It may look old-school, but that mini wheel affixed to short handles will give you a screaming abdominal workout. An outsider may not think you are doing much when you push the wheel back and forth from a kneeling position, but your insides, particularly your core, will tell you otherwise. While your abs may feel the effects of your wheel workout for days, know that your entire upper body also got a pretty good workout.
You can do some creative exercises with the exercise wheel, but the rollout is the most common one. Get onto your knees and hold onto the wheel's handles as you place the wheel on the ground in front of you. Push the wheel forward as you tighten the muscles of the core. Roll the wheel out as far as possible, keeping your torso parallel to the ground. Prevent your hips from sagging or hiking. Roll back to the starting position, using the same attention to form that you used when rolling out. For an extra challenge, try doing the move from a standing position -- ending up on your toes in a full-on plank. You can also advance to one-legged rollouts.
The primary muscle used during ab wheel exercises is the iliopsoas, or hip flexors. These muscles flex the thigh bone and pull the knee upward. When you roll out, your hip flexors help you extend into a straight line and back into a bent-knee position.
Numerous muscles work as synergists, or helpers, during ab wheel rollouts. Your thigh muscles are intrinsic to wheel exercises, particularly the small, upper-thigh muscle known as the tensor fasciae latae, and the long thin sartorius, which runs across and down the thigh. The inner-thigh muscles of the pectineus, adductor longus and adductor brevis all keep the hip in alignment. The pushing action activates the latissimus dorsi, the large, broad muscle at the back of the ribs, as well as the chest muscles of the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The rhomboids, the posterior deltoids and the teres major in the upper back also get a workout.
You feel exercise wheel workouts in the abdominal muscles because they help you to stabilize and not lose form. The rectus abdominis, which is the six-pack sheath of muscles at the front of your abs, and the side oblique muscles all work to prevent strain in your lower back. The erector spinae, which runs along your spine, also stabilizes the spine and keeps your hips from sagging. The triceps and wrist flexors help your upper body and arms to control the rolling movement of the wheel – preventing you from going off track.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.