The core—abdominals, six-pack, or midsection, or whatever you call it—is your body's powerhouse. Some downplay its relevance, others exaggerate its importance, and others neglect to isolate and strengthen the core. matter where you stand, it's important to pay attention to your core, and the ab wheel rollout exercise should be incorporated into your routine.
The core plays many important roles in performance in and out of the gym, but by far its primary role is to resist movement and keep your spine where it should be, neutral. One of many exercises that do this and more is the abdominal wheel roll. There are many fancier exercises out there, but none quite as effective as the abdominal wheel rollout.
Here we "roll" in on what the ab wheel rollout is, how to do it, what muscles are worked, its benefits, and some variations to take your core strength to the next level. Ready to roll out the wins? Let's go then.
What is the Ab Wheel Rollout?
In the abdominal wheel rollout, you use a barbell loaded with round plates, an abdominal wheel, or a stability ball to extend your upper body toward the floor while resisting the extension in your lower back. Many core exercises, such as crunches, hanging knee raises, flex or contract the core. This exercise strengthens the core by lengthening it, known as eccentric strength. Being strong in this position improves core stability and recruits muscle fibers that would otherwise be untouched.
How to perform the Ab Wheel Rollout exercise
- Get on your knees and grab the ab wheel or a barbell loaded with round plates with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Pushing through the handles, round your upper back and pull your hips down to maintain a neutral spine.
- Straighten your hips towards the floor and drop your chest towards 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 becomes, so shorten your range of motion if necessary. Your ROM depends on your overhead mobility and a neutral spine.
- Tighten your lat muscles and pull yourself back to the starting position.
- Reset the starting position described in step 2 and repeat the process.
Muscles worked by the Ab Wheel Rollout exercise
The ab wheel roll is primarily a lower body exercise, but the overhead roll and reach works the larger upper body muscles. Here are the primary muscles worked with the Ab Wheel Rollout.
- Glutes: Isometrically snapped to keep lower back neutral.
- belly across: Tightens your midsection like a belt would a loose pant to keep your back neutral.
- straight belly: Isometric contraction and are lengthened during rollout.
- slope: The external and internal obliques are isometrically engaged to keep the spine neutral and avoid rotation.
- Shoulders and biceps: Your anterior deltoids are worked via shoulder flexion during the rollout.
- triceps: Isometric engagement to keep the elbow straight, and the long head of the triceps supports the lats during the rollback portion of the exercise.
- Latissimus Dorsi: Elongates during rollout and contracts concentrically to bring your hands back under your shoulders.
Advantages of abdominal wheel introduction
When done correctly, this exercise is the real deal. It can feel like your abs are tearing in two, and you'll surely experience the pain for yourself the next day. Below are some benefits worth having.
- Better Squats and Deadlifts: When you squat or deadlift, keeping your spine neutral and your body in proper alignment is good for technique and prevents your lower back from turning the bird around. A stronger core due to increased anti-extension strength will do both.
- Easy to advance (and go back): Like most good exercises, the ab wheel roll can be made easier or harder. The barbell and ab wheel variations are tough, and if you're not ready, rolling out the stability ball in the elevated position is a good place to start.
- Ab Hypertrophy and Strength: When you perform the Ab Wheel Rollout, you'll be challenged during the 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 required for this exercise gives you longer time under tension for better abdominal strength.
- Lift more weight: Have you ever heard the expression, "You are only as strong as your weakest link?" When it comes to your core strength, it's close to the truth. If you're struggling to maintain a neutral spine under heavy loads, improving with the ab wheel rollout needs to be a priority.
to avoid form errors
Rolling back may not look difficult to the untrained observer, but there are a few things to look out for in order to stay in good shape and reap all of the benefits above.
- Don't start with the hips: Starting this move by moving your hips down is a no go. This causes your lower back to arch and takes the tension out of your core. Begin by rolling forward, keeping your glutes tight and avoiding bringing your hips back during the concentric contraction. The key is to stay in a range of motion that you can control.
- Correct setting and tension: This is not an exercise that you need to prepare or perform quickly. Standing in the correct position outlined above, grasp the ab wheel or barbell and tighten your glutes to maintain a neutral spine.
- Keep elbows straight: Some lifters flex their elbows without realizing it, shifting some of the emphasis to the triceps, which takes away from the abs. Essentially, this exercise makes it easier, and you don't want that. Make sure your elbows stay straight throughout the exercise.
- Don't let your hips sag: The whole point of the ab wheel rollout is to prevent lower back extension, and if your hips sink toward the floor during the rollout, you can be sure that's happening. Keeping your glutes engaged all the time and staying in a ROM you can control will prevent this.
Training and programming suggestions
The ab wheel rollout requires focus and tension, and it's best done after warming up and before grabbing the barbell. Doing these for 1-3 sets of 6-10 reps when fresh works best.