Ab Roller Technique: Are you Performing your Ab Workouts Correctly?

Ab Roller Technique: Are you Performing your Ab Workouts Correctly?


There’s more to core training than marathon bouts of crunches! If you're interested in taking steps to build a strong and functional core, look no further than ab wheel rollouts with an Ab Roller. The ab roller is a simple yet brilliant piece of equipment that you can use to train a prime function of the core musculature: anti-extension stabilization.

Ab wheel rollouts with an Ab Roller will sculpt the torso musculature while improving your ability to move well and preventing nagging aches and pains. This article discusses benefits, variations, and how to implement this fantastic exercise into workouts.

What comes in the Ab Roller box? Watch Kyle's unboxing experience here.

What are the "Core" Muscles, and what do they do?

The core is a complex group of muscles that extends far beyond the six-pack abs displayed in magazines. The core musculature serves a valuable purpose during movement, acting as a dynamic stabilizer and conduit to transfer force from the lower to the upper body. Movement happens in a ground-up type fashion. If the core is weak, valuable energy is lost.

The core includes the following muscles:

  • Transverse Abdominus
  • Multifidus
  • Internal and external obliques
  • Rectus Abdominus
  • Erector Spinae

These muscles have static and dynamic functions. Forces are always acting on the body that our core must resist fluidly. Life is not linear, and during movement, the core constantly reacts to changes in speed, motion, and power to maintain posture.

What Are Ab Wheel Rollouts?

Ever asked yourself: "How do I use an ab roller?". You're not the first. Now that you have a little background information about the muscles that make up the core and their function, let's talk about ab wheel rollouts. Ab wheel rollouts are an anterior (front side) abdominal exercise performed with an Ab Roller that improves core strength and stability, reinforces shoulder stability while helping to protect your back.

Here’s what the exercise looks like:

Starting from a tall kneeling position, slowly allow yourself to fall forward by rolling the wheel away from the body. When the wheel reaches the maximum distance you're able to control, pause, then return to the start position. Out and back is one repetition. We'll share valuable coaching cues on technique further down.

Rollouts are an “anti” extension core movement. The goal is to avoid sagging or overarching of the back. Being an anti-extension exercise, this is critical. Fighting to maintain a rigid torso posture requires significant activation of the core muscles, and this is where the aesthetic and strength benefits come in.

The main goal of ab wheel rollouts, or any core exercise, is to stabilize the pelvis and spine. Improving core stability helps create spinal stiffness, which will protect the spine from injury and help generate power between the upper and lower body.

Exercise Technique

  1. Start in a tall kneeling position with hands fixed to the ab wheel.
  2. Roll the wheel away from the body and begin to fall forward.
  3. Allow the hips to move beyond the knees at the same rate at the chest.
  4. When the ab roller reaches the furthest distance you can control, pause and roll the wheel back toward the body (reverse the motion).
  5. Avoid leading with the butt; move the entire body back to the start at the same rate. Rinse and repeat for reps.

On the way out, gravity wants to pull your body down to the floor. Your job is to resist gravity by maintaining a rigid posture from the knees to the hands. On the way back in, gravity wants to keep you near the floor, and your job is to contract the abdominals, hip flexors, and lat muscles to overcome these forces.

The farther out the ab roller moves from the body, the more challenging the exercise becomes. The hips, torso, chest, and face will be horizontal to the floor surface in a full extension rollout.

Common Technique Mistakes

By far, the most common technique mistake people make is not moving the hips to move beyond the knees on the way out and returning to the start position with the butt sticking out.

If you're struggling to perform reps with proper technique, the exercise demands are too aggressive. Decreasing the rolling distance (range of motion) is a perfect modification to build up your strength. Limiting the range of motion by a few inches can make a world of difference.

You can correct both technique flaws by using a modified range of motion or work up to the ab wheel rollout through other lead-in exercises. Building a foundation of strength using planks and other stability drills might be necessary before trying these.

The body likes to seek the path of least resistance. If exercise form is lacking, the intensity of the exercise might be too aggressive.

Reps/Set/Tempo Recommendations

Reps and sets of any exercise will depend on the person’s fitness level, strength, and goals for the workout. In general, 3-5 sets of 6-8 repetitions provide an excellent training stimulus. During each work set, aim to slow the tempo down to 2-3 seconds on the way out. Pull yourself back to the start position aggressively.

By targeting 6-8 repetitions per set, you’re able to adjust the difficulty of the exercise to fit that rep structure.

How to Decrease the Difficulty of Ab Wheel Rollouts

Modified Range of Motion: Use a controllable range of motion and stop short of full extension
Eccentric Only: Roll out, but not back in

How to Increase the Difficulty of Ab Wheel Rollouts

Adjusting tempo, volume (reps and sets), rolling out and back with the ab roller on a decline, moving to a standing position are all ways to ramp up the difficulty.

Tempo: Roll out for 3-5 seconds, pause for 2 seconds, roll in for 3-5 seconds
Volume: Add more sets to the workout or increase the number of reps per set.
Decline Rollouts: Rolling down a slight decline amplifies the intensity of the exercise, making it more demanding to slow the ab roller on the way out and increasingly challenging to contract and pull the ab roller back in.
Standing rollouts: This is the most extreme variation, and not for the faint of heart!

Example Workout Combinations

You can add ab wheel rollouts into workouts in many different ways.

Tri-sets are a fantastic way to train a variety of movement patterns and muscles in a time-efficient manner. You can organize non-competing exercises into an effective tri-set to decrease the rest periods between movements and increase the pace.

Here's an example tri-set:

  1. Kettlebell Goblet Squats x8
  2. Kettlebell Overhead Press x6 right/left
  3. Ab Wheel Roll Outs x8 reps

* Rest 45-60 sec between exercises, repeat for 3-5 sets

Ab rollouts can also be paired with one other exercise to make a potent combination. Exercises like kettlebell swings, lunges, or deadlift variations will work a large amount of musculature while keeping things simple.

Here’s a simple combination:

  1. Kettlebell Swings x10
  2. Ab Wheel Rollouts x6

* Repeat for 8-10 rounds or 10 minutes

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