7 Ab Roller Tips and Tricks You Need to Know

7 Ab Roller Tips and Tricks You Need to Know

Whether you’re working on six-pack abs that are Instagram worthy, or you simply want to increase core strength — a goal that can get you more mobility, better range of motion, and top form in every other training exercise you do — focusing on your abdominals is essential. Maybe that’s why there are so many gimmicky “tools” out there that promise results.

A favorite pick for late-night infomercials, ab machines and devices range from shaking belts that rattle your teeth and “stimulate” your muscles to curved metal frames that keep you in a crunched-up position. But when it comes to truly working your core, skip the trendy so-called shortcuts and put in the work, with a simple piece of equipment that actually works: an ab roller.

Basically a wheel with handles on either side, an ab roller seems like an easy workout option, but it can be a real ab killer. As you position yourself on your knees and grip the handles, then roll forward, you’ll feel everything firing up — ab roller muscles worked include rectus abdominals, obliques, hips, and even your shoulders and triceps. To make sure you’re using this powerful device properly, here are some ab roller tips:

1. Find a non-slip surface

Whether you’re doing an ab roller workout for beginners or you’re leveling way up with ab roller holds, your first move should be positioning yourself on a surface or floor that’s not going to work against you. Although your ab roller may have good traction, help it work better by choosing a non-slip surface. That means no hardwood floors, small throw rugs, tile, or other smooth flooring. 

2. Grab the handles properly

Basically, you want to hold the handles lightly, but not have a death grip on them. Grasping the handles with too much force causes your arm muscles to tense up too much — particularly the forearms — and that can go all the way up into your shoulders and neck. That puts too much strain on those muscles and doesn’t let your abs do as much work as they could. 

 

3. Roll forward slowly

To maximize effectiveness in any ab roller exercises, the key is control, not momentum. Flinging yourself forward then back will reduce how much your abs and other muscles are engaging, and usually results in improper form. If you’re rolling out quickly and thinking the ab roller workout challenge is minimal, then slow it way, way down. It won’t be long before you feel it where you should.

                

In general, having a strong core isn’t just about looking great, it’s also about helping your body perform at its best, in the gym and everywhere else. You’ll reduce your risk of back and neck issues, have better posture, and simply function more effectively. The ab roller can be an ideal training partner to help you reach those solid-core goals.

4. Keep your hips up and your back flat

One of the most common missteps in using an ab roller workout wheel is letting the hips drop, which tends to make the exercise easier. Unfortunately, just like rushing through a session, this can result in bad form, and put too much pressure on the lower back. Focus instead on keeping the hips up, the back in a neutral position, and the abs engaged as you move through the workout. 

Watch Epitomie Fitness athlete Gregoire Bellemare coach you through a killer ab and core workout using an ab roller/ab wheel!

5. Exhale on the effort

In any type of ab-focused workout, people have a tendency to hold their breath, especially when they’re working the hardest. But it’s much more effective to breathe properly, which means inhaling just as you’re about to roll out, and exhaling as you roll forward. Pro tip: This is the same for almost every other type of exercise, too, from deadlifts and bench presses to pullups and pushups. Your muscles need that oxygen to work well, and good breathing practices can also help you work out for longer before feeling fatigues.

6. Challenge yourself

In any type of ab-focused workout, people have a tendency to hold their breath, especially when they’re working the hardest. But it’s much more effective to breathe properly, which means inhaling just as you’re about to roll out, and exhaling as you roll forward. Pro tip: This is the same for almost every other type of exercise, too, from deadlifts and bench presses to pullups and pushups. Your muscles need that oxygen to work well, and good breathing practices can also help you work out for longer before feeling fatigues.

7. Buy a high-quality ab roller

Shoddy products can not only be a safety hazard, but also a source of frustration because you won’t feel comfortable putting your full weight on them. Consider an option like the BIO Core Ab Roller that has two wheels — giving you much more stability — as well as rubber treads for perfect traction. That’s a big consideration if you’re working out on gym floors or at home. The BIO Core also has performance grip handles, so you can focus on your effort, not on trying to keep your hands in place.

 

Elizabeth Millard for Epitomie Fitness

Elizabeth is a freelance writer specializing in fitness, and her work has appeared in Runner's World, Men's Health, SELF, Women's Health, and Bicycling, among many others. She's also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher.