In a previous article I discussed a very no nonsense approach to getting six pack abs. In that article I mentioned that you didn’t even need to do any direct ab work or cardiovascular exercise in order to achieve a six pack. While I still stand by that statement, I know there are a lot of guys out there who still want to do something for their abs. Hell, even I still like to train my abs from time to time.
So what exercises should you do?
Although I’ve done my fair share of these exercises in the past, there are two reasons why I think most guys should stay away from them:
- Crunches and sit-ups can be harmful for your lower back
- These exercises often require a lot of volume in order to achieve a suitable training stimulus
With respect to the first reason, research has shown that crunches and sit-ups can put undue stress on your lower back, especially if done incorrectly. Although I don’t have the space in this article to elaborate any further, for those really interested in the research on how crunches and sit-ups can negatively affect spine health, I highly recommend people check out Dr. Stuart McGill’s website and his books. He’s an expert on spine health and spine biomechanics.
The second reason is more of a personal one. I find it extremely tedious having to do an endless amount of crunches and sit-ups in order to achieve a training effect. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to do hundreds of repetitions before adequately stimulating the muscle. I think there are definitely more efficient exercises out there.
Which brings me to the point of this article: The Standing Ab Rollout.
The standing ab rollout is a great exercise because it is both safe and effective. It will hit not only your abs but also your lower back, arms, and legs. It truly is a full body movement.
Ab rollouts can be performed using a standard barbell loaded with plates, but most people use a plastic ab wheel that you can find in most gyms.
The ab wheel is both an excellent and inexpensive device that is underutilized in my opinion. You can buy a quality ab wheel for around $30 or you can make your own for much cheaper from materials you can purchase at your local hardware store.
I made my own ab wheels using a couple of hex bolts and some lawnmower wheels purchased from Home Depot. I got the idea from Ross Enamait over at Ross Training. It’s a wonderful website full of great information, including information on DIY gym equipment.
Instead of explaining how these are done, here is a simple video demonstration of me doing standing ab rollouts:
Now I’m sure you’re wondering, why are am I using two wheels instead of one?
Because using two wheels is more difficult! It forces each side of the body to fend for itself. There’s nothing wrong with doing ab rollouts using a single wheel, but I prefer two separate wheels because it’s more of a challenge.
But what if you can’t do standing ab rollouts? How can you progress or work you way up to them?
I would suggest that guys first start off by doing ab rollouts from the knees. These are much easier than the standing variation:
Once you can pull off a solid set of 20 repetitions, it’s time for you to start progressing on the standing variety.
The best way to progress on the standing ab rollout is by using a wall for assistance. A wall will allow you to make the movement much easier by shortening it:
As you get stronger, you can move your feet further and further away from the wall until you are doing unassisted standing ab rollouts.
It really is that simple.
Once you are able to do unassisted standing ab rollouts there are tons of other progressions you can work on. Instead of spending time explaining them all, I’ll let Ross Enamait from Ross Training show you what can be done:
So forget about the crunches, sit-ups, and leg raises. If you are looking for an effective ab exercise, look no further than the standing ab rollout. It’s an excellent exercise that will help you develop a rock solid core.