I’ve done nearly every exercise known to man. And I’ve come to a realization: the best way to train is to keep it as simple as possible.
While there are endless ways to train the abdominals directly, no direct ab exercise offers you more “value for time” than the classic ab wheel rollout.
Here’s the proper progression so even a total beginner can work their way up to the standing rollout:
1. Kneeling Ab Rollout with Ramp
Sometimes, people will ignore the ab wheel altogether because it’s simply too difficult. Instead, they’ll choose easier (inferior) exercises. You’re never going to get strong taking the easy road.
For some new lifters, even the kneeling rollout can be too difficult or place unnecessary stress on the low back. But you can eliminate that risk simply by performing the ab wheel at an angle (up a ramp), making the movement both easier and safer.
2. Kneeling Ab Rollout
This is the most appropriate starting point for most people. Make sure to fully extend out each rep, maintaining posterior pelvic tilt (squeeze your glutes) throughout the entire rep. Posterior pelvic tilt allows you to keep all the tension on the abs and avoid placing any unneeded stress on the low back.
Once you can competently perform 3 sets of 10 perfect kneeling rollouts, you’re ready to move onto the next progression.
3. Standing Ab Rollout with Ramp
This progression is the missing link for most people. There’s a HUGE strength gap between the kneeling rollout and the standing rollout. The best part about the standing rollout using the ramp method? It allows you to bridge that strength gap both safely and effectively.
Start with the ramp high. As you get stronger, lower the angle of the ramp to increase the difficulty.
4. Band-Assisted Standing Ab Rollout
I know, I know, the ramp method may be impractical for many. So try the band-assisted rollout. It offers a more practical alternative.
Loop one end of the band around an anchor point and the other end around the ab wheel. Use the band’s assistance to allow you to train the full range of motion of the movement.
5. Standing Ab Rollout
Undoubtedly, this is the king of direct abdominal exercises. I’ve yet to find another movement that places as much tension and stress on the abs. The contraction you feel when doing these is insane, and it makes every other abdominal exercise feel easy.
If you can competently perform multiple reps of a standing rollout, you possess elite-level abdominal strength. Mastering any other ab exercise will not be an issue.