How to Do the Ab Rollout

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

stability ball rollout
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Exercise Ball Rollout, Swiss Ball Rollout, TRX Standing Rollout, Ab Wheel Rollout

Targets: Core muscles including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae (lower back). It also works the shoulders and upper back. 

Equipment Needed: Medium to large exercise/stability ball, exercise mat

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

The ab rollout is an exercise designed to target the core muscles including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae (lower back). It also targets the latissimus dorsi (upper back) and shoulder muscles. The stability ball ab rollout is similar to a plank, but instead of putting your arms and hands on the exercise mat, you put them on the ball.

Since the ball adds an element of instability, the core muscles are required to work harder, which is why the stability ball ab rollout is considered an intermediate to advanced move. Before trying this move, make sure you can do a traditional plank, with strict form, for at least 30 to 60 seconds.

Keep the rollout distance shorter until you feel comfortable performing this move all the way. The stability ball ab rollout is designed to strengthen your core, so it’s typically added to an intermediate to advanced level abdominal workout.

Benefits

The stability ball ab rollout targets the muscles of your core—specifically the rectus abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae (lower back). During the contraction (pulling ball back to body) phase of the movement, the stability ball ab rollout also works the shoulders and upper back muscles.

Your core muscles are involved in most, if not all, of the movements you perform daily. This includes day-to-day activities, exercises in the gym or during athletic events, and basic movements such as rotation, flexion, and extension. For example, swinging a golf club, mopping the floor, or turning to look behind you.

Additionally, the stability ball ab rollout can help strengthen your core which may lead to reduced back pain, improved balance, and better flexion, extension, and rotation of your trunk. Stronger core muscles can also boost your fitness and athletic performance.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Kneel down on the floor, with a stability ball in front of you. You can use a mat to kneel on for extra cushioning. The ball should be within arms reach.
  2. Put your hands in a loose fist and place them on the ball. Your forearms will also rest on the ball. Make sure your elbows are bent 90 degrees. Keep your body in a straight line with your back flat.
  3. Roll the ball forward with your hands as your arms and body straighten out. This motion needs to be slow and controlled. Keep your gaze looking straight ahead.
  4. Extend out as far as you can go. Your chest will touch the ball. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  5. Slowly reverse the movement by bending your elbows to roll the ball back to the starting position. Keep your core tight, so your hips don’t drop.

Common Mistakes

Adding equipment such as a stability ball can lead to mistakes in the movement, especially if you're not certain how to use it correctly. Choosing the best ball for your fitness level can help you engage your core and protect your back.

Choosing the Wrong Ball Size

You’ll want to choose a stability ball that’s appropriate for your body and fitness level. The larger the ball, the easier the move is to perform. A large size ball that is also firm helps you balance and stay stable as you perform this exercise. As you progress through this movement, consider changing to a smaller ball size. This will create instability, which forces you to engage your core even more than with a larger ball.

Not Engaging Your Core

This exercise requires you to engage your core through the entire movement. If you relax these muscles, you risk dropping your hips, which can make your lower back dip. This can cause pain in your lower back.

Pulling With Your Back, Not Your Core

While this move does recruit your shoulder and upper back muscles to a certain degree, the prime movers are your abdominal muscles. Make sure your core is tight when rolling the ball out. These same muscles work the hardest to help you reverse the move.

Modifications and Variations

Ab rollout
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Need a Modification?

If being fully extended is too difficult, you can modify this move by descending only part way down. As your core gets stronger, you can roll the ball out a few more inches until you’re arms are fully extended. Another way to modify the stability ball ab rollout is to widen your arms or legs. When you have a wider base, you create more stability, which makes the movement easier to perform.

Up for a Challenge?

If you’ve mastered the basic stability ball ab rollout, you might be wondering how to make it more advanced. An excellent way to make this move more difficult is to use a smaller ball. You can also choose a softer ball which makes the move harder to do.

To challenge your core, try moving the ball in different directions. Do circles with the ball in both directions—clockwise and counter-clockwise.

Finally, you can put your body into different positions. For example, place your feet or legs closer together or raise your knees off the ground. This will put you in a traditional plank position on the ball.

Safety and Precautions

Being able to hold a traditional plank without a stability ball, is a prerequisite to the stability ball ab rollout. If you cannot perform the plank pose with strict form, you risk injury when you incorporate the ball and roll out movement.

Pregnant women or people with chronic back pain, knee pain or other injuries should avoid this exercise. Talk with a doctor or physical therapist before trying this move.

If you feel back pain during any part of this movement, stop what you’re doing and check your form. You may need to modify or decrease how far you roll the ball until your core is strong enough to handle the full movement. If the pain continues, discontinue the exercise and talk with your doctor or a physical therapist before trying it again.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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