Yes, it’s a hard exercise to perform, but once you get it down, you’ll completely smoke your deepest core muscles.
The abs roller is a piece of equipment that’s often tucked to the side of your gym, but it’s a great way to build your core muscles. However, it can be intimidating: It’s a difficult move to master, and for a good reason—it’s a direct core exercise that works your deep ab muscles.
Many people don’t use the abs roller simply because it’s a hard exercise to do, explains Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., CEO and founder of TS Fitness in New York City. And if you do it wrong, you will feel it in your lower back instead, upping your risk of injury.
The movement works your transverse abdominus—the deepest layer of ab muscle—which is great for adding muscle and building strength to your core. And as a runner, core strength is important to help maintain your posture and adjust to any changes in terrain you might encounter.
“Rollouts are great exercise, but they are physically demanding,” says Tamir
That’s because in addition to smoking your core, the abs roller will also challenge your upper body, too. You’ll need to have strength in your arms, shoulders, and pecs, too, as well as your lower back, to do it correctly.
These four moves are designed to help you master the ab roller, and challenge yourself as you work your way up. (If you don’t have access to an abs roller but want to give these exercises a try, you can use a barbell with weight plates, but that will be more challenging, says Tamir.)
Add the ab roller to your core workout once a week—twice max. Here’s how to get started.
Basic Abs Roller Rollout
Kneel with your body upright, holding onto the handles of the abs roller, then lean over, resting the wheel on the ground—keeping your pelvis tight. This will help protect your lower back. Then, maintaining this form, lead with your hips as you roll out and engage your glutes. Go out as far as you can into a flat-back position, then roll the wheel back in toward your knees to the starting position.
If you haven’t mastered the rollout, start with the negative rollout. Using the same form as the basic rollout, go out as far as you can, then drop to the floor before coming back to start, rather than rolling back to the starting position. You’ll want to make your forward roll last for about 3 to 5 seconds.
[The best runners don’t just run, they hit the gym. The Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training will teach you all the fundamentals to get the most out of your weight session.]
Once you’ve mastered the basic rollout, you can try this move. Rather than kneeling, start from a strong, upright standing position, then roll all the way out into a plank position, and back up.
Another way to modify your rollout is by attaching a band to the ceiling or stable place above you that can help support your weight, like the high part of a weight rack. This will give a bit of a lift, again helping to take the strain off your back. Be sure to rest the band right your hips, then perform the basic rollout.
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