In your search for some at-home abs workout inspo, you might have spotted a trainer or two on Instagram using a piece of equipment that looks seriously tough on the core—and the entire body, for that matter. And that tool is likely the ab roller, which is basically a wheel with two handles on the sides that forces your core to work in overdrive as you roll it forward and backward.
But the question is: Should you add one to your workout routine? Actually, the answer is not so simple. The ab roller many trainers rock on social media looks challenging for a reason—and there are some things you need to know before pulling the trigger on purchasing one.
Read on to discover the benefits of incorporating an ab roller to your regimen, how to use an ab roller (and if you’re a prime candidate), and the top-rated ab rollers that deserve a spot in your home gym.
The Benefits of an Ab Roller
If a sculpted midsection is what you’re after, the ab roller can potentially help you get there, considering it seriously works your “six-pack” ab muscles, aka the rectus abdominis. “[The rollout] is a very rectus abdominis-centric exercise and if done in different planes of motion, it can be functional,” says Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., strength coach and founder of TS Fitness in New York City. Working in different planes of motion requires you to not only push the wheel right out in front of you, but out on different diagonals too.
Even better? The rollout exercise engages your entire body—not just the abs. “The positioning requires a lot of upper body strength and it does require a lot of trunk stability, so it works the lower back as well, and it engages the glutes,” explains Tamir. “Improved trunk stability and strength leads to better posture and function.” To gain those benefits, you still want to switch up the direction you’re rolling, at least occasionally, he adds.
An ab roller stands out from something like a foam roller because it has handles on the sides, which you can grip and have a little more stability moving through a rollout. Plus, it allows you to tap into an added range of motion compared to, say, a plank; the ab roller allows you to suspend your torso with your arms stretched wayyy out in front of you, challenging your core strength in a new way.
One caveat to the ab roller is that it’s probably not the best tool for those with a history of lower back issues, such as disc herniations, says Tamir. And you do need some solid core stability to master the rollout—it’s a move for a more intermediate or advanced fitness level, so if you’re new to working out, make sure you can nail down a strong plank with proper form first.
(Also read: Hate Core Work? Try These Fun Buddy Exercises Instead)
How to Use an Ab Roller
To master the rollout exercise, start in a modified plank position with knees down on a towel or mat. Grab a handle of the ab roller in each hand. Keeping your pelvis tucked slightly, belly button pulled up toward your spine, and glutes engaged, drive the wheel forward. Keeping your spine neutral and back flat, push the ab roller out as far as you can, past your shoulders, without breaking form. Then, pull the ab roller back in toward your thighs, still maintaining a neutral spine and ab and glute engagement.
If you want to give this a try before investing in an ab roller, you can mimic the movement pattern by doing a similar motion with your forearms on a stability ball or your hands on some gliders, says Tamir.
The Best Ab Rollers to Add to Your Home Gym
Ready to test out what the ab roller can do for your core? Try these top-rated ab rollers.
Best Overall: Fitnessery Ab Roller
With more than 3,000 reviews on Amazon, this ab roller got a five-star rating from 82 percent of buyers. Not to mention, it’s a best-seller in the “core strength and abdominal trainers” category, so you really can’t go wrong with this roller choice. It comes with a durable, no-slip wheel and comfy, padded grips for easy handling. Plus, you get a nutrition and workout e-book with your purchase, and a lifetime guarantee should anything go wrong with your roller. Multiple customers noted how easy it is to assemble and use, that it works well on almost any surface (carpet, hardwood floors, concrete, you name it), and you can feel your abs being targeted even with minimal extension.
Best Wide Roller: Vinsguir Ab Roller
Amazon’s choice for “ab roller,” this wheel spans eight centimeters (wider than others on this list), so you get some added stability as you glide forward. You can also rely on soft, comfortable grips and a steel shaft that can support up to 440 pounds. It’s easy to assemble, comes with a knee pad, and offers a 30-day, no-hassle return policy in case you decide it’s not right for you. Tons of shoppers commented on how stable it is (read: won’t tip over mid-exercise) and how much they appreciate the included knee mat while exercising on hard floors. One buyer went as far to say that it’ll leave your “abs screaming in surrender.”
Best Budget Pick: Tone Fitness Ab Roller Wheel
This lightweight roller allows for handle adjustments, in case you need a wider grip. It also offers traction on the wheels—so you don’t slip on slick surfaces—and foam padding on the handles. Reviewers share that this little baby will help work your core and tone your arms, and the soft grips will “keep the blisters and calluses away.” And at a price tag of $15, you can try out this ab roller without putting in a huge investment.
Best for Added Traction: Epitomie Fitness BIO Core Ab Roller Wheel
The rubber material on this wheel means it won’t slide around, even on slippery surfaces like a hardwood floor. You can also adjust the two wheels to be wider if you’re looking for more support or bring them in if you’re feeling stable. It also comes with a knee pad for added comfort during the rollout exercise. Customers love that the traction on this wheel keeps it from slipping or going off track, and one pointed out that using this ab roller is better than doing sit-ups.
Best for Bonus Equipment: Odoland 6-in-1 Large Size Ab Wheel Roller Set
If you’re looking to step up your at-home gym, this package will add some excitement to your exercise routine. It comes with an ab roller, pushup bars, a jump rope, grip strengtheners, and gliding discs—another tool that can enhance your core workout even more. One shopper said: “Purchased this for a Christmas gift. The gym junkie LOVED it. So much in one box!”
Best for Progressing: EnterSports Ab Roller Wheel
Not only do you get a wide ab roller with this purchase, but you also get a knee pad, pushup handles, and two resistance bands. Place one band around your feet and the wheel, and you’ll feel a little extra challenge as you push the wheel forward, put a little assistance from the band when you pull the wheel back (the hardest part of the exercise). Many reviewers noted that the resistance bands helped them progress, giving them “assistance to complete an effective workout” and allowing them to do more reps than they would be able to without it.
Best for a Core-Cardio Combo: Fitness Invention Ab Roller Wheel
This roller offers foam grips on a steel pipe that runs through a wide, durable wheel. Between your intense ab exercises with the roller, you can also mix in some heart-pumping cardio, thanks to the jump rope that’s included in the set. Consider this purchase your ticket to a fun, full-body workout. A customer wrote: “Great for those lazy days that you don’t want to go to the gym but still you do a quick training [session] at home. Is really easy to install & also brings a jump rope which helps with the cardio reps.”
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