You have probably come across the ab roller and wondered how effective it is. For starters, it is a rather simple device consisting of a wheel with a handle on each side. But do not let its simplicity fool you. The ab roller (also known as an ab wheel) is an advanced piece of training equipment that, when used properly, can build and tone most of the muscles in your body including your biceps, triceps, lats, and core. In this article we will show you exactly how to best utilize this piece of a equipment based on your goals, show you some of the most important exercises, and also review 5 of the most popular ab wheels on the market in 2018.
Don’t have time to read the whole article? According to our tests, these are the top 5 best ab rollers of 2018:
- Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro
- SKLZ Core Wheels Dynamic Strength & Ab Trainer
- Bio Core Ab Roller
- Lifeline Power Wheel
- Ab Wheel Roller Pro
Why Use an Ab Roller?
Building rock-hard abs requires utmost dedication to losing fat and toning your tummy through aerobic exercise, a balanced diet and a lot of challenging core workouts. If you’re sick and tired of the monotony (and weak results) of crunches, grab yourself an ab roller. There are a number of slew of health and fitness benefits related to this simple piece of equipment.
The primary purpose of an ab roller is to strengthen your core muscles, together with the rectus abdominis located in the stomach area. Distinct from other types of exercises which usually target only one muscle or muscle group, the ab roller involves nearly the whole upper body and even parts of your lower body. Your obliques, pectorals, triceps, deltoids, and many others will all be joining the party.
Engage the Abs
Whenever you use the ab roller, your core activates to prevent your back from arching. In addition, your spine flexes to contract and stretch your abdominals through a full range of motion. Such movement presents a huge challenge to your six-pack, the rectus abdominis, and the spinal stabilizers. All these muscles can be targeted by the ab roller, thus making it an excellent tool for a stronger and more sculpted core.
Activate Accessory Muscles
Ab roller rollouts strengthen a long list of muscles. Some core workouts only engage a small number of muscles. For instance, crunches only work your abs and obliques. For the ab roller, every repetition of the rollout exercise activates almost 20 muscles. Although it is marketed as an ab-sculpting tool, the ab roller makes virtually every muscle contract because you need to stabilize your body in a plank-like position while rolling out. Aside from the abdominals, it also targets your pectorals, triceps, trapezius, lats, hip flexors and glutes.
Improve Your Balance
Strength-training workouts, including those with the ab roller, improve your overall fitness level in a variety of ways. Commitment to this type of exercise boosts your stamina, improves balance, helps manage weight, prevents several diseases, strengthens muscles to minimize risk of injury, and even reduces anxiety. Building strong, toned muscles also have positive effects on your confidence and self-esteem.
While exercising with an ab roller may not burn as many calories as with cardio training, this type of exercising still plays a significant role in burning fat and calories. Boosting your muscle mass imminently elevates your basal metabolic rate, which is the rate at which your body burns calories when you’re not engaged in physical activity. Research shows strength training on a regular basis may increase your basal metabolic rate up to 15 percent.
No More Crunches
Recent studies reveal that the ab roller generates more activity in your abs and obliques than traditional crunches. If you do 15 to 20 reps with the ab roller (on your knees) you’ll really feel it. You need to do over 50 crunches to feel the same. Moreover, the ab roller works better for your lower back because it extends your spine, in contrast to crunches which put pressure on your lower back. Which leads to my next point…
Bid Goodbye to Back Pain
Strengthening your core even if you don’t get the much-coveted six-pack is beneficial in several ways. A strong core will help you perform a number of daily movements with relative ease. It can also provide relief if you often experience low back pain. Whenever you do the ab roller rollout, you extend your spine, decompressing the spinal nerves and reducing intervertebral pressure.
The Top 5 Best Ab Wheel Rollers of 2018
Yet, with so many pieces of equipment available for training that specific area, things can be confusing when they don’t have to be. If we had to recommend just one type of equipment, ab wheels are some of the best choices all-around: small, cheap, effective and easy to use; they are just as indicated for beginners as they are for enthusiasts.
When it comes to the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro, we can say that the biggest difference maker is what the producer calls a “kinetic engine”. It’s actually a carbon steel spring that ensures resistance as you extend and assistance when rolling back.
Another positive is its increased wideness. This helps the users keep better balance, and it can also be used at an angle, which is an ideal way of developing the side abs (oblique muscles). Moreover, the hand grips on this wheel are designed not only for improved stability, but also to stimulate arm and back muscles during exercise. This wheel actually helps train most of your upper body.
The materials used are of a superior quality compared to most other wheels. Rubber is used on all the “contact” parts of the wheel. The wheel itself is gentle to any floor type, while the hand grips ensure great comfort and reduce slipping chances.
What’s more important is that the producer offers a well-made, downloadable 21-day plan that is aimed at users of all levels, from beginners to advanced.
The downsides of this equipment are its higher price as compared to the competition (although as of the time of this update the price has been reduced by over 30%) and lower worldwide availability. The official website allows orders only within the US and, while you can find the product on websites like Amazon, the availability, transport fees and shipment times vary with location.
In the end, we can safely say that this is clearly one of the best ab wheels on the market. If you are in a position where you can buy one for a reasonable price, this is potentially the best choice for your money.
However, it was sad to see just how little content and detail there was in the workout guide. We had to look online for more types of exercises suggested by regular users. Clearly, there were times in the past when there wasn’t much available besides the poor official information.
The grip these wheels provide is decent, for the most part. But we did have some issues with smooth surfaces at times. We can only say to have mixed feelings about the wheels.
Another thing that bothered us was the cheap feeling that the foam on the handle gave us, showing signs of wear after only a few days. On the bright side, we found the handle itself to be quite strong and reliable in our tests.
When it comes down to a verdict, the SKLZ Core Wheels remain an interesting product if you want something different when training your core. But a few issues regarding the materials used and instructions offered manage to bring it down a few notches. Still, I like the variation offered by dual rollers vs the single roller style.
Fortunately, the high quality can be felt all around. The build quality of this ab roller is excellent, inspiring confidence that it can last for years of consistent use. Apparently, the wheel frame is made using industrial strength polymers, and the axle is made of stainless steel. The manufacturers are so confident in the ability of this product to sustain great amounts of pressure that they are offering a lifetime replacement guarantee for any of its parts, in the event that something does break in the end.
Besides strength, this product offers one of the highest levels of comfort we’ve seen with its hand grips. The material feels good in hand even after extended use, and we found its anti-slip properties to be very satisfactory.
The rubber on the wheels is high quality as well, providing good performance on any typical surface, without causing damage or high noise levels.
The balance and stability provided by the two wheels were also strong points of this ab roller. We just felt confident in using this ab roller in various ways, as opposed to other pieces of equipment with cheaper build quality.
The resistance the wheel poses was proper to ensure the workout advertised: the entire upper body benefits from using it.
There are not many negatives, but they are worth mentioning. The package that you receive with this product is quite basic. Besides the wheel components and a decent mat, there is nothing to be found. At this price range, you would expect some instructions regarding proper usage, some workout plans, perhaps even some extra items like resistance bands or travel bags.
But that is nitpicking on our part. Overall, Bio Core Ab Roller is a high-quality product that is worth its price.
Its rubber wheel is excellent, providing a good feeling and sense of balance no matter what type of workout you choose to do. The online videos available from the product’s creator are of the highest quality we’ve seen lately.
Yet, there are some build issues that drag what should be an excellent equipment down. Because of the poor hand grip and foot support materials, you will not have the necessary comfort when exercising. This will prevent you from experiencing a lot of what the product can do in theory.
People may also be disappointed with having almost no information in the package, not even instructions as to how you should assemble it.
All in all, we can only dream that these issues will be fixed in a new version, in order for the product to reach its full potential.
Second of all, the materials used feel cheap. It’s not that we expected anything besides plastic at this price range, but we’ve seen better quality than here.
The handles were another problem we had with this product. They just weren’t comfortable at all after extended use and the grip was not satisfactory either. We felt that our hands would sweat more than usual when using this particular ab wheel. If you feel that you have the same issue, we recommend using a cloth over the handles. It should provide a softer feeling to your hand and help with the sweat.
The small wheels also made the product less comfortable than we would’ve liked. What we enjoyed in this area was the distance between the wheels, which helped ensure better stability overall.
There are other good things to be said about this product as well. The ab wheel does a good job of providing a proper workout for the upper body. Anyone who has used products of this kind knows perfectly well the feeling you get in your muscles afterwards – a sign that they work, which is something very noticeable in this case.
Back to a previous statement, when we said the materials feel cheap, our complaint was regarding comfort. The construction itself seemed decent based on the time we spent using the product. While we can’t guarantee how it behaves in the long run, it didn’t give signs of being about to break in our tests – and we tested larger body weights as well. And with the lifetime replacement guarantee, you do have good value for the money either way.
Overall, we feel that the Ab Wheeler Pro is a decent product for its price. That said, it is a bare-bones product with no knee pad and little to no instructions included so buy with caution.
The Proper Way to Do A Roll Out
The first time you use an ab roller can be a humbling experience. You grab the handles, roll the wheel in front of your body, and likely fall flat on your face! Of course, that is not how it’s supposed to work. If you have a strong core and a good technique, you can roll the wheel out and then pull it back in, slowly and perfectly under control.
However, even with a correct technique, this exercise is tough to execute so don’t get discouraged. The first thing to do is practice activating the right muscles. When you move the ab roller, extend it only as far as you can control it. With some practice, you will never fall flat on your face again.
Here’s how to do an ab roll step by step:
- Start on your hands and knees. See to it that there is unobstructed floor space that’s at least equal to your height. Use an exercise mat under your knees for comfort. Your range of motion is likely to be limited at first, but you still need ample space.
- Roll forward and activate your abs. Grip the handles with both hands and prepare to roll. Move forward from your core. Slowly roll your arms and torso forward until shortly before you feel like you can no longer pull yourself back up. During the course of the movement, keep your abs tight, the lower back muscles contracted, and your hips stable. Don’t let your back arch and try not to let your bottom sag toward the floor.
- Hold the position for 2-3 seconds. Keep in mind that the longer you hold the “rolled out” pose, the more intensively you’ll be able to target your abs.
- Return to your starting position. After a pause at the stretched position, use your core muscles to slowly pull the ab roller back toward your knees. Breathe out and keep your abs tight the whole time. Once you’re back to the starting position, you have successfully completed one “rep” of a standard ab roller exercise.
My Top 5 Ab Roller Exercises
Ab Roller Planks
This is ideal if you are using the ab roller for the very first time. It will help you understand how to grip the roller while maintaining balance.
Step 1: Start in the push-up position.
Step 2: Hold the ab roller with both hands with your body in a plank position. Hold it for 30-45 seconds then repeat 4-5 times.
Kneeling Roll Outs
Step 1: Start in the kneeling position.
Step 2: Hold the handles with both your arms stretched.
Step 3: Roll forward, stretching your body until it is parallel to the floor.
Step 4: Lower your body far as you can without touching the floor and inhale during this movement.
Step 5: Pause for 2-3 seconds then roll yourself back to the kneeling position. Exhale during the movement and don’t arch your back. Repeat the cycle.
Beginner: 7-9 repetitions
Intermediate: 12- 14 repetitions
Advanced: 16-19 repetitions
The V roll-outs focus on the obliques and are basically the same as the knee roll-outs. The difference is in the extension which must be performed at an angle of 45 degrees.
Step 1: Begin by holding the handles while kneeling.
Step 2: While keeping your arms extended, slowly roll out to the right. Return to the starting position and then roll out to the left. Repeat the cycle by alternating sides.
Beginner: 5-7 repetitions
Intermediate: 9-12 repetitions
Advanced: 14-19 repetitions
For this variation, you’ll need to be in a plank position but this time it would be your feet on the handles instead of your hands. You’ll need a foot strapping attachment for this particular exercise.
Keep in mind that your hands must be straight and positioned under your shoulders. Roll in the wheel by bending your knees and pull it closer to your chest. Maintain a straight body so you can attain higher efficiency and extend your knees back to the plank position. This helps to activate the abs, obliques, arms, and shoulders.
Tip: Inhale when you bend your knees and exhale when you extend your knees back to the plank position.
Beginner: 7-10 repetitions
Intermediate: 12-15 repetitions
Advanced: 16-20 repetitions
Single Arm Roll Out
This is the advanced variation of the kneeling roll out or the double arm rollout. Here, your body weight is supported by your rolling arm, while the stabilizer muscles keep you upright. Your other hand, which is not in use, is ideally placed at the back of your waist.
You can either do this kneeling or standing. Initially, the kneeling version is preferred because it will give you more control over your posture.
Step 1: Start by bending your waist to hold the roller with one hand.
Step 2: Begin slowly by rolling forward, concentrating on your core.
Step 3: Return to the starting position by rolling back with one hand.
Tip: To achieve better results, use alternate hands to repeat the cycle. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds when your body is completely stretched.
Beginner: 5-7 repetitions
Intermediate: 9-12 repetitions
Advanced: 14-20 repetitions
Potential Dangers of Using an Ab Roller
Wherever there’s good, there’s also some bad, and the ab roller is no exception to this rule. The fundamental advantage related to using the ab roller is the fact that it applies enormous pressure on your lower back. In the case in which your back muscles aren’t the strongest or your hip flexors are increasingly tight, you may encounter difficulty in opposing the gravity effect on your abdomen while exercising. That will imminently result in an overarching of your back.
If you wish to prevent injury, experts recommend you to strengthen the back by doing exercises that target that section. For instance, you could opt for lovers or rows, before actually moving up to the ab wheel. Note that, in the case in which you have issues with your lower back, you should avoid the wheel unless your health provider doesn’t advise you to.