Rollouts, with an ab wheel or with a barbell, are a great way to train your abs. But the exercise is often performed incorrectly, leaving the hip flexors doing most of the work.
MOVE FROM THE SPINE
The trick is to do the exercise from the spine, not the shoulders. When you see most people doing rollouts, you barely see any movement in the spine. That means that the target muscle of the exercise, the rectus abdominis muscle, or musculus rectus abdominis, is trained statically. Just like in the case of planks. The actual rolling out is done by stretching and bending the shoulder joint.
The trick is to involve the spine in the exercise. You do this by starting the exercise as ‘rolled up’ as possible, rounding your upper back. You do not initiate the movement by stretching your arms and letting your upper body follow. Instead, move your upper body as a whole forward until you are fully extended. Next, get back to the starting position by flexing your lumbar spine – not your hips – just like doing crunches.
Rollouts are a tough exercise, which you can make even harder by keeping your feet off the floor while kneeling. This is how you put your hamstrings offside. You make the exercise even more difficult by starting standing instead of kneeling.
WATCH YOUR LOWER BACK WHEN ‘ROLLING OUT’!
The ab-wheel or barbell rollout is not entirely without risk – ‘dangerous’, some would say – as it becomes increasingly difficult to keep your back straight towards the end. A strong lower back is therefore a precondition for being ‘allowed’ to do rollouts. Stop the exercise if you notice that your lower back is slumping too much.