To build a six-pack you need to push your abs muscles to the limit to force them to grow, and there are few exercises that test your core as hard as the abs roll-out. It’s a tough move, but as with all exercises – and especially the advanced ones – the more effort you put in, the quicker and more impressive the results will be.
The big advantage of the roll-out over other abs-specific moves, such as crunches or bicycles, is that your entire abdominal region is engaged for the entire rep. The muscle fibres have to fire together to stabilise your torso as your lower and raise your chest, and the closer you can get your chest to the floor – providing you keep your abs tensed – the harder your abs will have to work.
How To Do The Abs Roll-Out
You can do the roll-out with a variety of equipment – a dedicated abs roller (if your gym has one), dumbbells (opt for round dumbbells, rather than hexagonal, for obvious reasons), a barbell or a gym ball. The movement and benefits are similar with a roller, barbell or dumbbells, but there’s an extra challenge to using a gym ball, which we’ll explain below.
First, the roller version. Kneel on the ground with the roller in front of you. Lean forwards slightly so the roller is directly underneath your shoulders, then grab the handles. Engage your core, then push the roller forwards as far as you can without breaking form – you don’t want your upper body to buckle and sag. Then roll back to the starting position. Brace your abs throughout and keep your back straight. The movement should be slow and controlled at all times.
The form is much the same with a barbell or dumbbells, except you position your hands wider – about shoulder-width apart.
Abs Roll-Out Variations
Knees up abs roll-out
You can make any version of the roll-out far tougher by being on your feet, rather than kneeling, during the movement. This increases the amount of weight your abs muscles have to control during each rep, so they work harder to keep your upper body stable.
Gym ball abs roll-out
Swap your roller or free weight for a gym ball for a version of the abs roll-out that puts less strain on your lower back but increases the core workload because you have to support your upper body on an unstable surface.
Kneel in front of the ball with your forearms resting on the top of it. Extend your arms to roll the ball away from you, using your abs to stay balanced. Roll the ball away as far as you can without losing your form, then pull it back with your forearms.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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