Using certain fitness devices can help you challenge your body. A prime example is the ab wheel. While you might think it sounds like a medieval torture device, the ab wheel can help you gain better results because it recruits more muscles than body-weight exercises and forces the muscles to work against more resistance. The ab wheel can also help you spend less time in the gym because it works your entire core, including your obliques.
Using the Ab Wheel
The ab wheel is distinct from other forms of exercise equipment in that it is primarily used to perform just one exercise, the ab wheel rollout. Don't mistake this lack of versatility for a lack of effectiveness. This one exercise can serve most of your core-strengthening needs. Begin by bending over so that the balls of your feet are planted firmly on the floor and you have both hands on the wheel, holding it on the ground with your arms straight. Using a controlled motion, roll the wheel out by straightening your back and shifting your body weight to your toes. Tightening your abs during this process will help you maintain a slow, controlled movement. Once your back is completely straight, contract your abs to reverse the motion and bring yourself back to the starting position.
While the obliques are not the primary target of the ab wheel, using this piece of equipment to perform the rollout will give these muscles a workout. The obliques play an important role in the exercise, as they help stabilize your body throughout the motion. Your obliques regulate the motion of your waist and hips and thus prevent extraneous side-to-side motion that would result in wasted energy and effort. This stabilization also prevents you from falling over to one side or the other. While performing this efficiency-enhancing job, your obliques become stronger in the process. They help you to swim, run or bike efficiently and maintain balance when moving swiftly, such as during ballroom dancing or chasing after sugar-fueled kids.
You obliques are involved in the motion of the ab wheel rollout, but they aren't the primary target. The muscles driving the movement are your hip flexors, more technically known as the iliopsoas. These muscles run from your spine and across your pelvis to your hip joints. The iliopsoas help rotate your spine, promote flexion at the hip and are involved in the bending and straightening of your waist, which is the primary movement of the ab wheel rollout. The iliopsoas help drive the motion of everything from swinging a golf club to getting your groove on in the club.
If you're serious about training your oblique muscles but would prefer more variety than the ab wheel alone can provide, perform exercises such as the stability ball prone walkout, wood chops, bicycle crunches and planks. Such exercises can improve your balance and also tighten your torso for a beach-ready body.
Brian Willett began writing in 2005. He has been published in the "Buffalo News," the "Daytona Times" and "Natural Muscle Magazine." Willett also writes for Bloginity.com and Bodybuilding.com. He is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina.