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Ab wheel rollouts are one of the most commonly performed ab exercises in the gym. Given their ease of setup, they are actually a great exercise for home workouts too since you can do them on the floor with very little space and one inexpensive ab wheel. The problem is, the ab rollout is also one of the most abused and misperformed exercises which can quickly ruin your lower back if you don’t fix how you’re doing them. In this video, I’m going to show you how to perform an ab wheel rollout safely so you can train your abs without wrecking your back.
The problem with the ab wheel rollout starts with the position of your lower back during the setup of the exercise. The two things you want to avoid is letting your hips drop down into a straight line with your back and getting the hands out too far from the body. Either one of these will shift too much of the focus onto the lats and turn the into the prime mover of the exercise. This is not bad if you are looking for a great bodyweight back exercise but this is certainly not our goal when performing the ab wheel rollout.
The back should be pulled out of the natural anterior pelvic tilt that occurs during the setup for this exercise. While you will be flexing the spine from above, a key function of the abdominal muscles, you will likely only be flattening the lumbar spine and pulling into a more of a posterior tilt from the excessive anterior tilt. This will have an effect of actually putting the back into a safer position to perform the exercise.
From here, you want to consciously make sure that you hold the abs in a contracted position as you initiate the rollout. Only go out as far as your ab strength can support you. If you are a beginner, you may only be able to go out a foot or two. That is ok, as long as your lower back is not caving in at any point because your have surpassed the strength of your abs then you can still get great benefits from the exercise. If you are stronger, you can go out further and even hold the end position for awhile to increase the challenge.
The next part is where most of us will ruin the exercise, even if it has been performed properly up to this point. Instead of initiating the return of the ab wheel to the top using the hips you have to contract the abs first and be sure to move your entire torso in one piece. Your hips and the wheel should come up together, without allowing the hips to travel backwards. In fact, you can check that you are doing this right by placing a bench behind your hips and making sure not to make contact with it with your butt as you pull back to the top.
The most important element of this move is that you are getting both benefits of the abs if you want to get the most from it. The anti-extension and spinal flexion components of the abs are both going to be tested if you perform this right. Both are needed in order to build the ab strength necessary not only to get great results from the ab wheel rollout but to keep it a safe exercise choice as well.
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