The Ab Wheel Rollout: A Complete Guide | How to Build Core Strength!

By
Mike Kenler
October 23, 2020

The Ab Wheel Rollout

The ab wheel rollout may seem like an easy, rolling motion with a fun fitness accessory. While it can be enjoyable, this exercise is an intense ab workout for even advanced fitness trainers. Learn how to properly do the ab wheel rollout today and take your core training to the next level! 

Muscles Worked by the Ab Wheel Rollout

Primary Muscle Groups:

The ab wheel rollout primarily engages two of the most important muscles of the core: the rectus abdominis and the transverse abdominis.

The rectus abdominis is the most prominent muscle of the abdominal region. This muscle makes up the often sought-after “six pack abs” . That being said, the rectus abdominis isn’t just for show. It stabilizes the midsection, provides lumbar spine support, and helps you breathe!

The ab wheel rollout also works the lesser known transverse abdominis. The transverse abdominis is found on the lateral sides of our abdominal wall. It is considered the deepest muscle that makes up our core.

While the transverse abdominis has several functions such as flattening the stomach and supporting internal organs, it primarily helps to stabilize our pelvis and spine. For that reason, it has been labeled as our body’s natural lifting belt.

Secondary Muscle Groups:

The ab wheel rollout also works your lateral obliques, deltoids, lats, forearms, other back muscles. During this exercise, the oblique muscles and lats contract to stabilize the upper body as you roll outwards. 

The deltoids and forearms also activate to control the wheel and allow you to safely carry out the ab wheel rollout.

Ab Wheel Rollout Benefits

1. Improved Total Core Strength

Whether you are an athlete, bodybuilder, or simply someone who values fitness, a strong core is essential for all exercise motions. Unlike other common ab exercises, the ab wheel rollout works nearly every muscle of the core at the same time. This exercise will definitely strengthen your core and help you accomplish your fitness goals in no time.

2. Reduced Lower Back Pain

One of the most common causes of back pain is a weak core. Weakness in the core can lead to many problems such as poor posture and lower back injury. 

For that reason, the ab wheel workout is one of the best exercises to help reduce or even eliminate lower back pain. If you suffer from back pain, give this exercise a shot!

3. Convenience 

Another major benefit of the ab wheel rollout is its convenience factor. There is absolutely zero gym equipment needed to perform this exercise. All you need is the ab wheel and an open space and you are ready for a complete core workout!

How to Do the Ab Wheel Rollout

Equipment:

For this exercise you will need an ab wheel.

Setup:

1. Kneel on the ground and place the ab wheel in front of you. *Note — you may want to place a towel or mat under your knees.

2. Grab the handles of the wheel and place all of your weight on the wheel. 

3. You can cross your legs or keep them straight back. Your feet can remain on the ground or you can lift your feet up, which requires more stability.

4. Pull in your belly button towards your spine and engage your core. 

Action:

1. Keeping your arms straight, slowly roll the wheel straight outwards. Roll out as far as you can before you feel your back arching. 

2. Pause for a moment in this position. Then, squeeze your abs to slowly return to the starting position.

3. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat for the desired number of reps.

Recommendation:

Depending on your core strength, you should aim to complete anywhere from 6-12 reps for 3-4 sets of the ab wheel rollout. Remember — slower is better during this exercise!

Common Ab Wheel Rollout Mistakes

1. Arching the Back

Far too often, I see people performing the ab wheel rollout with an anterior pelvic tilt. In other words, their lower back is pressed forwards and their back is in an arched position.

This position of the spine places far too much stress on the lower back and can lead to serious injury. If you feel any pain in your lower back during the ab wheel rollout, stop! 

To correct this mistake, you should feel like you are bringing your navel in towards your spine. Your back should be straight or in a slightly rounded position throughout the duration of the exercise. 

2. Bending Your Elbows

Another common mistake made during the ab wheel rollout is bending your elbows. This mistake removes the tension in your core during the exercise motion, which minimizes your gains. 

The ab wheel rollout should not be an arm exercise. Instead, keep your elbows locked straight and keep the tension in your abs!

3. Using Your Arms 

Some people tend to use their arms to pull back the wheel at the top of the rep. Pulling with your arms takes all the tension away from the core. It allows you to do more "cheat" reps.

The bottom line is simple: it is always better to do less reps with proper form than more reps with poor form. Use your core to initiate the pulling motion back to the starting position. You will see far greater benefits from doing the ab wheel rollout in this manner. 

Ab Wheel Rollout Variations

1. Twisting Ab Wheel Rollout

To add a challenge to the ab wheel rollout, try rolling the wheel outwards slightly to the right or left. This slight twist will work different muscles in your abs and obliques. It can also make the exercise a bit more interesting!

2. Barbell Ab Rollout

Don’t have an ab wheel? No problem! You can do the exact same exercise with a barbell and some weights. 

Simply attach light weights to a barbell and grab the barbell with an overhand grip and your hands close together. Then, roll out using the same form as the ab wheel rollout.

3. Stability Ball Ab Rollout

The stab ball ab rollout is a great variation for beginners who find the ab wheel rollout too challenging. Place your forearms on the stability ball in front of you and slowly straighten your arms to roll outwards. Then, squeeze your abs to bring the ball back to the starting position.

*Note — the smaller the stability ball, the more challenging the rollout! 


Ab Wheel Rollout Alternatives

If you enjoyed the ab wheel rollout, check out these alternative ab exercises to bolster your core strength:

1. Plank Reaches 

Begin in a forearm plank position with your back straight, your elbows underneath your shoulders, and your core engaged. 

Next, reach out in front of you with one arm. Pause for a moment, then return to the plank position. Switch arms and repeat!

2. Close In and Outs 

Begin in a high plank position with your hands planted on the ground underneath your shoulders, your legs extended straight behind you, and your back straight.

Keeping your hands in a fixed position, squeeze your abs and jump forward. Right after you land, jump backwards to the starting position. Repeat!


3. Reverse Crunches

Sit on the ground with your legs straight in front of you. Lean back and place your hands on the ground for stability. Lift your legs a few inches off the ground and contract your abs to bring your knees into your body. 

Then, straighten your legs and return to the starting position. Keep your abs tight and repeat!

‍Looking for a Full Core Workout?

You don’t need any fancy equipment or expensive gym memberships to train your abs. Follow along to this 5 minute abs and obliques workout right from home! 

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Thank you for being a part of the Anabolic Aliens Invasion. Always feel free to reach out with any questions, comments, or concerns at kenler@anabolicaliens.com.


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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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