What Does the Ab Roller Wheel Work?

The ab roller is a simple device: two handles connecting a wheel. But don't let its simplicity fool you. The ab wheel is an advanced training tool that, when used correctly, builds strong triceps, lats and core.

The ab roller helps build strong core, lats, and triceps. (Image: Vasily Pindyurin/fStop/GettyImages)

Tip

The ab roller works a variety of muscles, including the core, triceps and lats.

Your Abs: The Prime Movers

When using the ab roller, your core moves to prevent your back from arching, while flexing the spine to both stretch and contract your abs through a full range of motion. This movement provides a huge challenge to your rectus abdominus, the six-pack muscle, as well as deep spinal stabilizers, such as the transverse abdominus. This makes the ab wheel roller a great tool for a stronger, more muscular core. Ace Fitness reports that ab products are just as effective as the traditional crunch.

Accessory Stabilization Muscles

The ab wheel rollout is more than an ab exercise; it's a challenge to your hips, shoulders, triceps, and latissimus dorsi. These muscles stabilize your body from shoulder to tailbone while the wheel rolls in front of your body.

Stability Ball Rollout

  1. The ab wheel rollout is an advanced exercise. Most people need to start with a modified version known as the stability ball rollout.
  2. Kneel with your legs about hip-width apart and your elbows on a stability ball. Keep your core tight, not allowing your back to sag.
  3. Slowly extend your arms as you roll forward. The ball rolls from being directly underneath you to being in front of you.
  4. Roll the ball back and continue for one to two sets of 12 to 15 reps. Once you're able to complete a full set of 15 reps without excess fatigue, add another set and work your way up to three sets.

Kneeling Ab-Wheel Rollout

Place your knees on the floor at hip width and hands on the wheel. Keep your abs tight to prevent arching your lower back. Roll the wheel forward as far as possible — ideally with your arms fully extended and chest to the ground — before rolling the wheel underneath your body and returning to an upright position. ExRx.net says your rectus abdominus and obliques isometrically contract during the rollout and because there's little to no waist flexion, these two muscles stabilize your pelvis.

Tip

This move will make your abs scream. It's best to start with shorter ranges of motion, gradually working the wheel out farther as you get stronger. Perform two to three sets of six to eight reps, increasing your reps by two each week until you reach 10.

Full Ab Rollout

The full rollout takes the kneeling rollout and abs to another level of difficulty. Instead of kneeling, you'll be in a full push-up position on your toes with the ab wheel held underneath your shoulders. From here, roll the wheel in front of your body slowly before bringing your hands back underneath your chest. This can take months to work up to, so start slowly with two to three sets of three to five reps. This version has been modified to be used as rehab for people with lower-limb loss, reports Rehab Research.

From a full-standup position, the ab wheel is rolled forward until your body is fully supported by your toes and your hands on the wheel. Except for your toes, your entire body is off the floor and arms outstretched. You can work your way up to three sets of three to five reps.

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