Why ab rollers are the best fitness kit you're not using right now

Ab rollers are a great way to work your abs and chest, according to science

Woman using an ab roller
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've graduated beyond sit ups and crunches and you're looking for more advanced ab exercises for men and women, give one of the entries on our best ab rollers list a go. Ab rollers are essentially a wheel, or unit on wheels, with handles you grip while the wheels slide away from your body. 

Once you get to a certain point, you have to use the muscles in your chest, arms and core to hold the wheel steady and contract to bring the wheel back towards you. 

It's a great workout for several muscle groups, rather than crunches which target specific areas of your abs. In one study, researchers sought to examine which particular muscle groups were activated as a result of this kind of training. Eight resistance-trained men performed two sets of 10 second isometric contractions of the Ab Wheel Rollout exercise, keeping the knees fixed on the floor and the arms taut.

The researchers found there were "significant increases" in the participants' rectus abdominis and pectoralis major muscle groups. The "rectus abdominis" is a pair of long, flat muscles on the front of your abdominals, responsible for flexing the middle or the "trunk" of your body. This is also the muscle that makes up the classic six-pack abs look. 

Ab wheel

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The pectoralis major extends across the upper parts of the chest, and is the muscle most worked by doing push ups. As you slowly extend the ab roller away from your core, stretching overhead, this creates tension in your chest muscle. 

The fact that the ab roller works your pectoral and abdominal muscles makes this the perfect "mirror-muscle" exercise for people wanting to look toned and fit in the mirror, but these are also functional muscles used in many walks of life.

A strong core is very important and can help you run, walk and twist your body during sports. However, as you get older, a strong core can help you perform simple actions like standing up from a chair, as toned muscle ensures you maintain strength well into old age.

For more great core exercise, you should check out our comprehensive guides on how to do sit ups, how to do bicycle crunches and our list of the best workouts for abs.

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.