Looking for a fitness tool that can seriously challenge your core strength and stability? An ab roller might be just the thing for you!
This harmless-looking piece of equipment doesn’t just work your abs, but also your entire core, and other muscle groups such as your hip flexors, glutes, and arms to name a few. A strong core translates to a multitude of benefits including improved balance, stability, and flexibility, injury prevention, enhanced athletic performance, and more.
A recent study even listed the ab wheel rollout as one of the best exercises to activate your abs!
Even though they look deceptively easy to do, ab wheel rollouts are one of those exercises that a lot of people get wrong.
In this blog, we’ll tell you
- How to use an ab roller the right way
- Tips for mastering the ab wheel rollout
- Common mistakes to avoid while using the ab roller
How to Use the Ab Roller in 7 steps
- Get into a kneeling position on a mat with the ab roller in front of you, directly under your shoulders.
- Firmly grip the handles of the ab roller.
- Take a deep breath in and tighten your midsection (as you would do if someone were about to punch you in the stomach).
- Tuck your tailbone, relax your hip flexors, and round your spine towards the ceiling (similar to the cat pose in Yoga). Your back should remain in this cat pose throughout the range of motion of this exercise.
- Now slowly with control, roll the ab wheel out in front of you as far as you can go with proper form while maintaining the tightness in your core.
- At the bottom of the rep, get a little bit of extension, and then use your core to roll back to the starting position.
- Exhale and then again brace your core before you start the next rep.
Perform 3-5 reps initially. You can increase the number of reps gradually as you build core strength.
Here’s a video that demonstrates how to use an ab roller the right way.
Tips for performing the ab wheel rollout correctly
- Take 5-10 minutes to dynamically warm up your hip flexors, shoulder joints, and lower back before using the ab roller.
- At the beginning of the rep, activate your lats by pulling your shoulders down and back. This will aid in stabilizing your spine and protecting it from injuries.
- At the bottom of the rep, again engage your lats while rolling back (like how you would in a Straight-Arm Pulldown).
- When you’re starting, don’t try to roll out too far as you might cause unnecessary stress on your spine. Start easy and increase the length of the rolls gradually. One way to do this is to kneel a small distance away from a wall and roll out until you reach the wall.
- Ensure your knees and arms are together for a tighter roll.
- Remember to breathe! Inhale while rolling out and exhale while rolling in.
Common Mistakes to avoid while using the ab roller and how to fix them
Even someone who has immense core strength can only perform around 15 to 20 reps of an ab wheel rollout. So if you’re able to crank out more than 20 reps, you are DEFINITELY doing it wrong!
Here are a few of the popular mistakes that people make while using the ab roller.
1. Bending your elbows while rolling in
One of the common mistakes that people commit while performing an ab wheel rollout is bending their elbows.
When your arms are not locked out straight, you’re taking the workload away from your core and transferring it to your triceps. So ensure that you don’t bend your elbows and keep your arms locked out straight throughout the range of motion of this exercise.
By doing this you’ll also increase your straight-arm scapular strength which is a crucial factor for improving your form while lifting heavy weights.
2. Rolling in with your arms instead of your core
Another mistake that people make is pulling the ab roller back with their arms instead of using their abs. People might pull the ab wheel halfway with their arms and then use their core to complete the rep. This completely defeats the purpose of this exercise.
Remember that your arms are only there to hold on to the wheel. So when you reach the bottom of the rep, ensure that your arms are straight and you’re using only your core to initiate the pull back.
3. Using your hips instead of your core to roll in
The next common ab roller mistake is using your hips to drive the roll-back motion instead of your core. Doing this will make the ab rollout super easy to perform but in the process, you would be actively engaging your hip flexors instead of your core muscles (definitely not what we want).
The best way to overcome this mistake is to visualize an imaginary line going straight up from your knees. When you roll back you should ensure that
- Your butt never crosses that line and touches your heels
- Your knees never flex past 90 degrees
- Your hips never flex past their starting point.
4. Tilting your pelvis anteriorly
Ever felt lower back pain while doing an ab wheel rollout? That’s probably because of one of these 2 mistakes.
- You’re dropping your pelvis into an anterior tilt (like in cow pose) instead of maintaining a posterior tilt (like in cat pose) throughout the range of movement.
- You’re starting the rep with a posterior tilt and then switching to an anterior tilt at the bottom of the rep.
When you adopt an anterior tilt for your pelvis, you’re not working your abs, you are stretching them. But when you do a posterior tilt, you’re curling your trunk from the bottom up and creating spinal flexion, meaning your abs are taking on the brunt of this exercise, rather than your back.
Also, when you constantly switch back and forth between anterior and posterior tilt positions, it places undue stress on your lumbar spine resulting in lower back pain.
So remember, posterior tilt is KEY!
Here's a video demonstrating the common mistakes people make while using the ab roller.
Is the ab roller suitable for everyone?
Performing ab roller exercises is NOT a piece of cake! You need to have a HUGE deal of core and upper-body strength and control.
This is why we recommend this mean machine only for advanced users.
If you have lower back issues, abdominal injuries, hypertension, shoulder or wrist issues, or have had surgeries in the deep abdominal region, we highly recommend avoiding the ab roller or at least consulting with your physician before using one.
Progression exercises to master the ab wheel rollout
If you’re new to the ab wheel, take your time to practice these progression exercises that can build your core strength.
3. Exercise ball rollouts
4. Exercise ball knee tucks
5. Exercise ball pikes
Now that you know how to use an ab roller with proper form, nothing’s stopping you from using one!
Check out Burnlab’s abs-olutely awesome Ab Roller right here and ab-roll your way into a strong and stable core!!