How to perform an Ab Rollout & Progression

August 11, 2023 4 min read

How to perform an Ab Rollout & Progression

What Muscles are being used during an ab rollout:

The rectus abdominis is a single muscle that runs vertically along the front of the abdomen. It is divided into two sections, the supraumbilical and subumbilical, by the linea alba, a band of connective tissue. The supraumbilical section is the upper section of the rectus abdominis, and the subumbilical section is the lower section.

The ab rollout is a great exercise for working both the supraumbilical and subumbilical sections of the rectus abdominis. As you roll the barbell out in front of you, the supraumbilical section of the rectus abdominis contracts to keep your back straight. As you reach the end of the rollout and your forearms are on the floor, the subumbilical section of the rectus abdominis contracts to raise your body back up.

If you are looking to target the upper abdominals, you can focus on doing ab rollouts with your knees on the ground. This will take some of the stress off of the lower back and allow you to focus on the upper abdominals. If you are looking to target the lower abdominals, you can try doing ab rollouts with your feet elevated on a bench. This will put more stress on the lower abdominals and help to define them.

An ab rollout is a great exercise for strengthening your core. It works your rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscles), obliques, and transverse abdominis. It also helps to improve your balance and coordination.

To perform an ab rollout, you will need an ab wheel. If you don't have an ab wheel, you can use a medicine ball. 

Here are the steps on how to perform an ab rollout:

  1. Start in a kneeling position with your knees shoulder-width apart and your hands on the ab wheel. Your back should be straight and your core engaged.
  2. Slowly roll the ab wheel out in front of you until your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Keep your core engaged and your back straight.
  3. Pause for a moment, then slowly roll the ab wheel back to the starting position.

Here is a progression you can follow to make the ab rollout more challenging:

  • Beginner: Start with your knees on the ground. As you get stronger, you can progress to kneeling on a stability ball.
  • Intermediate: Once you can do 10-12 rollouts with good form on your knees, you can progress to doing them from a standing position.
  • Advanced: Once you can do 10-12 rollouts from a standing position, you can progress to adding weight to the ab wheel.

Here are some tips for performing an ab rollout safely:

  • Keep your back straight. Don't let your back arch or round.
  • Engage your core. This will help to protect your back and prevent injuries.
  • Don't go too far. If you feel like you are going to lose your balance, stop and roll back in.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain, stop and rest.

However it should also be noted that a barbell with plates  provides a level just as effective as a wheel and has added benefits; it is more stable and further allows you to control the resistance to a more precise degree. If you decide to use a barbell, to begin with use an Olympic barbell;  light bumper plates with a large diameter. This is because hexagonal plates will not work due to the fact that they are unable to roll easily.



Why is the ab rollout exercise so effective?

The ab rollout exercise is known for producing a significant level of muscle tension. This is because the exercise is of an anti-gravity nature, which means it requires a great deal of strength and stability to perform correctly. When done properly, the ab rollout engages multiple muscle groups, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and lower back muscles.

What are the risks of advanced forms of the ab rollout?

While the ab rollout can be a highly effective exercise, it can also lead to injury if not performed with proper technique or if the individual is not physically prepared. Advanced forms of the exercise, such as using an ab wheel or performing standing rollouts, require even more strength and stability. Without a solid foundation, attempting these advanced variations can put excessive strain on the muscles and joints, increasing the risk of injury.

How to prepare for ab rollouts?

If you haven't performed any direct abdominal training for a considerable duration of time, it is best to develop a strength base before attempting ab rollouts. This will help you avoid potential injuries and ensure that you can perform the exercise safely and effectively.

Here are a few exercises that can help you build a strength base:

1. Plank exercises

Start with more simple "plank" exercises, such as the traditional plank, side plank, and reverse plank. These exercises engage the core muscles and help build stability and endurance.

2. Straight arms lat pulldowns

Straight arms lat pulldowns are a great exercise for targeting the rectus abdominis. This exercise involves pulling down a cable attachment while keeping your arms straight, engaging your core throughout the movement.

3. Chin-ups

Chin-ups are another effective exercise for engaging the rectus abdominis. By hanging from a bar and pulling yourself up, you not only work your upper body but also challenge your core muscles.


Before attempting advanced forms of the ab rollout exercise, it is crucial to build a strength base and ensure that you are physically prepared. By starting with simpler exercises like planks, straight arms lat pulldowns, and chin-ups, you can gradually develop the necessary strength and stability to perform ab rollouts safely and effectively. Remember, always prioritize proper technique and listen to your body to avoid any potential injuries.


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