The ab wheel rollout, unique bodyweight exercises difficulty rating for one rep – 9 out of 10
Average time taken to master 3 to 6 months.
The ab wheel rollout seems an easy enough bodyweight skill to master, you simply push the wheel forward until your whole body is extended and then pull back to your starting position. However, after hitting the deck face down several times most people including myself realize just how hard this simple looking exercise is. Having said that, it is one of the three best abdominal exercises that you can do (the other two being the Dragon flag and full hanging leg raises) so if you want strong defined abs it is definitely worth the months of hard work needed to nail it
Method of progression
The first stage of progression is the knees on the floor rollout which as the name suggests means pushing the wheel forward until your upper body is fully extended whilst on your knees. Most reasonably fit people who have already done some core strength exercises will master this stage in no time at all as it is not particularly difficult. However, the leap from this version to the ab wheel rollout that ends with your body fully extended and only your feet and hands on the floor is a huge one that can take several months to master.
Once you can comfortably roll the wheel to full extension on your knees there are several methods that can be used to make further progress but the one I used is to do the exercise on an incline. Any stable incline can be used or I guess you could make one easily enough out of some strong planks of wood; personally I used the concrete incline at the end of my drive way which was perfect for the job.
When you are using an incline you should find that it is much easier than a flat surface and as a result you can rollout until fully extended fairly quickly. From here it is just a case of using a lower incline by stepping further away from what ever you have used as your strength and control improve until you can finally do the full ab wheel rollout on a flat surface.
Middle position of ab wheel rollout
Finishing position of ab wheel rollout
Ab wheel rollout on an incline
Do not rush to master this very difficult exercise, take your time and give yourself many months to nail it.
This exercise puts a huge strain on the core muscles particularly as your arms near full extension. To help with this, it is important to keep you abs tensed and you arms locked throughout the movement
Pushing your pelvis back slightly before you start to rollout helps keep your lower back straight
Make sure your legs are completely straight throughout the rep
Once fully extended make sure you return to the starting position by contracting your core muscles strongly and not by bringing your arms underneath your body (Think of a pair of scissors opening fully and then closing, your core muscles represent the middle point of the scissors which does not move and your arms and legs represent the two blades that extend fully and then close fully)
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