7 Rollout Variations for Awesome Abs

Awesome abdominals should be functional and look awesome.

While the later is a result of being diligent in the kitchen – aka maintaining leanness through nutrition- the former can be trained for increasing athleticism.

First off though, what do the abs ACTUALLY do?

Well, abs act as an anti-extension piece. What does this mean in layman’s terms? Essentially the primary goal of the abdominals is to create stability and support the spine, not necessarily flex and bend it like you see during crunches.

So where do rollouts come in? Well…

First, rollouts train the abs in a position where they have to resist extension of the spine.

Your abs help prevent your back from bending like an accordion and in doing so, protect all the precious components of your spine that help with your athletic prowess. Without the ability to resist extension, you potentially run the risk of developing back pain.

Second, rollouts allow movement at the shoulder and hip joints.

99% of athletic endeavors require stable abs with movement occurring at the shoulder and the hip. If your abs resemble a flimsy pool noodle, the likelihood of you becoming stronger and a better athlete is diminished greatly. The goal is to have mobile shoulders and hips with a tree trunk in the middle. Rollouts do not require as much hip movement as they do shoulder movement, but the shoulder movement they do require while demanding stability from your abs, turns your abs into rock stars who have real world applicability.

Finally, they can be accomplished with little equipment and investment.

You can pick up a wheel or a ball at amazon for between $13-$25. Pretty cheap way to become more athletic and build up those abs.

Now time for the rollout variations. The first two exercises however are stepping stones BEFORE you should attempt a rollout with an ab wheel and it’s variations.

1. RKC Plank

Notes: This is the entry level exercise before moving onto more advanced rollouts. You have to have the ability to maintain tension in the abs in a static position before you add limb movement to it. The RKC plank is preferable to a regular plank because the amount of tension needed for a rollout is much greater than what a regular plank would demand of you.
Equipment: Potentially a mat
Sets and reps: 3-5 sets of 10-30s holds (anything longer and its a regular plank)

2. Swiss Ball Rollout

Notes: Start with small motions forward and back to begin with.
Equipment: Stability ball
Sets and reps: 2-5 sets of 5-20 reps

Entry level ab wheel rollout variations:

3. Ab Wheel Rollout

Equipment: Ab wheel, mat
Sets and reps: 2-5 sets of 5-20 reps

4. Paused Ab Wheel Rollout

Equipment: Ab wheel, mat
Sets and reps: 2-5 sets of 5-20 reps . Pause anywhere from 2-5 seconds before coming back to the start.

Advanced rollout variations:

5. Weighted Ab Wheel Rollout

Notes: Lots of tension will be applied throughout the entire movement.
Equipment: ab wheel, vest/chains
Sets and reps: 2-5 sets of 5-10 reps

6. Standing Ab Wheel Rollout

Notes: Start with small movements at first, then progress to bigger movements.
Equipment: ab wheel
Sets and reps: 2-5 sets of 5-10 reps

7. Pause Standing Ab Wheel Rollout

Notes: Start with small movements at first, then progress to bigger movements.
Equipment: Ab wheel
Sets and reps: 2-5 sets of 5-10 reps Pause anywhere from 2-5 seconds before coming back to the start.

IF you need to make things even harder, you can add the weight to the standing rollout or if you’re Thor status, add weight AND a pause. If you can do that, tag us in the video because that is definition of awesome abs.

Common Errors:

  1. The low back sags. This is the most common fault people have when doing rollout variations. Essentially it’ll look like your low back is turning into the grand canyon and is usually a result of insufficient ab strength and endurance along with trying to do a progression that you aren’t ready for. The easy fix is usually go to an early progression you can do while being able to hold your body in a straight line while maintaining tension in your abs.What if you don’t have someone to look at you while you’re performing the exercises? How will you know if your low back is sagging? Generally if you feel the exercise in your spine (feels like its being compressed together) and not in your abs, it’s a good indication that you need to dial the exercise back and try and easier progression. It’s more important you do the right exercise for you rather than the one that will make you look the coolest.
    Back sag - not cool!

    Back sag – not cool!

    Flat back – the coolest (in terms of function)!

  2. Shoulders hurt when doing a rollout. This is another common issue which usually occurs at the end range of motion. Some people have shoulder injuries or limited range of motion which can be irritated when fully extended. There are two solutions to this: the first is to work on your shoulder range of motion. Doing a little [soft tissue release] for your upper body can go a long way or try reducing the range of motion so it’s more comfortable.
  3. Holding your breathe while doing the rollout. We want people to be able to maintain tension in their abs WHILE still being able to breathe. For most athletic events you’re going to have to maintain abdominal tension while still being able to get oxygen into your lungs. If you don’t, you risk the potential of passing out; it doesn’t matter how strong and endurable your abs are if you aren’t conscious to use them.
  4. You move too fast. People have the tendency to want to finish these quickly and often times try to rollout and roll back as quick as possible. While this can have its advantages in other lifts, rollouts are all about CONTROL and building abs, not the speed in which you can move. Correction for this is to slow the movement down (think 3 seconds out, 3 seconds back) or go to an easier progression which allows you more control.

In summary:

1. Rollouts train your abs and their ability to fight extension while allowing movement at the shoulder and hip
2. Focus on maintaining tension in your abs throughout the movement
3. Start with the easiest progression then work up
4. Don’t let the low back sag and remember to breathe
5. Control is more important than speed!

Rollout variations are our go-to exercises for preventing spinal extension and increasing athleticism. While there are other areas of the abs we need to train, this grouping of exercises works exceptionally well in fighting extension.

Rollout bonus: Listening to Ludacris while performing rollout variations will increase the effectiveness of the exercises by 53.45%. Its science.