How To Do An Ab-Wheel

Kelsey Lensman, ATC


The dreaded ab wheel (insert scary music). I can tell you it took me about 1-2 years of face planting, feeling NOTHING in my abs at all, and looking at that think with the most confused look on my face before the light bulb went off. I would look at everyone else doing it and think, “HOW?!?!” But, after learning proper positioning and making myself take baby steps with it – I could FINALLY do one rep 1-2 years later. About dang time! Now it’s one of my favorite ab exercises.

Do not feel bad or be discouraged if you can’t do one! Remember, it took me that long to accomplish one full rep of doing it correctly. The form for this is HUGE and the baby steps progression you take in order to get there is HUGE. Do this incorrectly and it’s doing the complete opposite of what it’s intended to do: hurt your back. Pay VERY close attention to the set up and how to progress. This is paramount in staying safe while also building a strong core that will look good, but will also translate over to actually BEING strong too. 

How to Set Up:

  1. Knees on the ground (no crossing your feet), with hands on each side of the ab wheel
  2. Tilt your hips forward to pre-engage abs BEFORE starting the movement
  3. If your hips aren’t tilted forward, you better tilt your hips forward because this is the KEY to the movement – your low back should not be sagging at all
  4. Maintain that position the ENTIRE time
  5. Squeeze shoulder blades down and back to maintain proper upper body positioning

How to Complete:

  1. With hips tilted forward, SLOWLY roll ab wheel out
  2. Brace abs by squeezing them tight
  3. Roll out as far as you can with maintaining that hips tilted forward position – there should be NO cave in your low back
  4. If your low back starts to sag or you feel it started to cave in on you – do not roll out farther
  5. While keeping core tight breath out HARD and roll back to starting position by curling your torso in a ball
  6. Think about curling your entire torso segment by segment when rolling back and squeeze that fully curled position at the top
  7. Reset your hips by tilting hips forward and continue to next rep


  • Tilt your hips forward to begin and maintain that position through entire rep
  • Only go as far as you can with maintaining that position. If you start to feel your low back cave or pain – DO NOT go any farther
  • If you have low back pain or pressure in your lower back – reset and ask yourself: Are my hips maintaining that tilted forward position and am I bracing the entire way down? Am I going to far out and my low back is caving? If so, re-evaluate and don’t go as far
  • Breath in before beginning rep
  • Keep abs tight and brace them the entire time rolling out
  • BREATH OUT HARD when rolling ab wheel back
  • Lead with your nose. Your nose should be the first thing to touch the ground when completing an entire rep. If your stomach touches first, re-evaluate your positioning and make sure you are not letting your low back sag when rolling out.

How to Progress:

  • Start going out ONLY as far as you can while maintaining that initial position. If that’s only 2 inches, great. If that’s a full rep, great. FORM OVER DISTANCE.
  • Build up that distance you go each time. For the first week if you can only go out 2 inches, that’s fine! For that entire week only go out 2 inches, but then next week try to go out 3 inches.
  • Slowly build up that distance that you are able to roll out and maintain great positioning
  • **Find a wall and roll out towards the wall. That way you can use that wall as a barrier to not go any farther. Then you can progress farther away from that wall. (Thanks Ronnie Hepner for this tip)

How to Increase Difficulty

  • Take one of the wheels of the ab wheel off. There are two circular discs that make the ab wheel – take one of those discs off by unscrewing it so it does not have as thick of a width. The smaller the width, the harder it is. (Thanks 4am Crew for the tip) – This is HARD
  • Obliques: Roll out towards one side in a curved direction to target more obliques. Repeat for other side.
  • Start from a standing position instead of on your knees (I still have to work up to being able to do this)