April 12, 2021 9 min read

If you’re after Baywatch abs, it’s no secret that crunches won’t cover it. You’ve got to blast your core and keep your entire body engaged when you’re shooting for a six-pack

But at some point in your gym journey, you may find that you’ve settled into a rut and you’re doing the same exercises you’ve been doing for weeks, months, or years. Sit-ups start to lose their zing after you’ve done thousands of them, and when you’re bored, your body is too. If you’re not giving your core muscles new challenges, you’ll stop seeing new results.

Enter the ab wheel.It may not look like much, but don’t be fooled - this unassuming piece of equipment will work every part of your upper body, and take your core workout to the next level. Even better, there are a huge number of variations, so you can tailor your ab rollout to your fitness level and goals. This guide will give you ten exercises you can do at the gym or as part of a home workout to get the most out of your ab wheel! 

Sounds good? Let’s roll.

Why Use an Ab Wheel? 

With ab wheels, the clue is in the name. An ab rollout is one of the most effective ways to torch your rectus abdominis (or abs, for the non-scientists in the room), but what really makes them a game-changer is their effect on the rest of your core. 

The two main parts of the exercise - rolling out and rolling in - work almost every part of your upper body. Your abs, obliques, and lats stabilize your body as you roll, and your deltoids and forearms drive the wheel, punishing and supercharging your entire core. Your hips, shoulders, and glutes work hard to help you achieve the full range of motion and flexibility that a rollout demands. As well as getting you the abs of your dreams, this king of core exercises builds serious core stability and strength, improving your balance, reducing the risk of injury, and fixing bad posture. 

Before we get started, a warning - these exercises are NOT for gym newbies. If you don’t have a strong core or back you will struggle and could injure yourself. Make sure you’ve got the muscles you need, you’re workout ready, and read on. 

10 Ab Wheel Exercises, From Beginner to Ab Killer

  1. Ab Wheel Plank
  2. Knee Rollout
  3. Elevated Knee Rollout
  4. Twisting Ab Wheel Rollout
  5. Ab Wheel Marches
  6. Kneeling Ab Wheel Single Arm Rollouts
  7. Bird Dog Ab Wheel Rollouts
  8. Bear Crawl Rollout
  9. Standing Rollout
  10. Standing Single Arm Ab Rollouts

For each exercise, start by incorporating 5-10 reps into your routine, and then build up to 15-20. If you feel any pain, stop the exercise and seek the advice of a fitness or health professional. And you won’t see results unless you’re feeding the beast - give your body the power it needs before and during workouts, and after you’re done, give your muscles the recovery time and fuel they need. 

1. Abe Wheel Plank

An ab wheel plank lets you get comfortable with using the ab wheel to support your bodyweight and starts working your core. If you’re a beginner, start here. 

  • Begin on your hands and knees with your ab wheel in front of you. 
  • Firmly grip the handles of the ab wheel with your palms facing the floor.
  • Push your body into a plank position. In good plank form, there will be a straight line from your head down to your heels. 
  • Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, making sure you’re engaging your core. 
  • Lower back into your starting position and repeat. 


2. Knee Rollout

When you’re new to ab rollouts, it’s best to start close to the ground. The knee rollout will build your core strength and help you to avoid lower back injury.

  • Kneel on a yoga mat or pad with your ab wheel in front of you. 
  • Grip the handles of the ab wheel and slowly begin to roll it out.
  • As you roll out, actively contract your abdominal muscles and make sure that your lower back and hips stay in a straight line. Your rollout should be slow and controlled. 
  • Roll forward until your arms are straight out in front of you and your back is flat.
  • Engage your core as you pull your arms back towards you, rolling back into your starting position.
  • Repeat. 


3. Elevated Knee Rollout

Once you’re ready to ramp things up, elevate your knees and start blasting your core. Lifting your knees extends your range of motion and makes it harder to stay stable, giving your ab muscles the challenge they’ve been waiting for. 

  • Kneel with your knees on a raised surface - a bench or stacked mats will do the trick. 
  • Grip the handles of the ab wheel. 
  • Slowly roll the ab wheel out, making sure that your core is fully engaged. 
  • Roll forward until your arms are straight out in front of you and your back is flat.
  • Use your core to pull your arms back towards you, rolling back into your starting position.
  • Repeat. 


4. Twisting Ab Wheel Rollout

Don’t let your obliques miss out on the action. Add a twist to your ab workout and get all of your midsection working.

  • Kneel on a yoga mat or pad with your ab wheel in front of you. 
  • Grip the handles of the ab wheel. 
  • Slowly push it out to the left, fully engaging your core muscles. 
  • Pull your arms back towards you until you reach your starting position.
  • Repeat the same roll out and in to the right. 



5. Ab Wheel Marches

Ab wheel marches will shred your core, get your lower body pumped, and take your balance to the next level. 


  • Start in a high plank, with your hands on the ab wheel handles and your arms under your shoulders. 
  • Lift one leg in a slow and controlled movement. Keep your core engaged so your back stays in a straight line. 
  • Slowly lower your leg until you return to your starting position. 
  • Repeat with your other leg. 


6. Kneeling Ab Wheel Single Rollouts

Anything two can do, one can do better. If you’re ready to send your core workout into overdrive and give your stabilizer muscles a challenge they won’t forget, try a single arm rollout. 

For this variation you will need an ab roller, which has a handle in the middle. 

  • Start in a kneeling position with the ab roller in front of you.
  • Firmly grip the ab roller with one hand. 
  • Slowly push the ab roller away from you until your body is in a straight line.
  • Pull the ab roller towards you until you return to your starting position.
  • Do 5-10 reps on one side before switching arms. 


7. Bird Dog Ab Wheel Rollout

This variation may look simple but actually requires crazy high levels of balance and strength in your core and lower body. It’s a good way to build mass on both the right and left sides of your core.

  • Start in a kneeling position with the ab wheel in front of you. 
  • Grip the handles of the wheel and move into a tabletop position with your hands directly below your shoulders. 
  • Keeping your back straight, lift one leg off the ground and reach it out behind you.
  • Push the ab wheel away from you, moving your torso down towards the floor until your arms are fully extended and your body is in a straight line. 
  • Pull the ab wheel back towards you until you reach your starting position. 
  • Repeat, either alternating legs or completing all reps on one side before starting the other. 


8. Bear Crawl Rollout

You’ve made it this far, so you’re ready to get wild. The bear crawl will set your lower abs and hip flexors on fire, and it’s also a great exercise for fixing and preventing poor form. If you’re struggling with lumbar extension during your ab wheel workouts, this exercise is the one for you. 

  • Start in tabletop position, with your feet and knees on the floor and your hands on the ab roller handles.
  • Lift your knees a few inches off the ground, so that your body is supported by only your hands and the balls of your feet. Your hips and knees must be bent at 90-degree angles, and your back should be straight. 
  • Roll your arms out, maintaining the right angles in your lower body and straight back. You will have a lower range of motion than in other ab wheel exercises - don’t try to stretch out too far. 
  • Pull your arms back in until they are under your shoulders.
  • Repeat.


9. Standing Rollout

Once you’re knocking out knee rollouts with good form, you’re ready to move on to the classic standing rollout. It’s a brutal core challenge, so make sure your body’s ready for it

The standing rollout is pretty much a full-body workout, with your arms, back, shoulders, hips, and glutes taking the hit along with your abs. We’re not saying you can replace your whole workout routine with an ab wheel rollout, but we’re not not saying that…

A note on your starting position: 

When you’re first doing standing rollouts, start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.

When you’re comfortable doing wide-stance rollouts, start with your feet together.

  • Start in a standing position, with the wheel on the floor in front of you. 
  • Bend from your waist and grip the handles of the ab wheel.
  • Start to roll the wheel forward. As you roll, make sure your back is straight and your arms are extended. Keep rolling until your arms are ahead of you and your body is in a straight line above the ground.
  • Pull the wheel back towards your feet. As at the beginning, you should be bent at the waist. 
  • Repeat. 



10. Standing Single Arm Ab Rollouts

There’s no way around it - this will destroy you. The standing single arm ab rollout is as brutal as it gets, working every part of your core and upper and lower body. If you’re able to handle it, the standing single arm rollout is an incredible way to build balanced strength and mass and intimidate everyone else at the gym. If you’re sure you’re ready for the core challenge of a lifetime, read on… 


As with the kneeling single arm rollout, you will need an ab roller and not an ab wheel.

Modifying your stance will affect the difficulty of the exercise. Start out with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Once you’re ready for it, start bringing your feet closer together to take your workout to full-body killer.

  • Start in a standing position, with the roller on the floor in front of you. 
  • Bend from your waist and grip the ab roller with one hand.
  • Start to roll the wheel forward. As you roll, make sure your arm is straight and your spine is in a neutral position. Keep rolling until your arm is above your head and your body is in a straight line above the ground.
  • Pull the wheel towards your feet, bending your hips and knees as you move back into your starting position.
  • Repeat on each side.  



And if That’s Not Enough…

With an ab wheel and a strong core, the possibilities are infinite. For some bonus variations and game-changing tips, read on. 

Saved by the Barbell

If you don’t have an ab wheel to hand, don’t sweat it. A barbell makes a perfect ab wheel substitute, and can be used to amp up your abdominal challenge. 

To make your own DIY ab wheel, add light weights to a barbell. Grip the barbell with your hands close together, and roll it out as you would with an ab wheel. 

The advantages of using a barbell include

  • extra resistance from the weights.
  • a greater range of grip widths.

Baller Balance:

Most ab wheel exercises can also be done using a stability ball. Despite the name, this makes your movement less stable, so your core stabilizer muscles have to work overtime. You’ll need incredible full-body control to complete a stability ball rollout with good form - good luck! 

Increase the Challenge: 

If bodyweight alone is not enough, make your workout harder by lifting your feet or adding extra weight. You can add heavier weights to barbells if you’re using them, or use chains or plates to increase the weight you’re working with. 

Get Your Heart Pumping:

When you’ve mastered your rollout form, hit the accelerator. Fast ab rollouts are a great way to bring some cardio into your core routine, which contributes to weight loss and fat burning (chiseling out those abs) as well as increasing your general fitness. A warning: although you may want to go as fast as possible, make sure you’re maintaining good form to avoid the risk of injury. 

The Wheel Deal

So that’s the 101 on ab wheels, an incredible tool for core strength that’s been hiding in your gym all this time.

Again, it’s critically important that you’re physically ready for these exercises. Before attempting any of these, you must be comfortable holding a plank position and have good strength in your shoulders, back, and arms. Preparing well  is something to be proud of, so don’t worry if it takes you a few months to build up to your first rollouts. A well-executed rollout with good form is impressive. A back injury? Less so.

If you experience lower back pain at any point during these exercises, stop immediately. Work on your core strength and get a fitness professional to advise on your form before returning to the ab wheel. Ab wheel rollouts can also put stress on your joints. If you’re experiencing joint pain, stop, check in with a health or fitness professional, and only resume the exercises when you’re sure you can do them safely. 

But when you’re good to go, you might just find that the ab wheel is your ticket to insane muscle control, incredible core strength, and abs of steel. 




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