The quest for six-pack abs marches on with a long line of in-home abdominal training devices. The AB Roller is one-such device. Although the AB Roller alone will not give you a lean, ripped mid-section – spot reduction is not possible -- if you use it properly, it can help you strengthen your core muscles.
The AB Roller consists of a curved frame with a headrest and padded handles. Set the device on a level surface and position yourself with the back of your head on the headrest. Place your hands on the padded bar above you, bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor. As you crunch up, the frame moves with you and supports your head and neck throughout the movement.
To test the effectiveness of the AB roller, 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 Roller device was tested against several other commercial abdominal devices and standard abdominal 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.
The American Council on Exercise, ACE, sponsored a study at the BioMechanics Lab at San Diego State University that tested 13 abdominal exercises and devices, including the AB Roller. Another study, published in the "Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy" pitted the AB Roller against eight other abdominal exercises and devices. Both studies found the AB Roller to be marginally effective in activating the abdominal muscles. Out of 13 exercises in the ACE study, the AB Roller rated ninth in rectus abdominis activity. In the second study, the AB Roller rated fourth out of nine exercises. In both studies, the AB Roller wasn't the most effective abdominal exercise, but it wasn't the least effective either.
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. The American Council on Exercise used the standard crunch as a baseline in the study. The AB Roller activated the abdominal muscles only marginally more than a regular crunch. Other exercises, such as the bicycle maneuver and exercise ball crunch, activated the rectus abdominis 30 to 140 percent more than the AB Roller. However, any device that motivates you to use it regularly is more effective than not working out at all.