Having and maintaining a healthy core is important. Over time we lose good posture due to the daily demands of a life spent mostly in the seated position. One of the best ways to prevent a decline in overall fitness is to build a strong core. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways with the use of simple exercise tools such as the exercise wheel, or “ab wheel.”

The ab wheel has long been a staple for anyone looking to increase strength or change their shape. In a 2006 study, 21 healthy adults were asked to do a series of core exercises while connected to a device that measures the strength of a muscle contraction. Scientists tested several different exercises to find out which worked the best. The ab wheel roll out was listed among the highest performers.

Listed below are a few of the most effective exercises to do on the ab wheel. Some of these provide a slight twist from the typical for added flare. These can be used with the ab wheel to strengthen and tone up the muscles of your core.

Kneeling Ab Wheel Roll Out

Equipment needed: ab wheel and a soft pad or mat for your knees

  1. Start on both knees with the ab wheel just in front of the body on the floor.

  2. Tighten the core with arms fully extended and slowly roll the wheel forward until your body is parallel to the ground.

  3. Squeeze your core tight, without your back arching, and roll yourself back to the starting position and repeat.

Beginner: 8 to 10 reps

Intermediate: 12 to 15 reps

Advanced: 20 to 30 reps

Take It to the Next Level

If doing 20 to 30 reps is pretty easy for you on your knees, try doing it from your toes.

  1. Start in the standing position, bend from your hips and reach down as if to touch your toes.

  2. Place the ab wheel on the floor in front of your feet.

  3. Brace the core tight with arms fully extended and slowly roll the wheel forward until your body is parallel to the ground.

  4. Squeeze your core tight and roll yourself back to the starting position.

  5. Try to complete 5 to 8 reps without stopping.

Crouching Ab Wheel Roll Out with Alternating Knee Tucks

  1. Start on the ground in a bear crawl position with both hands on the ab wheel.

  2. While bracing the core tightly, use both legs to roll yourself out to a high plank position while balancing on the wheel.

  3. From the plank position, drive 1 knee in at a time to touch your knee to the same side elbow.

  4. After 1 set of knee tucks, use your legs to roll yourself back to the starting position and repeat.

Beginner: 8 to 10 reps

Intermediate: 12 to 15 reps

Advanced: 20 to 30 reps

Oblique Wheel Roll Outs

Equipment needed: ab wheel and a soft pad or mat for your knees

  1. Start on both knees with your lower body turned slightly to the right (or left). Place hands on the ab wheel just to the side of the body.

  2. Brace the core tightly with arms fully extended, and slowly roll the wheel forward until your body is parallel to the ground.

  3. Roll out as far as you can, then roll yourself back to the starting position.

Beginner: 8 to 10 reps

Intermediate: 12 to 15 reps

Advanced: 20 to 30 reps

“Weaving Through Traffic”

Equipment needed: ab wheel and a treadmill

  1. Stand on the ground at the base of a treadmill that is turned on to a 2.5 mph pace and place the ab wheel on the middle of the belt.

  2. With both arms fully extended and your core braced, roll out to a high plank position over the treadmill with both feet still firmly placed on the ground.

  3. Once you are in the plank position, begin “weaving” on the wheel from side to side as fast or as wide as you can manage with control for time.

  4. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Beginner: 2, 30-second rounds

Intermediate: 3, 45-second rounds

Advanced: 4, 60-second rounds

Kneeling Plank Reaches

Equipment needed: ab wheel and a pad for your knees

  1. Start on both knees with the ab wheel just in front of the body, on the floor.

  2. Brace the core tightly with arms fully extended and slowly roll the wheel forward until your body is parallel to the ground.

  3. Without changing your position, roll the wheel back toward the body until it is just under the chest, then push the wheel back out in front of the body.

  4. Repeat, then return to the starting position.

Beginner: 8 to 10 reps

Intermediate: 12 to 15 reps

Advanced: 20 to 30 reps

The Takeaway

These exercises are great for everyone and can be scaled to meet the needs of any level of fitness.

That said, be warned, beginners should aim to complete one to two exercises of this type every three to four days to allow for complete recovery. If you have a history of low back pain, start out small, limit the distance you roll out, and consider working with someone to monitor your form. This could save you from hours of pain later! Staying healthy and fit should be something that makes you feel better in the long run, not worse. Work hard and make it count!