The Complete Guide to Ab Wheel Rollouts

by Pieter van der Linde

There are two correct ways to do this exercise, then there's the way most people do it. Know the difference.

The ab wheel rollout is a great exercise, but there’s one main problem: people use their hip flexors too much.

Ab Wheel Rollout: Incorrect

Now, there are a couple of different ways to do this exercise based on what you’re trying to achieve. One variation is performed in a way so that the movement is created during flexion and extension of the shoulder joint. In the other variation, the movement comes from flexion and extension of the spine.

Your rectus abdominis is just a part of your core, not your entire core. The first variation is more of a core exercise than an ab exercise. So, one of these movements will challenge the stability of the spine (like holding a plank) while the movement is created elsewhere (flexion and extension in the shoulder joint).

With the second variation however, the challenge is to create the movement from the spine (flexion and extension). This version will resemble a crunch more than a plank, at least when we look at what movement is being created in the spine. Let’s take a look at each one.

Ab Wheel Rollout from the Spine

During this movement, think about three things:

  1. Setup: Position yourself in a full kneeling position with your knees about hip-width apart for lateral stability. Round out your upper back and tuck your tailbone in. Squeeze the glutes. Lock your arms and hips in place before you start.
  2. Maintain Stability in Your Pelvis: Just like in the crunch, make sure that the movement is coming from your spine and not from your hips.
  3. The Movement Itself: Start by shifting your body forward as one unit and allow your spine to straighten out until you reach your full range of motion, which can be different for everyone. Once you’ve reached your full range of motion, contract from your abs and allow the flexion from your back to pull you back towards the starting position. Avoid pulling your hips back.

Ab Wheel Rollout from the Shoulders

  1. Setup: Same as above, but straighten out your body like the setup of a push-up, but with your hands on the wheel (or ball). Lock your arms and hips in place before you start.
  2. Maintain Stability in Your Pelvis: Just like in the plank, make sure the movement isn’t coming from your spine or from your hips. Maintain neutral throughout the set.
  3. The Movement Itself: Start rolling the wheel out by flexing your shoulders. Roll forward and drop your chest toward the floor with straight arms until your reach your full range of motion.

Coaching Tips

  • You can use a stability ball for the easier version, or the wheel for the more advanced version. To stabilize your pelvis, squeeze your glutes (tuck your tailbone in). This will create reciprocal inhibition and keep the hip flexors out of it.
  • For people with a lack of lumbar extension, drop your hips a bit deeper so that you can build confidence and control into extension. For those with a deep lumbar curve, extend no further then neutral to avoid hyper extension of your lumber spine.