Yes, they really work. There you go, question answered. Easy peasy.
However, the topic of ab roller wheel effectiveness is a hotly debated one and I suspect you want to know a little bit more than IF ab rollers really work.
You probably want to know more about HOW and WHY they work. If I’m wrong and you’ve already got the answer you were looking for, then have a nice day. It’s been a pleasure. If I’m right, read on! Either way, I’m glad I could help.
Ab Roller Effectiveness - The Hot Topic!
One of the first questions I always hear when people come to my place and see my ab wheel in the middle of the floor is “Do ab rollers really work?” Well, actually, the first is usually “Why did you leave that in the middle of the floor?” as they rub their stubbed toe, but that’s not important right now. I always tell them “Because I wasn’t expecting company” and “Yes, they are super effective” and then I explain the following, whether asked to or not.
What is an Ab Roller?
An ab roller is a very simple, effective piece of exercise equipment. There are many types, but at its most basic it is just a wheel on an axle, with some handles coming out of the side. To use it you get down on your knees, grab the handles, roll forward and out as far as you can go, and then roll back to the start point. Then cry and curse a little as your abs burn.
How do Ab Rollers Work?
Ab rollers work by using your own body against you. The main function of your abs is to stabilize your body. Your abs naturally stretch and crunch all the time in order to keep your spine in the correct position. It is this function that ab wheels take advantage of to give you a killer six pack workout. When you roll straight out the abs stretch and tighten for support to stop your back sagging, and when you roll back they crunch to keep the spine safe and to stop it from overarching.
What Muscles do Ab Rollers Work?
Though it depends on the exercise you do, the basic forward roll will work your main and side ab muscles. Ab roller wheels work the rectus abdominis (the 6 pack muscle at the front), the transverse abdominis (your deepest ab muscle, which protects your spine), the obliques (side abs) and your core stabilizer muscles (lower back, upper back, arms, hips etc).
If you suck your belly button in to your spine as you work, you will further engage the deeper muscles.
Why all the Skepticism?
In my experience, people who doubt ab wheel effectiveness, or just dislike them, tend to fall into 4 categories; “I can’t do it”, “It’s too hard”, “The Magic Wand” and “I saw it on TV so it must be a scam”. There isn’t much you can do for that fourth category except point them to some good research (like this article wink wink nudge nudge) and hope they read it, so I will stick to talking about the other three next.
I Can’t Do it Properly
There is no denying that there is a steep learning curve when using these particular ab machines. If your form isn’t right, you tend to wobble and won’t get a smooth roll. If you stretch out too far you may fall flat on your face. If you don’t keep your core tight your back and belly will sag to the floor, causing catastrophic failure and possible injury.
All of these things more, lead a lot of people to try ab wheels once or twice, fail, and confidently declare “I can’t do it!” To which I reply “Rubbish! You can, you just don’t know HOW!” There is nothing to stop any able bodied person from using this equipment, other than lack of knowledge.
We Recommend the Ab Carver Pro
It’s Too Hard
This is one of the main complaints people have about ab wheels, and a big reason why some people give up on them. They watch a video on youtube, or a fancy, overproduced video by the manufacturer of some adonis smashing out rolls. That looks easy they think. So they grab the handles, roll out as far as they can go, and either fall flat on their face or can’t roll back to the starting point, and give up because “It’s too hard” Guess what. The guy in the video is a pro and his or her core strength is probably off the charts! You need to know YOUR core strength level before you use an ab roller, and adjust your goals and exercises accordingly.
To do a core strength test, get down on the floor and do a plank exercise, holding it as long as you can. If you can hold it for less than a minute, you are a beginner and should be doing shallow rolls. 2-4 minutes, congratulations you are intermediate and can roll out a bit farther. Above 4 minutes, you’re a beast. Congratulations. Roll out as far as you can, hold, come back, try s-curves, figure 8s. Just go nuts. Basically, know your fitness level, and don’t try to run before you can walk.
The Magic Wand Effect
This is a big one. The Magic Wand effect is something that you can find everywhere in the health, fitness, and beauty industries. It is why people spend millions on gym memberships in January, and have given up by February. It is why your dad has those dumbbells he never touches in the garage. It’s why your sister has that Shake Weight hidden shamefully forgotten under her bed.
People expect exercise gadgets to be magic wands that they can wave once and have all their flabby problems fixed. It doesn’t work like that. Exercise equipment like ab rollers and dumbbells are tools, and need to be used right and given time to do their job. Paintings don’t leap out of a brush fully formed. Skyscrapers don’t emerge from hammers complete. Rock hard six pack abs don’t spring forth from ab rollers onto your tummy without time, use, and correct diet!
The Final Verdict
I’ll end this article the way I opened it. Yes, ab rollers do really work. However, they only work if you know how to use them properly, you use them appropriately for your own fitness level, and you give them time to do their job. They don’t work miracles, but they do work well! If you want to know more about ab rollers, you can check out our review of the best ab rollers of 2018.