The fitness world typically refers to an ab roller more precisely as an “ab power wheel.” Used in a face down position, an ab power wheel looks like a little 5-pound weight plate threaded onto a cylinder that has two hand grips. An ab roller can also refer to a pair of C-shaped steel tubing elements connected by crosspieces and used in a face-up position. You can get a better ab-focused workout on the power wheel, but the versatility of the ab roller makes it worth learning as well.
Kneel on a mat or carpeted area to cushion your knees. Grasp the grips and roll your arms out as far as possible. Raise your body up by flexing your hips and pulling your arms back to your original position.
Engage your core as you would for a crunch, focusing on creating a bending motion in your hips rather than your shoulders. If you feel this exercise mainly in your hip flexors at the top of your legs, don’t be surprised -- power wheels also work that area as well, especially on your return stroke, as you pull your body upright.
Adjust your technique, if needed to make the exercise easier, by descending only partway down or by rolling the power wheel up an incline bench. Add difficulty by standing with your knees straight rather than kneeling.
Lie down on the floor with your head against the head and neck support on the ab roller frame. Reach up and grasp the top of the frame. Engage your abs to raise your shoulders at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Lower your body and repeat.
Twist your core so your legs, with knees bent, fall to one side and then to the other side to perform an oblique crunch, which focuses on your “love handles.” Or raise your legs straight up to perform a V crunch, engaging the abs, quads and hip flexors.
Flip over the ab roller to perform upper-body exercises. Test the unit by grasping the frame and jiggling it to make certain it is not wobbly. Face away from the head rest, grasp the top of the frame and extend your legs in front of you. Lower your body to perform a dip, pause and return to the starting position to exercise your triceps. Alternatively, stand behind the ab roller and bend forward, facing the head rest. Grasp the frame in each hand and perform a pushup, lowering your chest almost level with your hands and then pushing your chest up, with your legs straight and toes only on the floor.
- Work up to two to three sets of eight to 12 reps of your ab roller exercises. Don’t be discouraged if you can only do one or two sets of two to three repetitions to start, especially of the more difficult dips.
- As you become better versed in ab wheels and rollers, you may want to up the challenge and effectiveness of your ab workouts. Try working out on the captain’s chair or performing crunches on an exercise ball for effective training of the rectus abdominus at the front of the abdomen and the obliques along the sides.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.