The ab wheel rollout can be an awesome exercise for building a strong and resilient core. This exercise can be easily used by lifters and athletes from all walks of life for multiple benefits.
As a strength coach that regularly programs and implements ab wheel rollouts in my own program, I constantly see lifters butcher this exercise. If we can dial in your ab wheel rollout form then we can get more out of this exercise.
In my ab wheel rollout guide, I’ll cover how to properly perform this exercise, some benefits that come along with ab wheel rollouts, and mistakes to avoid.
Ab Wheel Rollout Quick Overview: The ab wheel rollout can be great for building your core’s strength. This exercise can also be useful for strategically training the core through a lengthened position.
Setup In a Comfortable Position
Grab a foam pad or rolled-up foam roller and place it under the knees. This will promote a comfortable setup which will translate to allowing you to better focus on how the exercise.
Exhale and Roll Out Slowly
Exhale and slowly roll out with the ab wheel focusing on maintaining a slow tempo. By exhaling, we’ll allow the core muscles to do their thing to stabilize the torso while we lengthen them.
Use the Core to Roll Back In
After you’ve fully extended, you’ll want the core to initiate the rolling in of the ab wheel. Think as though there’s a puppeteer hand pulling up on the torso and think about flexing the core muscles to roll the wheel in. Do not shoot the hips back or overly use the arms and lats.
Maintain a Consistent Tempo
For consecutive reps, follow a consistent tempo to ensure you’re getting the most out of the ab wheel. Do not rush consecutive reps and try to be strict with how the core is flexing and extending.
Author’s Note: I also have an ab wheel rollout video included below if you’re a visual learner. I try to film videos for all of my fitness and training content to make sure I’m covering all of my bases when teaching different topics.
Ab Wheel Rollout Benefits
There are multiple benefits of ab wheel rollouts and these benefits will ebb and flow based on the context of your training needs and goals. When discussing ab wheel rollout with clients, I typically discuss two main benefits for performing them.
If you have additional ab wheel rollout benefits that you want to add or make known, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below.
1. Train the Core Through a Lengthened Position
The first benefit of ab wheel rollouts is that they can be a great tool for training the core and ab muscles through a lengthened position. Our torso performs a lot of different movement patterns and extending is one of the most common.
In the context of this benefit, the core muscles are working to prevent a rapid extension of the torso which can have carryover to countless sports and real-world activities.
When extending and lengthening, there will be multiple core muscles active to control the speed at which you’re rolling out and the ability to slow yourself down and resist gravity is a useful skill to develop.
For example, you’ll have both deeper and superficial ab muscles working to promote core stability and this ability to stabilize the core at different thresholds can be useful in multiple contexts.
2. Develop Deep and Superficial Ab Muscles
The core is made up of countless muscles, and in the gym, the rectus abdominis, and obliques generally receive most of the attention. When training the core, it should be a goal to build the torso’s strength as a whole.
The ab wheel rollout can be an awesome tool for doing this as it’s going to hit multiple core muscles. For example, you’ll have superficial muscles like the rectus abdominis active for extension and flexion and the obliques will be active to keep you inline in the ab wheel.
Then looking at the deeper core muscles, the transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, and iliopsoas will all be active as they can play a role in stabilizing the torso as a whole and the lumbar region.
Whether you’re training the ab muscles for strength or hypertrophy, the ab wheel rollout can be a useful tool to experiment with regarding how you develop your core.
Ab Wheel Rollout Mistakes
Whether you’re a beginner or intermediate lifter and athlete it’s probably a good idea to make sure you’re not making some of the most common ab wheel rollout mistakes.
Every day at the gym, I see lifters making at least one of the ab wheel rollout mistakes below, and as much as I want to say something, I usually mind my own business and go about my day. Luckily, I can say something here to help you avoid making these mistakes.
Ab Wheel Rollout Mistake 1: Shooting the Hips Back
The first and most common mistake that I see lifters make with ab wheel rollouts is shooting their hips back. This entails lifters flexing at the hips first when starting to roll the ab wheel back in.
In practice, this will look like the hips shooting either up or back first before the ab wheel starts rolling back in. This mistake will take away from the core’s ability to do its job and will shift more focus to the hip flexors.
Note, working the hip flexors isn’t necessarily an issue, however, the sequencing of the hips and core is the issue in this scenario as it will lead to sub-optimal results regarding the intention of why you’re performing ab wheel rollouts.
Ab Wheel Rollout Mistake 2: Using the Arms Too Much
Another common ab wheel rollout mistake that I see lifters make, and this piggybacks off of using the hips too much, is using the arms and lats too heavily. As opposed to shooting the hips back, for this mistake, the arms will initiate the rolling process.
If you’re performing ab wheel rollouts and you feel a lot of stress and work in the lats and arms, then there’s a good chance you’re using them a little too much for the concentric or the rolling in part of this exercise.
This is when I like to use the cue of pretending a puppeteer is pulling up on the torso and letting the core guide your movement. Think of the arms as being supports and not as a means to roll the wheel. They follow what the core is doing.
Ab Wheel Rollout Progressions
When it comes to ab wheel rollout progressions and regressions, I like to simplify to process of modifying reps as much as possible. More specifically, instead of adding more tools and pieces of equipment, I’ll instead tweak body positions and performance variables.
For example, I think at times lifters feel like they need a certain “type” of ab wheel or implement to truly progress their ab wheel rollouts, but that’s not necessarily the case. Below are some of my favorite ways to progress and regress ab wheel rollouts.
Ab Wheel Rollout Regressions/Progressions
- Shorten Range of Motion: If you’re brand new to ab wheel rollouts, start with a limited range of motion. Every workout, tack how much range of motion you can perform with good form and try to increase your range of motion slightly as you go.
- Perform Cluster Sets: If you find that you can’t hit your prescribed reps in a set, try using cluster sets. This entails performing 1-3 reps, taking a rest, then performing another small set, and repeating this to hit your total rep goal.
- Modify Tempo: Tempo can be an awesome tool for progressing your ab wheel rollout without changing too much. Generally, if you want to increase difficulty you’ll want to add a slower roll in and out tempo, and even add a pause at full extension.
- Decrease Your Base of Support: After you’ve nailed performing these with the feet grounded, try bringing the feet up. The decrease in your base of support will make your rollouts tougher.
Coaching Note: There are other regressions and progressions outside of the four above, but I typically opt for these first as we can get a lot of bang for our buck without having to change too much.
Are ab wheel rollouts effective?
Absolutely and how effective they are depends on how you’re using the ab wheel. If you’re performing your reps with good form and intent, then you’ll get an awesome core workout from them.
What muscles do the ab wheel rollout work?
The ab wheel rollout is going to work multiple core muscles. You’ll have superficial core muscles like the rectus abdominis and obliques working in addition to some of the deeper core muscles that help stabilize the torso.
Does an ab wheel burn belly fat?
When paired with a quality training and nutrition program, the ab wheel can play a role in burning belly fat. By itself, it won’t burn fat, however, when you pair it with multiple factors designed to help you burn fat then it can help build the core muscles.
Is the ab wheel better than sit ups?
Both exercises can be effective for building the core, but you might find that you get more of a workout from an ab wheel over sit-ups. Ab wheel rollouts can be a little more demanding on the core muscles compared to traditional sit-ups.
The ab wheel rollout can be a great exercise for building and strengthening the core for lifters at all skill levels. This exercise can be easily modified to suit most lifters’ needs.
If you’re new to ab wheel rollouts, I’d suggest working from a kneeling position with the feet grounded and using your range of motion capabilities and tempo as your main means of progressing.
If you have additional questions about ab wheel rollouts and dialing in their form, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).