The ab wheel is an awesome piece of equipment.
When used properly?
It creates serious ab strength and ab definition.
Your form needs to be spot-on or the risk for a spinal injury is high.
The most important thing?
Mastering “Hollow Body Posture”.
Here’s what this looks like.
Image credit: moveskill.com
The idea is to contract the glutes and flex the abs.
This will result in a spine that is slightly flexed forward.
You will want to maintain and lock in this position the entire time you use the ab wheel.
This will seem counterintuitive at first.
When doing squats and deadlifts, for example, the idea is to maintain a slightly arched spinal alignment (just barely hyper-extended).
This is the exact opposite.
I’ll show you what a perfect ab wheel roll-out looks like in a sec.
…right after a quick music break.
The music theme for this post is late night driving songs.
(This is my favorite song from the movie “Drive”. The whole soundtrack is killer… newer songs with an 80’s synth vibe.)
This slightly flexed-forward position is also what you are aiming for when you do planks.
The hollow position ensures core muscles are doing the work.
If your spine is arched?
…you are really just jamming up your vertebrae instead of working your ab muscles.
If you want your muscles to do the work, use proper form.
This is important for both planks and ab wheel roll-outs.
Here’s a demonstration of perfect form.
How many sets and reps?
It really depends on what your goal is.
If you don’t want deep ab definition and are more concerned with getting FLAT abs?
…I’d keep volume low.
I would also recommend stopping well short of failure.
These are the concepts I outline in the post, Gain Strength Without Excess Size.
You would probably be fine with 2-3 sets.
Instead of doing high reps, I’d focus on sets of 5 slow reps where contracting the abs hard is the goal.
(One of the best voices in current music. At the end the DJ is so blown away she is unable to ask follow-up questions.)
If you are after deep abs?
Really deep abs are just a result of thickening up the rectus abdominis.
This muscle has tendons running across it that create the appearance of a six pack abs.
As the rectus abdominis gets thicker…
…the muscle sticks out from in between these tendons.
To increase the size of this muscle, use a higher volume of sets and reps.
So 5+ sets… taking each set close to failure.
The idea is to break the muscle down.
This is a slightly different approach than if you were simply aiming for flat toned abs.
(A fantastic song featured in a fantastic 80’s movie. See if you can spot Vin Diesel in the footage.)
How many times per week?
In the 80’s they recommended that people work their abs in almost every workout.
I think that CAN work…
…I just don’t think it is the most efficient way to go.
If you are after deep abs you will want more time in between ab workouts.
You are breaking the muscle down, so you will need time to repair.
For deep abs, I’d work the muscle like any other muscle group (1-2 times per week typically).
For flat abs, you aren’t breaking the muscle down…
…if you follow the brief routine I outlined above.
You will get the best results from doing this brief workout more frequently.
So for flat abs, I’d recommend 3-5 times per week.
(This is my favorite Radiohead tune. I don’t know any of the words, but this is some beautiful singing.)
There are countless ab wheel roll-out variations.
The purpose of this article is to make sure you understand the most effective and safe form while using this effective piece of equipment.
I’ll outline ab wheel roll-out variations in a future article.
(My goal with this site is to write short, helpful and easy-to-digest articles… mixed with pretty pictures and stellar tunes.)
If you don’t have an ab wheel, I recommend picking one up.
Just make sure you roll safely!