If you’re looking at your ab wheel wondering: “How the hell do I use this thing?”, then you’re in the right place. We’ll tell you everything there is to know about the ab wheel in this article.
Ab wheels look like an incredibly simple and even somewhat primitive pieces of workout equipment. But once you start exploring the possibilities and the results of this equipment, you’ll be amazed.
Ab wheel roll-outs are at the core of an ab wheel workout, but there are other workout alternatives that you can do with ab wheels. Read on to learn about the exercises you can do with it, why it’s good, and the muscles you can train with an ab wheel.
What is an Ab Wheel?
An ab wheel is exactly what the name suggests it is – a wheel attached to a small pole that will help you target your abs. A normal ab wheel consists of a pole with a wheel or a couple of wheels attached to it.
It’s a simple piece of equipment that’s widely accessible. Because of its simplicity, many even build an ab wheel at home. However, if you’re a total beginner, you’re probably better off with buying one as they are just more reliable and sturdy.
If you’re looking to build your abs, the ab wheel might just be one of the most efficient accessories you’ll use, though. While it might seem like an obscure piece of equipment, you’ll be surprised at how hard it is to complete a full rep of ab wheel roll-outs, especially if you’re a beginner!
You might have to do simpler exercises at the start with the ab wheel. The good thing is that this piece of equipment allows you to vary your workouts and perform different exercises. We’ll talk more about the beginner exercises with the ab wheel later on (yeah, you can scroll down if you’re interested in them).
What Muscles Does an Ab Wheel Target?
As the name suggests, the primary focus of the ab wheel is on your abs. But a properly done ab wheel workout can do much more than just target your abs. And if you try to do an ab wheel roll-out yourself, you’ll quickly find out that it requires quite a lot of strength in different areas of your body.
Namely, an ab wheel can also target your quads and some minor leg muscles, your obliques, lats, posterior deltoids, triceps, chest, and rotator cuff muscles.
But perhaps even more importantly, the ab wheel helps you build your stabilizer muscles in your core (rectus abdominis, erector spinae) and throughout your body. This is exactly what some other types of ab workouts fail to do. With ab wheels, you can hit all of those with just a few exercises.
Suffice it to say that ab wheels are incredibly important pieces of gym equipment, albeit sometimes unfairly neglected. Ab wheels help you build real core strength by strengthening your stabilizers as well as different parts of your core.
Does the Ab Wheel Work?
If you perform the ab wheel exercises correctly and with proper form, then the ab wheel might be one of the most effective pieces of equipment for your abs. Finally, you can stop pretending you have abs and have REAL abs (but you have to put the work in!)…
If we compare the ab wheel to crunches, for example, then we can say that the ab wheel might be more effective because it’s a more well-rounded exercise. While targeting your abs, the ab wheel will also put some focus on your lower back, which is one of the main issues when it comes to crunches.
But what about the rest of the ab exercises you can do without the ab wheel?
If you do ab workouts regularly, then you know that you simply have to do several exercises to target your core in its entirety, as well as your obliques. With the ab wheel, you only have to do 2-3 exercises to really feel the effects on all of your ab muscles and your core.
The ab wheel is also far more challenging than most bodyweight-only exercises for your abs. When done correctly, the ab wheel is actually up to twice times more challenging than the regular ab exercises. The ab wheel roll-out is, in its essence, a bodyweight exercise too, but it’s not possible without the ab wheel.
So yes, we can safely say the ab wheel does definitely work IF you do the movements correctly and if you follow them up with a proper diet and do them consistently. But they are tough for beginners, so you might have to start with easier exercises and progress to tougher movements as you go on with your training.
Beginner Ab Wheel Workout
If you’re a beginner, then it might be hard for you to master the ab wheel right from the start. You will probably struggle at the start, so you should take it slowly and develop your core strength gradually. You should start with easier exercises and progress to more challenging ones, depending on your strength level.
This is another difference between the ab wheel and other ab exercises – with the latter, you increase the reps to progress; with the ab wheel, you need to move on to more challenging variations to do the same.
So here’s how a good beginner workout would look like.
1. Ab Wheel Plank
Planks are one of the most versatile exercises you can do, and it’s entirely possible to do them with the ab wheel, too.
This is a good exercise for beginners because it allows you to get a feel for the ab wheel. Also, you’ll be able to get more comfortable with leaning onto the ab wheel, which is something you’ll do a lot of later on.
If you can hold it for 15-30 seconds at the start, that’s already good. You can use this movement as a warm-up exercise, or you can do it for three reps of as long as you can hold it at the start. It will strengthen your abs and your core for the more challenging ab wheel exercises that you’ll do later on.
The key here is to get the balance during the movement. If you’re a total beginner, this will actually be the toughest part. Make sure you don’t move too much forwards and backward – instead, keep your arms straight beneath your shoulders to prevent this movement.
2. Kneeling Roll-Out
If you’re a total and utter beginner, then this exercise is the one you should start with. It’s the easier version of the ab wheel roll-outs, which might just be a tad too challenging if you’ve never done this before.
But worry not, keep doing these and in a couple of weeks, you should be able to do your first real ab wheel roll-outs.
The main difference here is that with kneeling roll-outs, you stay on your knees as you do the roll-out, which takes the stress away from your entire body. Mainly, you won’t have to engage your leg muscles and arm muscles as much – instead, you’ll be able to focus solely on your abs and your core.
Here’s how to do these.
- Get on your knees and spread them slightly wider than hip-distance apart. It will be more comfortable if you have some sort of padding underneath your knees
- Put the ab roller in front of you
- Then, grab the ab roller with your hands, and start rolling forwards
Roll forwards until you spread your arms as far out as you can, but keep your knees on the ground at the same time. But only go as far down as you feel comfortable at this point
- Roll back the other way once you spread your arms as forward as you can. Repeat 8-12 times (once you can do 12 comfortably at once, move on to normal roll-outs)
Here’s a video showing you how it’s done.
3. Ab Wheel Roll-Outs
The ab wheel roll-outs are the natural progression from the kneeling roll-outs – if you’re not comfortable with kneeling roll-outs, then you might want to skip this exercise altogether. But if you’re comfortable with them, then you should replace them with full ab wheel roll-outs. When you feel confident, you can go deeper and deeper into your movement.
This is the most common exercise when it comes to the ab wheel without a doubt. But it’s also one of the most effective ones because it targets your core and multiple muscles of your body – your legs, arms, chest, and even your lats, as well as your core, of course.
By no means this is an easy exercise, though. It requires a good deal of strength in your arms, legs, and of course, your core. But the proper form here is key. Here’s a good video showing you the most common mistakes when it comes to ab roll-outs.
- The movement is done the same as the kneeling roll-outs, only that you stretch further out
- The most important thing is to keep your abs engaged at all times! Don’t allow your lower back to cave in – if that happens, then you’re stretching your body too much. Only go as far out as you feel comfortable with
- If you can handle full roll-outs, then you can even hold it at the top of the movement for a second or two to make it even tougher
- Don’t overuse your hips with the movement – this can happen if you move your hips too far back or if you move them excessively during the movement.
- Instead, squeeze your abs as much as possible and allow the wheel to guide you
- Do 5-10 of these, and focus on stretching as far as you can at first. After you’ve done that, increase the reps – your focus should be on stretching out more rather than increasing the reps
4. Ab Wheel Knee Tucks
Knee tucks are another challenging exercise you can do with the ab wheel. If you’re unable to do it with the ab wheel, then you should focus on:
- Ab wheel planks
- Kneeling ab wheels
- Ball knee tucks
Once you’re comfortable with ball knee tucks, you can try it with the ab wheel. It’s a great movement to do because it represents the natural movement you would do with sports, such as running or cycling.
If you’re a total beginner, focus on the above-mentioned exercises first. Although if you can do a couple of these knee tucks, definitely go for it.
Again, it’s important to keep your ab muscles squeezed during the movement. Also, make sure you’re not slouching, especially in your lower back. This can cause some aggravation in the lower back. Watch this video to see how to do it.
Ab Wheel Rollout Alternative
Don’t have an ab wheel? Don’t want to buy one yet and you want to do the rollout nonetheless? Then there is a great alternative you can try in this case.
In fact, you have two alternatives for the ab wheel:
- You can use the towel to do the rollouts
- You can do the rollouts with a stability ball
Let’s take a closer look at each one.
With the Towel
This might be the simplest form of ab wheel rollouts out there, and anyone can do them – no excuses! As long as you have a towel handy, you’ll only need to find a slippery part of your home. It might be wood or even a smooth surface that won’t block the towel.
The rollouts are done just the same way – only that instead of using the roller, you’ll use the towel to roll out. Here’s how to do it.
- Get yourself onto your knees, and have a towel ready. Make sure you’re on a surface that’s slightly more slippery or smooth.
- Lean your hands onto the towel, and start rolling forwards. Use the same technique as you would use with ab roller rollouts
- Stretch out as far as you can with your hands. Don’t do more than you can handle, or you’re risking injuries
- Keep your back straight, especially your lower back, and your core engaged throughout the movement
With the Stability Ball
If you have a stability ball at your home or in your gym, then you can do the rollouts with it instead of with the roller. It’s quite simple, too. This movement is slightly easier because you can lean your body onto the ball during the movement.
But when you go deeper, you’ll definitely notice the same effects as you would with the roller. Even though you might not be able to go as deep as with the roller, this is also a worthy alternative.
Best Ab Wheels for Beginners
Rollouts are more effective with an ab wheel, though. If you’re struggling to find a good ab wheel, then we have some recommendations for you that have worked well for us in the past.
Best Overall: LXYY Abdominal Wheel
Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
The LXYY Ab Wheel is the best ab wheel you’ll ever use – period. When you buy this wheel, you can expect it to last you forever – unlike some other wheels that only last for a couple of months.
The wheel is designed based on science. It has the optimal build that completely enables you to avoid injuries and do the rollouts and other exercises comfortably. The design of this wheel is also meant for you to target the rest of your muscles, not just your abdominals.
Even though the price might seem steep, you have to consider that you’ll have this wheel for years to come, maybe forever. It’s the go-to ab wheel for professional athletes as well.
Best Budget Option: Vinsguir Ab Wheel
With an ab wheel, it’s important that it’s reliable for rolling as well as comfortable to use. The Vinsguir ab wheel does both very well.
You get a free knee pad for performing rollouts. It’s easy to disassemble the wheel and take it anywhere with you. It has a comfortable rubber handle which allows you to do rollouts comfortably. And it’s quite affordable, too.
This ab wheel is perfect for beginners, but also for anyone else willing to buy a good ab wheel. It’s affordable and represents excellent value for money.
The ab wheel is one of the best small pieces of gym equipment you can use. It looks like a simple piece of equipment, but it can be a very valuable addition to your gym arsenal.
It allows you to build your core but also target a variety of different muscles at the same time. There is a great variety of exercises you can do with it, making it a must-have for anyone looking to get better abs.