout is, how to do it, what muscles are trained, its benefits, and some variations to take your core strength to the next level. Ready to deploy the gains? So let’s go.
What is Ab Wheel Rollout?
The ab wheel rollout allows you to use a round plate loaded bar, ab wheel, or stability ball to extend your torso toward the floor while resisting extension of your lower back. Many basic exercises, such as crunches, hanging knee lifts, trunk flexion or contraction. This exercise strengthens the core by lengthening it, known as eccentric strength. Being strong in this position improves core stability and recruits muscle fibers which would otherwise be intact.
How to do the abdominal wheel roll-out exercise
- Get on your knees and grab the ab wheel or a bar loaded with round plates, hands shoulder-width apart.
- Push through the handles, rounding your upper back and tucking your hips below for a neutral spine.
- Extend your hips toward the floor and drop your chest toward the floor.
- Keep your lower back neutral and try not to arch it too much.
- The further forward you are, the more difficult the movement will be, so shorten your range of motion if necessary. Your ROM depends on your aerial mobility and maintaining a neutral spine.
- Squeeze the side muscles and return to the starting position.
- Reset to starting position described in step 2 and repeat.
Muscles trained by the abdominal wheel roll-out exercise
The ab wheel rollout is primarily a lower body exercise, but rolling and reaching overhead trains the larger upper body muscles. Here are the main muscles trained with the roll-out of the abdominal wheel.
- Glutes: Isometrically engaged to help keep the lower back neutral.
- Transversal abdominals: Cinches your midsection like a belt cinches loose pants to keep your back neutral.
- Large abs: Isometric contraction and lengthening as you roll.
- Obliques: The external and internal obliques are isometrically engaged to keep the spine neutral and prevent rotation.
- Shoulders and biceps: Your anterior deltoids will be trained during deployment via shoulder flexion.
- Triceps: Isometrically engaged to keep the elbow straight, and the long head of the triceps assists the lats during the kickback portion of the exercise.
- Latissimus dorsi: Extends when deployed and concentrically contracts to bring hands below shoulders.
Benefits of Ab Wheel Rollout
When performed correctly, this exercise is the real deal. You may feel like your abs are tearing in half, and you will surely feel the pain on your own the next day. Below are a few benefits that are worth it.
- Best squats and deadlifts: When you’re squatting or deadlifting, keeping your spine neutral and your body in good alignment is good for technique and will prevent your lower back from flipping the bird on you. A stronger core due to increased anti-extension resistance will make both possible.
- Easy to progress (and regress): Like most good exercises, rolling out the ab wheel can be made easier or harder. The barbell and ab wheel variations are challenging, and if you’re not quite up to it yet, rolling out the stability ball to an elevated position is a good place to start.
- Abdominal hypertrophy and strength: When you perform the Ab Wheel Rollout, you are challenged through both eccentric and concentric phases for potentially better muscle development of the muscle you all know and love, the six-pack muscle. The control and stability needed to perform this exercise allows you to increase time under tension for better core strength.
- Lift more weight: Have you ever heard the expression “You are only as strong as your weakest link?” As for your main strength, it is close to the truth. If you struggle to keep a neutral spine under heavy load, improving it with the ab wheel rollout should be a priority.
Form errors to avoid
Riding there might not seem difficult to the untrained observer, but there are a few things to look out for for good form and to reap all the benefits mentioned above.
- Do not start with the hips: Starting this movement by driving your hips down is a no-no. This arches your lower back, eliminating core tension. Start by rolling forward, keeping your glutes engaged and avoiding driving your hips back during the concentric contraction. The key is to stay within a range of motion that you can control.
- Correct configuration and voltage: It is not an exercise that you rush to set up or perform. Get into the correct position described above, firmly grip the ab wheel or bar and engage your glutes to maintain a neutral spine.
- Keep your elbows straight: Some lifters bend their elbows without realizing it, shifting some of the emphasis to the triceps, which pushes the abs away. Essentially, it makes this exercise easier, and you don’t want that. Make sure to keep your elbows locked throughout the exercise.
- Don’t let the hips sag: The purpose of the ab wheel deployment is to prevent extension of the lower back, and when your hips sag toward the floor during the deployment, you can be sure this is happening. Keeping your glutes engaged all the time and staying in a ROM you can control will prevent this.
Workout and programming suggestions
Rolling out the ab wheel requires focus and tension, and is best done after your warm-up and before grabbing the bar. Performing them for one to three sets of 6 to 10 reps when fresh works best.