How to Properly Use an Ab Roller

At first glance, an ab roller may look like an uncomplicated exercise tool. You’d even think handling one is a piece of cake… until you fall flat on your face due to improper form and use. However, don’t get discouraged. While learning how to properly use an ab roller can become effortless in time, you’ll need proper information and techniques before mastering it.

How to Properly Use an Ab Roller

The correct way of using an ab roller involves a firm grasp on the handles, positioning your upper body over the wheel, and then pushing it away as far as you can before rolling it back to the starting position.

Having a strong core is crucial as it supports the abdominal muscles, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Doing an ab roller exercise is a great way to develop your core strength by extending and contracting the body as you roll, bend, or direct movement at various angles.  

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An ab roller placed on the floor

While ab wheel routines are physically demanding, they help increase the fat burning process, improve body balance, and boost your stamina. Now, head over on an even surface or place a yoga mat, and follow these detailed instructions on how to use an ab wheel properly.

Get Onto the Starting Position 

Place the ab roller in front of the body on the floor. For ab wheel rollouts, start on the floor on your hands and knees. Think of it as a modified push up position. 

After getting the hang of the basic kneeling position, you can also try starting from a strong, upright standing position. In both cases, keep your pelvis tight to protect your lower back.

Roll Forward

With palms inward, grip the bars on either side of the ab roller. Unfold and push forward with your hips. 

Once you align the hips with the back, roll your hands, arms, and torso forward until you feel your body fully extended. Push the ab roller forward as much as your mobility allows, preferably until you touch the ground with your nose. 

Keep your arms straight and even, so that the ab roller won’t spin out of control. It would be better to use a slow, measured speed throughout the whole movement.

Maintain a Tight Form

Contract the lower back muscles, stabilize the hips, and keep the abs tight. Focus your attention on the abdominal muscles. Try not to let your knees or bottom sag toward the ground. 

Two hands gripping an ab roller on the floor

Likewise, prevent your back from arching. If you feel a slight pinching in your lower back, shorten your roll to avoid straining your back. 

Imagine there’s a long, flat plank on your back, and you need to conform to that level. To protect your neck and lower back, keep your head down in a neutral position, with your chin slightly tucked during the roll. 

Hold the Position 

Try to hold the position for at least two to three seconds. The longer you can maintain the position, the more you can engage your core. 

Return to the Starting Position

Utilize your core muscles, arms and shoulders to roll the ab wheel back toward your knees slowly. Repeat the steps as necessary.

Ab Roller Safety Tips 

Since using an ab roller can be difficult at times, here are some motivational tips on how to properly use an ab roller and for you to keep on exercising:

Set Workout Schedules

While you can certainly train using an ab roller every day, it’s equally essential to let your body rest. Instead, add one of the best ab rollers to your core workout once to twice a week.

Overtraining will make your muscles too sore, preventing you from going back to training in good shape. Besides, it’s all about balancing your time between working out, sleeping, and eating healthy food with the addition of the right intake of supplement stacks in your diet.

An ab roller placed on the gym floor

Plan Your Reps and Sets  

In general, you can start with two sets of eight to 10 reps of ab wheel rollouts. As you gain more control and balance, you can identify if it’s time to increase the number of reps and sets.

If you’re unsure, you can always consult a strength conditioning coach or fitness instructor for guidance. Remember to consider your fitness level and workout intensity before committing to a full-blown ab roller routine.

Use Ab Roller Variations and Modify Exercises 

Once you learn the correct form and technique of using an ab roller, try variations of ab wheel exercises. Similarly, you can change the reps, sets, and distance of rollout depending on your needs and capacity. The most common varieties include:

  • Ab wheel plank
  • Knee tucks 
  • Single-arm roll
  • Bridge hold 
  • Pike roll
  • Reverse rollouts
  • Rollouts with lateral band resistance

Try Rolling Into a Wall

One of the most challenging parts of using an ab roller is trying to maintain a rolled out form without losing control of the wheel or falling flat on the floor. 

Close up of a person using an ab roller properly

By positioning yourself at least three feet away from a wall, the wall can act as a stopper once you reach your “touchpoint”. In the same way, the wall can provide you with ample boost to roll back during your first few tries.

Moreover, this should let you experiment with various rolls lengths until you determine which distance is comfortable for you.

Do Ab Wheel Exercises on Your Knees

While it’s more advisable to perform ab roller routines in a standing position, some beginners don’t have the muscle control for that. For safety and to give yourself time to adjust, try executing movements on your knees.

Take a Break When You Feel Pain 

If you feel back pain during any part of the movement, stop what you’re doing, and then check your form. 

You may also need to limit or change the distance of how far you can roll out until your core is strong enough to handle a full rollout. 

If the pain continues, it would be better to stop doing the exercise and consult with a doctor or physical therapist before trying it again.

The Takeaway

An ab roller is an effective exercise tool as long as you follow the right form and techniques. Once you understand all the necessary factors, an ab wheel can be your new workout buddy at the gym or home and achieve your fitness goals.

Robert Lemus has been a natural competitor for 6 years, starting in Men’s Physique, then Bodybuilding, and then into Classic Physique. He is the Orange County Bodybuilding champion in 2016 for the Musclemania Organization. In 2018, he received his Pro Card with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in Classic Physique.