On the brink of summer, many of us are looking to quickly improve fitness and get back to our beach bodies.

In that regard, the core, or abdominal muscles, are a highly targeted region not only for aesthetics but also for general fitness and health.

There is a reason that the abdominals are referred to as a part of ‘the core’ as these muscles are largely responsible for many daily movements, including stabilization of both the upper and lower body.

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Even though you may not know it, every one of us is almost always engaging our cores when walking, sitting, or even bending down to pick up something we dropped. Without a stable core, these activities become less efficient.

Although there are many exercises and activities that can be done to strengthen the core, I would like to focus on one; the ab roller, or ab wheel.

This is a very versatile piece of equipment that can be used to strengthen not only core, but shoulders, and lower back as well.

Another aspect that makes the ab roller so useful is the different types of muscle contractions that it requires.

An eccentric contraction is when a muscle is lengthening, like the abdominals when you roll forward using the ab roller.

In an isometric muscle contraction, the muscle length does not change, like the pause you make when you stop rolling forward before you roll back to the starting position.

This brings us to the concentric contraction, which is the shortening of the muscle length, which occurs on the way back up to the starting position of rolling.

Why is it importance to have a diversity of muscle contraction?

Especially with a general fitness objective, the diversity of muscle contractions gives you more bang for your buck! Eccentric training is linked to a greater muscle damage than concentric or isometric which sounds bad at first, but remember, you need damage to promote growth!

Concentric contraction is the limiting agent in exercises. Most people can slowly lower (eccentric) more weight than they can lift back up (concentric). The most difficult part of the concentric motion, is called the ‘sticking point’.

Using isometric training close to that point, (i.e. keeping the weight still wherever you think you cannot lift up any more) can increase that ‘sticking point’, and from there increase maximal strength.

A combination of all these types of training, like the ab roller has, is the best choice for overall healthy lifestyle improvements!

ab-wheel-workout2

Let’s Get Started on a Six Pack! How?

The correct way to use an ab roller is to grip the handle on either side of the ‘wheel’ with either hand palm down, and then roll forward (the eccentric action), while on your knees, which are as close together as you can manage.

While rolling, keep the shoulders locked in tight to the body, and consciously flex core. It is also EXTREMELY important to note that you not let your hips dip down as you roll forward; keep them up with a straight back to prevent against injury.

Once you rolled forward to the point of almost touching your nose to the floor, you stop rolling forward (the isometric phase) and roll the ab roller back towards your knees (concentric) while still attempting to keep your shoulder locked into place, a stiff core and back, and slightly bent elbows.

Making a Plan for a Six Pack by June

Much like free weights, the ab roller is very diverse in the way it can be used. Specifically, there are three exercises that everyone using one needs to know.

Straight Roll Out

This exercise is the ab roller at its simplest form. The name says it all; you get down with your knees together and hands on the handles and simply roll forward, ideally until your nose is just a few inches from the ground.

Remember to keep the core flexed and back straight! This movement will primarily work your rectus abdominis muscle, or the muscle that you can visually see in a “six-pack”.

Isometric Roll Out

Same as the straight roll out except when you get to your nose almost touching the floor, hold it!

W roll out

The action of a straight roll out, except this time tracing a ‘w’ on the floor with the ab roller. This will promote activation of the external oblique’s and serratus anterior, or the core muscles to the side of the stomach, really toning the edges of the six pack.

Rolling into a work out

Abs are normally not put through muscular strength or hypertrophy (increase size); most people want to tone their abs into a flat stomach that hides the extra cookie after dinner.

To do this, the work out will follow a muscular endurance regimen.

Straight roll out

i. 8-15 reps (depending on experience)

ii. 30-90 second break

Isometric roll out.

i. Roll until your nose is almost touching the floor, or as close as you can get with good form and hold for 30 seconds.

ii. 15 second break.

iii. Repeat.

iv. 30-90 second break.

W roll out

i. 8-15 reps (depending on experience)

ii. 30-90 second break

If you are feeling that this is not challenging enough, add the straight roll out arm plank with a knee touch. In this ab roller exercise, you start as though you are performing a straight roll out, except you roll right into a straight arm plank and lift your knees off the ground.

Then holding that plank, you bring one knee up first to touch your elbow, bring it back, and then do the same thing with the other and complete one rep by rolling back to the beginning position.

Straight roll out arm plank with knee bend touch

i. 8-15 reps (depending experience

ii. 30-90 second break

Completing exercises one through three or four (If you are able!) one time, is one set. To fulfill the optimal training of the roller, you will want to work up to and complete 2-4 sets of those three or four exercises and repetitions.

As I previously stated, abdominal and core muscles are used almost constantly so their recovery rate is much quicker than other muscles. This being said, the frequency of this workout could be six days a week with one off day for rest.

Another aspect that everyone using rollers needs to keep in mind is that these numbers are recommendations. If this training regimen becomes too easy, add reps or sets but no more than 4 sets of 20 reps for each exercise.

Through dedication, everyone can succeed in getting a six pack by June.  Use this ab wheel routine to challenge yourself, and get started on your goals.

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