If you’re tired of doing crunches and planks, then ab roller exercises can help you level up your tummy toning game. A strong core isn’t just about achieving rock-hard abs. Core muscles can improve your overall fitness, and are essential for activities such as Pilates and running on the best treadmills (opens in new tab) at the gym. They can also help you retain your balance as you age.
To tone your midsection, you need to incorporate exercises that target the different areas of your abdominals. These include your external and internal obliques, the pyramidalis, the rectus abdominis, and the transversus abdominis. Using an ab roller will help you exercise these muscles while also training your upper body, and in some cases, your lower body as well.
With the help of PT Georgie Spurling, founder of GS Wellness (opens in new tab), we’ve come up with the best ab roller (opens in new tab) exercises to help you strengthen your midsection and work all those different muscles.
You’ll want to use your roller on a level surface and start with the roller directly underneath your shoulders, as if you were about to perform a push-up. For an effective core workout, Spurling recommends doing 10 reps of each of the exercises below.
- Related: Why are core muscles important? (opens in new tab)
1. Roller Plank
Start by holding the roller handles with both hands and ensure your shoulders are positioned over your wrists.
Step out into a high plank position, keeping your weight forward. Hold this plank for 30-45 seconds and then release by lowering your knees to the ground.
“This isometric ab roller exercise is one that looks pretty simple but activates most muscle groups in the body,” says Spurling. “It’s also great for waking up all your deep stability muscles in and around your abdominal area.”
2. Roller tucks
Place both feet on the handlebars of the roller and lift yourself up into a high plank. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed through both hands so the roller does not tilt.
Slowly drag your knees towards your chest, pulling your belly button in tight to stabilize yourself, and keeping your hands positioned directly underneath your shoulders. Slowly roll back out.
Make sure you’re looking downwards the entire time while performing this move, otherwise you will roll backwards.
“This is an incredible exercise for your shoulders, and rectus abdominis (your front abs),” says Spurling.
3. Bear crawl
Place your hands on the bar of the roller while you are on all fours, then lift your knees a couple of inches off the floor.
Hold the position there if you are a beginner. If you want to make the move more challenging, then you can walk forward and back, keeping your core engaged to stay stable.
“This exercise is amazing for toning and engaging your pelvic floor, shoulders, and scapula (your shoulder blade),” says Spurling.
Start the exercise with your knees bent. Place your hands on the roller and make sure your shoulders are positioned directly above the wrists.
Slowly raise one leg, keeping your spine neutral, then slowly lower and switch your legs. You should feel this through your core as you raise and lower your legs.
“This is a great ab roller exercise for balance and stability and it works all your core muscles,” says Spurling.
5. Oblique rolls
Lie down on your side as if you were going to perform a side plank.
Hold the roller with both hands. Keep your knee closest to the floor bent and your other leg extended.
Slowly roll the roller down, keeping your belly button anchored in, and then squeeze back up. Try to keep your chest facing the floor as much as possible.
“This is a variation of the ab rollout, except with this move, you focus more on your obliques and waist,” says Spurling.
6. Roller pikes
Start the exercise in a high plank position, with your hands on the roller handles.
Keeping your core engaged, slowly lift your hips into a pike position and roll down as slowly as possible, back into a high plank, to keep your spine stable.
“This amazing ab roller exercise is hard, but it fires up your transverse abdominis (your deepest core muscle) and your back muscles,” says Spurling.
7. One leg hold
Start with one foot on the roller and then slowly walk your hands out and lift the body up into a high plank position. Your other leg should be extended outwards.
This takes a lot of strength and balance, but try to hold it for as long as possible, then switch legs. Perform ten reps of this exercise on each leg.
“This ab roller exercise works as an all-round core burner that also uses your glutes and shoulders for stabilization,” says Spurling.
8. Roller press up
Holding the handles of your ab roller, keep your knees bent.
Bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor, keeping your head down and your core engaged throughout the movement. With your hips engaged, push back up.
“This move fires up the chest, back, core, and shoulder muscles,” says Spurling.