Ab Wheel Progression Exercises for Beginners

In this guide, I’m going to show you some exercises that help you to get ready for using the ab wheel properly. The rolling wheel seems to be a smooth movement, but it’s a compound exercise that requires existing upper body and core strength. That’s why some beginners are disappointed when first use this ab workout equipment.

What will you learn here?

  • Which muscles should be strong enough to perform the ab roller exercise correctly and other factors that influence the execution.
  • You can read about the ab wheel benefits here for motivation.
  • Progressive exercises to prepare your stabilizer muscles and shoulders.
  • Mistakes to avoid.
  • Workout routine.

So, at the end of the guide, you will know everything to get started with you ab roller workout.

The basis you require

Rolling the wheel is a straightforward move, yet it engages a lot of muscles at once. That is why it’s so hard for a beginner. We have to hold the large part of our body weight, keep our torso aligned and stop ourselves tilting and falling to the sides or forward.

Just check out the picture below to see all the muscles worked.


This way, if those muscles, or even just one, isn’t strong enough yet, it spoils the correct form. Among those muscles, the most important one is the core, which includes multiply stabilizer muscles. The abs, aka the rectus abdominis, is just one part of the core, and that is one which mainly used for pushing towards and pulling the wheel inwards. However, the other core muscles at your lower back, spine, and the sides of your abdomen (obliques) are required to stabilize your body during the motion.

To sum up, if those core muscles are weak, you can’t do the ab rolling correctly and safely. Hence, we have to strengthen those areas to be ready.

I also have to mention another factor, which is your body weight. If someone is overweight, it’s tough to handle the extra body weight. It’s not impossible, but more time is required for sure.

Let’s see what you should do to strengthen the required muscles.

Progressional ab roller exercises

1. Standard Plank

The plank imitates well the state when the wheel is fully rolled out. Hence, almost the same muscles are engaged. Since it’s static and we are in a more stable position, it’s easier to perform.

  • Get into position as if you were doing push-ups.
  • Your arms are shoulder-width and vertical to the floor.
  • Straighten your back and legs, and squeeze your abs and glutes.
  • Hold this position as long as you can or required.

You can start with a 20-second plank and have 4-5 rounds with 1-minute rest between. But, gradually increase the length of the pose up to 1 minute or more.

2. Ab Wheel Plank

If the traditional plank goes well, start using the workout wheel to make the exercise more challenging. Since the roller is narrow, it’s going to be harder to keep the balance, but with that, the shoulders and core, mainly obliques, are activated much better. You can simply hold the position at first, then make short rolls forward and backward.

3. Stability ball ab rollout

The fitness ball helps us in two ways. Firstly, it’s unstable, so it engages the core to keep the balance. Moreover, it allows us to start rolling forward and backward in a moderate way.

  • Get into a kneeling position.
  • Clasp your hands and place them on top of the exercise ball.
  • With aligned back and tightened abs, pull the ball away from you until it’s under somewhere your elbows. So, your body makes a 45-degree angle with the floor.
  • Pause for a moment, and with the power of your midsection, pull your torso back to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

4. Exercise ball knee tuck

For the previous exercise, we use the upper body to generate resistance. With knee tuck, we use the lower body. It’s going to be harder since we have to be in a plank position continuously.

  • Get into a plank position and place your shins on the ball.
  • Align your back and tighten your stomach.
  • Pull your legs towards your chest until the feet are on the top of the ball.
  • Stop for a moment and push your lower body to the starting position.

Because of the uncertainty of the ball, this exercise is excellent for strengthening all the required muscles for ab rolling. Try to do 3-4 sets with about 15 reps, but that depends on your fitness level.

5. Knee rollout with stop (half)

Ok, if you have been doing the previous progressive exercises for some time, and you feel they get quite easy, then you can grab the ab wheel.

Beginners usually experience that when they roll forward the wheel fully extended, they can’t hold that stretched position. A practical way to get used to it is by stopping the roller before that state with the help of a wall (or without it if you feel you are strong enough.)

  • Knee in front of the wall with such a distance that lets you roll out the ab wheel about half of the maximum.
  • Align you back so that it’s slightly bowed upwards. This way, there’s less stress on the lower back but more target on the abs. Keep your arm somewhat straight.
  • Slowly roll towards the wall with a controlled technique.
  • When you reach the wall, don’t let the wheel to hit it hard, just touch it a bit.
  • With the power of your midsection, pull your upper body back to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

This is an excellent exercise to get familiar with the roller and to reach the full move. By kneeling further away from the wall, you can gradually increase the resistance. For example, if you can do 15 reps of half ab rollouts with confidence, you switch to three-quarter length, and so on.

Full knee ab rollouts – How to guide

Finally, we are at the full move. Interestingly, there are two groups of “how to do ab wheel correctly.” Ones say that the back should be straight throughout the motion, while others recommend making it curved upwards. From my experience, with a straight back, there is more load on the lower back. If it’s arched, we can target the core better. I recommend the arched version to avoid back pain.

Here is an excellent video on the correct form.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Don’t hollow your back.
  • It’s better to look downward for more effective torso alignment.
  • Don’t bend your elbows too much, but minimal arching is acceptable for comfort.
  • Hold the handles with hands aligned with arms. Don’t twist your wrists.
  • When you pull the wheel backward, don’t let your hips down and push your buttocks upward. Keep the starting position in all cases.
  • Aim to get the maximum range of motion (ROM) with time, so pull out far until your stomach is just a few inches from the ground. Of course, in the beginning, it’s hard, so you can “cheat” a bit, but the goal is to go deep and far.
  • Breathe out when you roll out, and in when you roll in.

Beginner Ab Wheel Workout Routine

The number of sets, repetitions, and exercises depends on your level of fitness, weight, and how familiar you’re with physical activities. Here is a sample ab roller workout for someone with an average physique. Actually, it’s a complete ab training.

  • 4-5×20 seconds plank
  • Ball rollout: 3-4×12-15
  • Ball knee tucks: 3-4×10
  • Half ab wheel rollout: 3×5


What’s the best ab wheel for beginners?

ab carver pro

The narrower the roller, the harder to control the motion. Therefore, rollers with a broader wheel such as Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro are maybe more comfortable to handle for beginners. Plus, Ab Carver equipped with steel springs and unique handles that make the moves easy.

Can you get a six-pack with an ab wheel?

Getting a six-pack is mainly depends on belly fat. The fat covers the muscles, so they are hidden. Hence, you should lose weight, and for that, a healthy balanced diet and fat burning cardio conditioning are the best. The ab roller is strength training equipment that helps to gain your core muscles and hardly burns any calories.

To sum up

With the help of the preparational ab roller exercises above, you can reach that strength level that is required to perform the full knee ab roller exercise properly. It takes time and dedication, but a poorly done practice is good for nothing.

Written by Imre

Imre has been working out for over 20 years. He likes all sorts of strength training and boxing. Since he's a busy father he works out only at home.