I used an ab roller every day for a month, and my core is stronger than ever

I didn't believe an ab wheel would make much difference, but it was a welcome change from sit-ups and crunches

Woman using an ab roller to work her core
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I added an ab roller to my workouts 18 months ago. Since then, I’ve used it religiously and can’t recommend this affordable piece of kit enough.

I only came across the ab roller by chance, because one of my colleagues started testing them for a guide to the best ab rollers.

Initially, I was quite skeptical—surely the wheel does all the work for you?—but once my colleague showed me how to use an ab roller and I felt how engaged your core needs to be to complete the basic rollout movement I was a convert. The roller worked more of my core than my basic ab workout of crunches, Russian twists and planks.

I didn't expect to see any changes in the short term, but I saw mid-body definition I'd never had within the first few weeks.

The more I did it, the more my technique improved and the better results I got. I now talk about it so passionately that I even managed to convince my 62-year-old dad to give it a try and he's a convert, too!

Ready to hear more? I'm happy to oblige.

My ab roller challenge

An ab roller next to a selection of kettlebells on a hard floor

(Image credit: Lou Mudge)

I started by adding the abs rollout to my routine. From kneeling, I'd roll the ab wheel out in front of me until I reached my limit. I held this pose for five seconds, keeping my spine neutral, before rolling back to the start.

I also tried to expand my ab roller workouts by attempting to place my feet on the handles and perform knee tucks, but because the ab roller I bought didn't come with foot attachments I found it too difficult.

So I stuck to two sets of 10 reps of rollouts instead, taking a short rest between sets.

Because I'd never used an ab wheel before, it was tough. My whole body would be shaking by the last three repetitions in each set. But my body quickly adapted and after a few weeks I was able to perform two sets of 15 reps.

Because I've carried on even after the month, I've extended the time in the hold, because it feels like my core is most engaged after seven seconds.

It wasn't all plain sailing, however. Initially, I made the mistake of not figuring out where I needed to stop and hold before rolling back, and managed to go splat on my front.

Mercifully, my chin landed on something soft. But don't make the same mistake I did — you want to determine the limit of your strength and flexibility and then work from there. And it's easier to keep track of your progress this way, too.

Also, my wrists aren't that strong (I wear wrist supports to work out) and I found the ab roller could be tough on my wrists. Eventually, I learned to use my shoulders and upper arms to control the wheel and keep pressure off my wrists.

And I also had to switch where I exercised, as the roller would get jerky and stuck on carpets. So I ended up doing my workouts on a smooth stone floor. If you don't have a hard floor, use a yoga mat.

Ab roller results

Person about to use an ab roller on a yoga mat

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While I've always had quite defined upper abs, I couldn't get my obliques to show even when my body fat percentage was low, there was no sign of a six-pack.

I wasn't expecting the ab wheel to change this, but within a couple of weeks, I could see a new line down each side of my stomach. I started to feel delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in my lower belly after a workout, which was a novel experience. It's not something you'd ask for, but this post-workout soreness reassured me that my core muscles were being challenged.

As well as training my core, the ab wheel also engaged my shoulders and triceps.

Do ab rollers work? My experience 18 months on

I’ve been using an ab roller since January 2023. Now, 18 months on, my core has never been stronger. As well as the improved definition of my abdominal muscles, I noticed that the muscles of my flank began to become more noticeable as my serratus anterior muscle, just above my obliques, became stronger.

I now do three sets of 15 ab rolls, which is a whole extra set on top of my original workout. As I’ve grown stronger, I’ve found I can do slower and more controlled rolls, and take my time with each rep. I still feel the impact of an ab roller session in my lower abdominal muscles and up the sides of my torso the next day, so I’d say it’s still challenging my body.

What to look for in an ab roller

An ab roller on a hard floor

(Image credit: Lou Mudge)

There are several designs with different wheel thicknesses—thinner for a more challenging workout and chunkier to offer a bit more stability. The handles also need to be well cushioned, as there is a reasonable amount of pressure on your hands, arms, and shoulders to control the motion as you roll out and back again.

See more tried-and-tested picks with our selection of the best ab rollers.

Lou Mudge
Fitness Writer

Lou Mudge is a Health Writer at Future Plc, working across Fit&Well and Coach. She previously worked for Live Science, and regularly writes for Space.com and Pet's Radar. Based in Bath, UK, she has a passion for food, nutrition and health and is eager to demystify diet culture in order to make health and fitness accessible to everybody.

Multiple diagnoses in her early twenties sparked an interest in the gut-brain axis and the impact that diet and exercise can have on both physical and mental health. She was put on the FODMAP elimination diet during this time and learned to adapt recipes to fit these parameters, while retaining core flavors and textures, and now enjoys cooking for gut health.