Sit-ups and crunches have had their time in the sun, so now’s the time to diversify your core workouts with the help of the best ab rollers. Yes, it’s fun to try something new – variety is the spice of life after all. But there are also scientific reasons to switch up your training if you’re wondering how to get a stronger core (opens in new tab).
Most ab roller exercises (opens in new tab) are core stabilization exercises, recruiting your abdominals and surrounding stabilizing muscles to keep your trunk tight as you perform movements like the ab wheel rollout.
A 2009 study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal (opens in new tab) found that US soldiers who followed a 12-week exercise core stabilization exercise program exhibited a higher pass rate in the Army Physical Fitness Test (including seeing how many sit-ups can be performed in two minutes, with a pass-mark of 60) than those who followed a traditional, sit-up based program.
So, if you’re looking to improve your athletic performance and torch your core at home, it’s safe to say combining an ab roller with one of the best yoga mats (opens in new tab) (to keep your knees comfortable) is a good way to go.
But not every ab roller is created equal, with innovative variations on the classic design now filling the market. To find out which ones are worth your time and money, we’ve put the top models to the test. These are our favorites for a hardcore core workout.
Best ab rollers
The clever SKLZ Core Wheels reinvent the (ab) wheel without overcomplicating things, and we’re big fans. By consisting of two rollers – one for each hand, with each roller featuring two wheels either side of a central handle so they can be used independently – rather than the usual one, the product becomes far more versatile than a standard ab roller.
Yes, you can do the usual ab wheel rollouts and roller pikes that guarantee a good core workout, but you can also complete upper body strengthening movements like Archer push-ups, or even thoracic mobility exercises. This made our training more varied, and we genuinely enjoyed testing all the different movements you can do with the Core Wheels.
They’re great for all ability levels too. Advanced athletes can attempt the likes of the challenging standing ab wheel rollout, while beginners can ditch one roller and instead keep one hand planted on the ground during exercises for stability. This makes movements more accessible, and is a great way to slowly build your strength before progressing to more difficult exercises.
To round things off, the Core Wheels are robustly built, lightweight and compact, easily slipping into most gym bags.
If you want an ab roller that will give you a rigorous core workout without breaking the bank, look no further; the Gymshark Ab Roller will set you back just $20.
We found this affordable piece of kit was better suited to more experienced exercisers with a solid background in core training as the 2in wide wheel felt more unstable than others we tested. This means your muscles are forced to work harder to stay balanced in plank-like positions, providing a more challenging workout. It also took more effort to push away and pull towards us than its rivals – ideal if you want a challenge, but potentially a deal-breaker for beginners.
One of our favorite things about the Gymshark Ab Roller was its portability. You can set it up and take it apart in seconds, and it benefits from a compact, lightweight design. So, if you’re after a bit of kit you can stash in your gym bag or travel case for a convenient core workout, this is a top option.
While the GymShark Ab Roller caters to advanced exercisers with its thin tread and narrower grip, the GoFit Super Ab Wheel takes a different tack. It features a wider grip so you can have your hands spaced further apart, taking some strain off your shoulders, and there are two central wheels to enhance stability, making this more accessible than other ab rollers on the market. As a result, we were able to enjoy a wobble-free ab workout which gave us the confidence to test out our maximum range of motion on ab wheel rollouts.
Design-wise, the wheel felt hardy and durable while still being lightweight and compact. The material on the tread scuffed quite easily, but this was merely superficial and had no impact on performance.
If you’ve ever used a budget ab roller, you’ll know their skinny central wheels have a remarkable tendency to topple over or veer off course if you’re not perfectly balanced. This is all well and good for core training masters, but can leave beginners feeling disenfranchised by their disequilibrium.
The Vinsguir Ab Roller, on the other hand, features a thick (3.2in) central wheel that is a bit more forgiving. We found it was easier to stay in a straight line when performing ab wheel rollouts, and the greater stability meant we were able to complete the prescribed sets and reps without too much wobbling, making this product more accessible than others we tried.
Underestimate it at your peril though. It still has the power to light your core on fire, recruiting your abdominal muscles to keep your trunk tight and stable throughout movements.
The build quality impressed us too, with the stainless steel handle, plush foam handle covers and rubber tread covering the plastic wheel giving the roller a sturdy, premium feel. So, if you’re after a hardy tool to start molding your midline, this ticks all the boxes.
The feature that sets the Perfect Ab Carver Pro apart from its competitors is a kinetic carbon steel spring coil hidden inside the (it must be said, very large) central wheel. What it lacks in portability, it makes up for in innovation, with this nifty addition adding resistance when pushing the roller away from you and providing assistance when you pull it back in.
Worried this could be a gimmick, we were happy to find this feature really did make a difference during our tests, with the assistance particularly noticeable on challenging exercises like roller pikes. This makes it a great pick for newcomers to the world of ab wheels, allowing you to train trickier movements while putting less strain through your shoulders. More advanced exercisers can still enjoy a solid workout by selecting more challenging exercises, though they may be better served by one of the unassisted models elsewhere in our list.
The coil also has a limited end range. So, while our 5ft 2in tester could roll out to reach their full range of motion just fine, taller users may find they hit the limit before reaching full extension.
Aside from this oversight, the Perfect Ab Carver Pro feels well built and provides a smooth, solid ab workout for all ability levels.
There’s more to t
he Lifeline Power Wheel’s 3.5/5 score than meets the eye. It lost points in our tests for its large size, lacking portability and fiddly set-up. These can hamper its function as an ab roller, with the big central wheel getting in the way during exercises like roller push-ups. But, it’s not just an ab roller.
It has foot stirrups on either side of the wheel, with velcro straps to secure your feet when performing exercises like knee tucks, leg curls and crawls – a serious shoulder burner. There is also a wide handle that extends either side of the stirrups if you want to use it as a conventional ab roller.
We found this wider handle allowed us to assume a more natural grip with our hands aligned under our shoulders in the plank position, taking pressure off our rotator cuffs. The large wheel also means that, unlike smaller rollers, you can take your training outside as it moves fairly easily over slightly uneven surfaces like short grass.
How we test ab rollers
We took some of the best ab rollers out for a spin to see which ones were able to torch our core. Our in-house testers completed these eight ab roller exercises (opens in new tab) with each roller, taking note of their set-up and design, durability, and functionality. We also tested out any additional innovative features they had to offer – such as the unique foot straps of the Lifeline Power Wheel Ultimate Core Trainer – and considered the value for money provided by each product. These factors were combined to deliver a final score out of five stars.
Do ab rollers get you abs?
When it comes to any exercise, training methodology or piece of fitness kit, it’s important to dispel all myths before diving into their purported benefits. And, while we believe ab rollers are an effective core training tool, we’re afraid to say that a few sessions with this new equipment won’t miraculously grant you a rippling six pack – the same applies to any ab-focused exercise.
When people speak of “getting abs”, what they mean is obtaining visible abdominal muscles – with the rectus abdominis responsible for the sought after “six-pack” shape.
The abdominals are the muscles in and around your midsection responsible for functions such as maintaining posture, providing core support, flexing your spine and protecting your internal organs while holding them in place, the Cleveland Clinic (opens in new tab) writes.
The rectus abdominis may not be visible as they sit behind subcutaneous belly fat, Healthline (opens in new tab) reports. If someone’s abdominal muscles are not visible, and their goal is to “get a six pack”, a lower body fat percentage would be required. This can be achieved through regular exercise, increasing your NEAT (opens in new tab), and adjusting your diet to create a sustainable calorie deficit (opens in new tab).
However, if your rectus abdominis muscles aren’t visible, this doesn’t mean you don’t have a strong core, nor does it mean you are unfit. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation (opens in new tab) found that, in young (18-39-year-old) men and women, body fat percentages of 17.6%-25.3% for males and 28.8%-35.7% for females were considered to be within the “normal” range.
What regular use of an ab roller can do is strengthen your entire core. A 2019 study into the impact of core training on running performance in college athletes – published in the National Library of Medicine (opens in new tab) – concluded that core training core training has the power to “improve static balance, core endurance and running economy”. So, if upping your strength and athletic performance are among your goals, core training is key.