Ab wheel, ab roller

Ab Wheel – Sixpack on a Shoestring

Ab wheels (also called ab rollers) may be cheap but they can yield impressive results.

Equipment specifically dedicated to working your abdominal muscles is often expensive and generally inappropriate for a modest home gym. For example, an “ab crunch” machine could set you back around $2,000.

Thankfully, ab rollers provide a perfect inexpensive accessory for working your abs which means that you won’t have to rely on doing countless crunches to get a sixpack.

ab wheel

This will be welcome news for those who no longer find usual calisthenic ab work, such as sit ups, planks and crunches, effective or enjoyable.

PROS

Targets your abs

The ab wheel is particular good for hitting your abs.

According to a study conducted by San Diego State University, the exercise generates more muscle activity in your abs and obliques than traditional crunches.

In addition, there is less stress on your neck than when doing crunches.

Other ab exercises, although effective, can be generally uncomfortable. For example, when doing variation of the plank, the strain on your elbows can result in extreme discomfort and may prevent you from maintaining good form.

Transportable

One of the principal benefits of such a small and light piece of equipment is that you can take it anywhere. This means you can take it with you on holiday or when travelling for work to keep up your training regime regardless of where you are in the world.

To maximise efficiency when travelling it would be best to buy an ab roller that you can dismantle and reassemble easily.

Rollers are typically sold dismantled and instructions are provided for their assembly; however some are designed in such a way that it can be difficult to take them apart again (at least without a lot of elbow grease). Unfortunately, finding the right roller might be a case of trial and error, as ease of disassembly is not something that sellers are likely to advertise.

Calvin Harris claims that using an ab wheel helps him to stay in shape whilst touring:

“Staying in a gym routine while on the road is tricky, but as long as you don’t drink, eat well, sleep enough and take one of those mad little ab rollers with u everywhere you’ll be good.”

Calvin Harris uses an ab wheel

The results of an ab wheel!

Cheap

Ab rollers can cost as little as $10. Given how cheap they are, there’s no excuse not to add an ab wheel to your home gym.

Cons

Must be used correctly

Although the ab wheel is a useful piece of equipment, it must be used correctly to get results. In particular, make sure that you keep your core tight and do not allow your lower back to sink.

The ab wheel can place a lot of pressure on your lower back. This isn’t a problem in and of itself. However, if you have weak back muscles or you have tight hip flexors, you may find that you are unable to resist the force of gravity working against your torso. This will result  in an overarching of your back.

Overarching of your back is not only uncomfortable but could lead to injury. In order to prevent this, we recommend that you strengthen your back before using the ab wheel (should you have such a weakness).

Limited Resistance

One downside of ab wheels is that they use the weight of your torso to provide resistance for your abdominal muscles to work against. This means that the amount of weight your abs are effectively working to control will remain static and limited (unless of course you pile on the pounds!)

This may leave you yearning for an exercise that will effectively allow your abs to ‘lift heavy’. Well don’t fret!

 

Weighted Vest

You can invest in a weighted vest which will allow you to work your abs even harder. This is an ideal solution for those keen on progressive overload.

ab wheel weighted vest

Using an ab wheel with a weighted vest

 Resistance bands

One interesting technique to increase the resistance of a standard rollout, is to use resistance bands.

This involves attaching one end of the resistance bands to a fixed object and the other end to your ab wheel. The benefit of this variation to the rollout is that you are required to fight against the pull of the bands when rolling towards your body.ab wheel resistance bands

 

Features

Ab rollers are incredibly simple pieces of equipment. They are essentially comprised of a wheel with a rod in the middle. However, designs and build quality can vary substantially. There are certain features that typically vary between models – see below for these.

Brake

Some ab wheels are equipped with a braking mechanism, which comes in handy if you want to relieve tension on your abs by preventing the wheel from rolling at any given moment.

However, this feature can end up being more trouble than it is worth if the brake is too close to the wheel and provides friction against it when being used normally.

The brake is deployed by turning the handles away from your body until the brake comes into contact with the ground. It is a useful feature for beginners who are prone to accidentally over extending.

ab wheel with a brake

ab wheel with a brake

Ergonomic Handles

Although ab rollers will generally have consistent features, the handles tend to have different designs. Some models have ergonomic handles with grooves for your fingers. Others simply have a a layer of foam for comfort.

Make sure you buy an ab wheel that has comfortable handles, as you will need to grip the handles tightly when rolling.

ab wheel

ab wheels with different handles

Width (of the wheel)

Ab rollers that are wider will be more stable. It is a matter of preference as to whether you want an ab wheel that requires more effort from your core to keep it stabilised. Also, you will use your shoulders to keep the wheel stabilised, which can be taxing for those who are new to working out.

In contrast, a wide roller will allow you to concentrate on the primary muscles being worked (as opposed to your obliques), as the need for stabilisation is less of a distraction. It will also be a lot easier on your shoulders.

Generally, new trainees will be better off using a wide roller. Unfortunately, there are only a few of these on the market (see recommendations below).

Spring

Some ab rollers, such as the ab carver, contain a carbon steel spring that makes returning to the starting position much easier. The spring also provides resistance when rolling out.

Rollers with springs are recommended for beginners and/or those who find it difficult to maintain a neutral spine position. However, more experienced lifters may be disappointed with the lower level of resistance.

ab roller spring

ab roller with a spring

There are also products like the one below, which have resistance cords attached to rollers. This has a similar effect to a spring, allowing the user to roll back to the starting position more easily.

ab rollers with resistance bandsFoot Straps

Some ab rollers have peddles attached to the handles, with straps to keep your feet locked in. These allow you to perform a variation of the roll out, where your feet are connected to the roller.

These rollers have larger wheels to ensure that your feet don’t touch the ground when strapped in. As a result, you won’t be able to get as close to the ground. However, that shouldn’t have much of an effect on your workout.

ab wheel with straps

The ability to strap in your feet opens up the possibility of performing lots of new exercises.

ab-rollout-with-feet

Rollout using feet

If you already have an ab wheel without feet straps, you can simply wrap an exercise band around your feet and the handles. This is a less elegant solution but will get the job done!

Tyre Grip

As with any wheel, it is important that your ab roller has decent grip.

Rollers with poor grip may often slide instead of rolling. In addition, you may struggle to move the roller when fully extended if the wheel doesn’t create friction easily. This is because you will be exerting a lot of downward force in this position.

Ab wheels with deep tyre treads tend to have excellent grip. As a result they can handle rolling over a variety of different surfaces, including carpet.

 

 

tyre tread depth

Tyre tread depth

The material of the wheel is also important. Generally rubber wheels provide better grip than those made out of plastic. Unsurprisingly, they tend to be more expensive.

Knee Pad

Using an ab wheel can be hard on your knees. Luckily, some ab wheels come with a foam knee pad, which provides much needed comfort. However, using a pillow or gym/yoga mat is pretty much just as good.

ab wheel with knee pad

Multiple wheels

Some ab rollers have more than one wheel. The wheels on these tend to be smaller.

It’s fairly common to see ab rollers with two wheels. They are intended to provide more stability than rollers with just one wheel. As mentioned above, this puts less stress on your shoulders when stabilising the wheel.

two wheel ab roller

Three wheel rollers are available. Often these are designed so that the front wheel can be retracted. The folding design means that they are ideal for travel.

Although I haven’t used a roller with three wheels positioned like a tricycle, I suspect that it will put a lot of stress on your wrists to keep the wheel(s) furthest from your body from lifting up when you roll out.

ab wheel multiple wheels

Off-Centre Handles

Some ab wheels have off-centre handles. This provides greater difficulty to the roll out movement and allows you to work your arms out at the same time.

Ultimately, off-centre handles are an unnecessary complication, as they make it even harder to stabilise the wheel. Ab rollers should focus on hitting your abs, not your upper body. To really concentrate on your core, you should use a wheel that is relatively stable so that you don’t need to use your arms or shoulders much.

ab wheel with off centre handles

Generally, ab wheels with off-centre handles allow you to remove them and position them in the centre of the wheel, so that they can function like a normal roller.

How do I use an ab wheel?

The Kneeling Rollout

The most well known ab roller exercise is the rollout performed from a kneeling position. This involves the following 5 steps:

  1. Kneel on the floor.
  2. Hold the Ab Roller with both hands.
  3. Place the ab roller on the floor in front of you. You should be in a kneeling push up position.
  4. Slowly roll the ab roller straight forward, stretching your body into a straight position. Tip: Go down as far as you can without allowing your back to bend . Breathe in whilst extending.
  5. After a pause at the stretched position, start pulling yourself back to the starting position as you breathe out. Make sure you keep your abs tight at all times.

ab-wheel

The below video provides a helpful instructional guide to using an ab wheel.

Standing rollout

Once you have mastered the kneeing rollout, it’s time to move on to the standing roll out. This is a lot more difficult as it produces a large amount of pressure on your lower back, so it is important to ensure that your core is strong enough to keep your torso tight and your back from overarching.

There is quite a jump from being able to perform a simple rollout whilst kneeling to performing a standing rollout. Here are some useful tips on how to progress:

The principles for performing a standing rollout are much the same as for a kneeling one. It is important to ensure that your body does not touch the floor at any point.

standing rollout

Other exercises

There are many more exercise that you can do with an ab roller. In fact, there are at least up to 50 different ones, including the pelvic lift, the “mad cat” and the “double-decker”.

What Ab Wheel Should You Buy?

Now that you have learned about ab wheels, the final question is: what ab wheel should you buy?

Well, there is a lot of choice out there.

Ab wheels are so popular that they can be found in a range of different stores (may of which are not dedicated to sports/fitness), as well as online from retailers such as Amazon.

Prices range between $10 and $80. You can find one for as cheap as around $10 on Amazon.

Ab wheel

The ab wheel that is right for you will depend on your needs.

You might might wish to spend more money on an ab roller which has special features. Or you might reason that since they are so simple, it’s hard to get an ab wheel wrong.

I would recommend that you avoid going for a budget option, as you will be less motivated to use a poorly designed and/or uncomfortable piece of equipment.

Recommendations:

 Ab Carver

 

ab carver pro

Price: $26.67 (on Amazon as at the date of this article)

Pros:

  • Ergonomic sloped handles.
  • Wide body – this reduces the stress on your shoulders when stabilising the roller.
  • Contains a spring, which provides resistance as you roll out and assistance when you roll back.
  • Comes with specifically designed knee pads.

Cons:

  • Not easily transportable due to size.
  • No straps for your feet.

Lifeline Power Wheel

life line ab roller

Price: $34.97 (on Amazon as at the date of this article)

Pros:

  • Straps for your feet – increases the number of exercises that can be performed.
  • Grip (tyre treads) on the wheel reduces the likelihood of slipping.
  • Durable.

Cons:

  • Small handles spaced far apart – may be uncomfortable for some.

AB-WOW Ab Roller

ab wow roller

Price: $39.10 (on Amazon as at the date of this article)

Pros:

  • Comes with two resistance bands – which provide resistance as you roll out and assistance when you roll back.
  • Comes with a knee pad.
  • Easy to dismantle and comes with a travel bag.
  • Big wheels to ensure stability (approximately 8” in diameter and 1.25” thick).
  • The wheels are made of PVC offering a smooth and quiet roll.

Cons:

  • Reviews on Amazon suggest that the bands may snap if under a lot of tension.
  • No strap for your feet.

Bio core ab roller

bio core ab roller

Price: $31.97 (on Amazon as at the date of this article)

Pros:

  • Rubber wheels for grip.
  • Memory foam handles for additional comfort.
  • Comes with a knee pad.
  • Durable (industrial strength polymers and a stainless steel axle).
  • Lifetime replacement guarantee.

Cons:

  • Reviews on Amazon suggest that the handles could be longer to help increase stability.
  • No feet straps.
  • Appears to only be available in bright colours.

Rock 360

rock 360 ab roller

Price: $59.95 (on Amazon as at the date of this article)

Pros:

  • Allows for 360 degree movement.
ab rock

360 degree movement

  • Includes 10 DVDs, a knee mat, app available on iPhone and Android, phone clip attachment, nutrition guide, design chart and 60-Day Challenge.

Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • No feet straps.
  • Makes a noise when used.

Speed Abs Roller

speed abs roller

Price: $15.95 (on Amazon as at the date of this article)

Pros:

  • Ergonomic rubber handles
  • Steel coil to provide resistance on the way out and a controlled return.
  • Comes with a knee pad.
  • Cheaper than similar designs.
  • Less bulky that the similar Ab Carver.
speed ab vs ab roller

Speed Abs roller (left) vs Ab Carver roller (right)

Cons:

  • The spring inside the roller can only unravel to a certain extent and once pushed beyond that, it that may break. Therefore, it is not ideal for taller trainees who will have a greater range of movement.
  • No straps for your feet.
  • Not suitable for travel.

IFlying Ab Wheel

iflying ab wheel

Price: $32.99 (on Amazon as at the date of this article)

Pros:

  • Detachable handles and folding mechanism make it ideal for travelling.

iflying ab roller no noise

  • Lightweight (1.2 kg).
  • Comes with a knee pad.

Cons:

  • Small wheels – the low clearance from the frame may mean that it will struggle with surfaces like carpet.
  • No feet straps.

Core Coaster

core coaster

Price: $21.95 (on Amazon as at the date of this article)

Pros:

  • The makers of the Core Coaster claims that it has been scientifically proven by the University of Alabama to activate the obliques 435% more than a traditional crunch.
  • Allows 360 degree movement.
  • Designed for resistance bands to be attached easily.

Cons:

  • No handles – difficult to grasp.
  • Small wheels with no tyre tread.

Power Guidance Ab Wheel

power guidance ab wheel

Price: $19.95 (on Amazon as at the date of this article)

Pros:

  • Extra large 2” width wheel which enhances stability.
  • Comes with a knee pad.
  • Comes with a warranty.
  • Reviews on Amazon suggest it is easy to dismantle.
  • Cheap.

Cons:

  • No feet straps.

P90X Hard Core AB Wheel

p90x ab wheel

 

Price: $64.46 (on Amazon as at the date of this article)

Pros:

  • Has feet straps.
  • Seems to have better reviews than the lifeline roller.

Cons:

  • Amazon reviews suggest that there have been issues with broken clips.
  • Small handles spaced far apart – may be uncomfortable for some.

One Comment

  • Tim says:

    This is really a good review more information I have not seen any where. Thank you very much, now I can confidently say that will make the purchase knowing what to buy. You need to take care of his physical shape summer is coming

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