While effective, sit-ups and planks can get boring after a while. So, if you're looking to switch things up, you may have come across an ab roller (aka ab wheel), which is an inexpensive piece of fitness equipment you can add to your home gym to work on your core strength.
It's only natural to wonder, though: Do ab rollers work? Although the ab roller alone won't give you a ripped midsection and reduced belly fat — there's no such thing as spot reduction — if you use it properly, it can help you build your core muscles, which in turn, improves your stability, posture and total fitness.
Read on to learn about how to use an ab roller, which muscles it works and its overall effectiveness.
First, What Is an Ab Roller and How Do You Use It?
The ab roller is a small piece of gym equipment that consists of a wheel with handles attached on each side that smoothly rolls (hence the name) on the floor or an exercise mat. Watch the video and read the instructions below to see exactly how the ab roller exercise is done.
- Set up on all fours on a flat, hard surface. Place a cushion, mat or towel underneath your knees for support.
- Engage your core and tuck your pelvis underneath you to reduce the arch in your lower back. You want to maintain a solid core and neutral spine throughout the entire exercise.
- Grab onto the ab wheel's handles. Your back should be rounded in the starting position, but your core should still be completely engaged.
- Slowly roll forward, using your core to control the movement. Your back should extend a bit as you roll so that you move into a plank position.
- Roll as far out as you can while still maintaining a tight core and flat back.
- Use your core and back muscles to roll the wheel back toward your body and return to the starting position.
So, Does the Ab Roller Actually Work?
If you're wondering if an ab roller is effective and works your entire core, the answer is yes. Specifically, the ab roller works the following core muscles, as LIVESTRONG.com has previously reported.
- Rectus abdominis
- Transverse abdominis
- Internal and external obliques
- Lower back muscles
Additionally, the ab roller works your glute, hip flexor and quad muscles, too.
Other benefits of the ab roller include aiding in better posture and lower back health, which help prevent back pain and improve your ability to move in and out of the gym.
What is the disadvantage of using an ab roller? While it fires up many muscles, as listed above, it isn't the most effective exercise when it comes to isolating just your abdominal muscles, according to research commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). To test the effectiveness of the ab wheel, researchers use electromyography, or EMG, equipment. By placing electrodes on the abdominal region, researchers can observe the activity of the muscle as a subject performs an exercise.
The ab wheel was tested against several other pieces of gym equipment for abs and standard abs exercises, such as the regular crunch. Researchers recorded the activity in the main abdominal muscle, the rectus abdominis, and in the side abdominal muscles, the obliques.
Out of 13 exercises in the ACE-sponsored study, the ab roller ranked ninth in rectus abdominis activity. So, while the ab roller isn't the most effective, it also isn't the least, meaning it can still have a place in your core routine. Plus, if you're motivated to work out your abs using an ab roller regularly, that's more effective than not exercising at all.
It's important to note: The ab roller is only effective if you use it properly. If you push with your arms instead of using your abs, or if you use momentum to rock forward, you will decrease the effectiveness of the exercise.
Our Favorite Ab Rollers
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