Last Updated on May 21, 2023 by Michael Brockbank
If you want a grueling exercise to work on your core as well as a series of other muscles, you might want to think about the ab roller. This simple device can help you develop muscles you didn’t even know you had. Be warned, though, some of the exercises are quite difficult.
For a beginner, you’ll want to start nice and easy.
What is an Ab Roller?
An ab roller is a simple wheel with handles on either side for gripping. The idea is to essentially roll yourself out, and then roll yourself back using your core. And as easy as it might sound, it’s a bit more strenuous than you might think.
Especially if you follow the advice of “experts” and roll yourself out parallel to the floor. Unless you’re already in decent shape, it’ll be a struggle to hit that first rep.
The bottom line is that an ab roller is an effective tool for forcing you to activate core muscle groups in order to lower and raise yourself.
In my experience, I can feel the “burn” from my lower abs all the way up to just under my chest. So, the entire ab section. It’s not like a lying leg raise that focuses more on lower abdominal muscles.
Not to mention the tension I feel in my lats.
Think of using an ab roller as kind of like a plank, but in motion…and more difficult.
What Does the Ab Roller Benefit?
Obviously, the greatest benefit of using the ab roller is to your abdominal muscles. The amount of force it takes to lower and raise yourself while rolling across the floor is astounding.
Secondary muscles affected by the ab wheel include the lower back, lats, shoulders, and glutes to a lesser extent.
The exercise itself is often called a “compound movement.” This is because it’s involving more than just one muscle group. For example, a bicep curl is virtually focused on bicep movement. Whereas a rollout exercise requires several groups in order to complete the motion.
In a nutshell, this means you’re getting more of a workout to several points of the body simultaneously.
How to Use the Ab Roller as a Beginner
If you’re just starting out, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to complete a full traditional rep with the ab roller. That is unless you’ve already been working on your core with contracting exercises, such as crunches.
Still, I spend a lot of time on the ab crunch machine doing 60 reps while lifting 120 pounds and I still have a hard time doing a single ab roller rep.
0. Find a Flat Surface
Although you can use a roller on carpeted floors, it’ll be more difficult to get moving. After all, you’re putting a lot of your body weight on top of a wheel rolling through soft fibers and foam padding.
It’s best if you use a flat, hard surface when using the ab roller. Otherwise, it’ll take more work to perform the exercise, which isn’t necessarily bad if that’s what you’re going for.
1. Get yourself into the starting position.
Place your knees on a mat and grip both sides of the ab roller. Push yourself out slightly until you’re on all fours like a cat.
2. Arch Your Back
The best way to get as much from the ab roller as possible is by arching your back before committing a rep. The idea is to put your core under tension to keep it tight.
3. Roll Yourself Forward to 45 Degrees
Keeping your back slightly arched and your core as tight as possible, begin rolling the ab wheel away from you.
In reality, you want to roll yourself forward until you’re body and arms are parallel to the floor. As I said before, though, that is incredibly difficult to do as a beginner.
If you can handle rolling yourself out completely, that’s going to be better for you in the long run. But if you are unable to muster the strength to do so, push yourself forward until your arms are as close to a 45° angle as possible.
4. Roll Yourself Back to the Starting Position
Using your abs, pull yourself back up and to the starting position. Refrain from using your legs to bring the roller backward. Remember, this is an abdominal workout, which means you want to focus more on abdominal strength than that of your legs or back.
Work Your Way Up to Do More Reps
Putting your abs under constant tension will improve them. Just like holding a plank, routinely using the ab roller will result in more repetitions and being able to move lower to the floor.
Start off by going as far as you’re comfortable until you can work your way to completely going parallel with the floor.
As you can see from seasoned experts in the video below, the ab roller can easily punish the abdominal muscles. So, don’t worry if you’re not able to crank out a lot of reps in the beginning. It’ll take time to get to that point.
What is the Best Ab Roller?
So, what is the best abdominal wheel that you can use for this exercise? Well, I guess that depends on your needs and wants. There are a lot of ab rollers on the market with varying styles and purposes.
For example, you can get an ab roller that uses elbow rests and a bar for gripping instead of adding tension to your arms. And for many people, this might be the best alternative for certain medical and physical needs.
I wouldn’t mind trying the elbow support ab roller. However, they are averaging about four to five times more than just a simple ab wheel.
Personally, I have the SPRI Ab Roller that you can find at various Walmarts and Targets.
Generally speaking, though, it’s all the same exercise with the same goal. The only real difference between the products is longevity. When will the device break if consistently used?
In most cases, even a cheap ab roller from Five Below would last an incredible amount of time if used properly. It’s not a one-wheel or standing device.
This Isn’t an Easy Exercise
When I started adding ab wheel exercises to my routine, I was able to crank out a total of 40 reps across three sets (12, 13, 15). And I was only able to do so by moving my arms out to a 45° angle.
Afterward, it felt like someone pummeled my abs with a baseball bat. But in a good way. It demonstrated to me that I still had a long way to go to show off that six-pack I was trying to build that was covered in a beer coozy.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t expect this to be an easy exercise. Especially if you’ve lived a sedentary lifestyle sitting at a desk for the last 20 years.
Out of all the ab workouts I’ve tried, though, using the ab roller has been one of the most effective. Just don’t expect to whip out 10 full reps right off the bat.
What is Your Favorite Ab Exercise?
There are a lot of ways you can build strength and define ab muscles. But remember, being able to see that six-pack requires a decent diet and lower body fat percentage. As some experts have said, “abs are made in the kitchen.”
Still, being able to handle a 15-pound bowling ball to the gut would be kind of cool. And you’re only going to do that by strengthening your core.
What kind of ab exercises do you like to do outside of the roller?