The ab wheel rollout is a challenging movement that not everyone would be ready for. Or you might not have access to an ab wheel.

Strong core muscles are essential for everyday life and to increase performance in the gym, and most importantly to avoid injury to the lower back. There's no denying that everyone needs a strong core and there are so many great core exercises to choose from. 

If you're looking for a great ab wheel rollout alternative, here are my top nine ab wheel substitute exercises for you to try.

Although the ab wheel rollout is a great ab exercise and works both the rectus abdominis and obliques, it can place significant pressure on your lower back. Additionally, having a weak core or tight hip flexors can make this exercise too challenging. 

Whatever your reason for avoiding the ab wheel, here are my top nine ab wheel alternatives that will help you to achieve strong core muscles without an ab wheel. 

1. Barbell Rollout 

Man Doing Barbell Rollout Exercise

This barbell rollout mimics the movement of ab wheel rollouts closely. While this alternative exercise is very similar, it’s ideal for those who require more stability and balance when doing ab rollouts. The benefit of this exercise includes reducing strain on the shoulders, thanks to a wider grip on the barbell. 

I find that you need a lot more control doing an ab rollout using the barbell rather than the wheel, you'll find that you can't go as fast as you can using the wheel.

The wide grip forces you to use your abs (rather than your arms) to bring yourself back in. The downside of this exercise is that a large amount of space is required, and you'll need a barbell with some weight plates too.


  • Works your entire core - external abdominals, obliques and deep stabilizer muscles.
  • Great workout for the chest and shoulder muscles. 
  • Challenges balance and improves stability. 
  • Great ab wheel alternative if you don't have access to an ab wheel.

How To Do It:

  1. Load the barbell with 11 lb plates on either side. Kneeling on the floor, grip the barbell with your hands slighter wider than shoulder-width apart, in an overhand grip, this is the staring position.
  2. Engage your abs and slowly roll the bar forward. The further forward you go, the harder it is. Roll out only as far as you’re able to go, without your hips sagging. 
  3. Hold for 2 seconds, allowing your abdominal muscles to stretch. 
  4. Next, keep your abs engaged and pull the bar back in toward you. Remember to use your abs, rather than your arms, to do most of the work.

Tips From A Trainer!

Start the movement by tucking your pelvis slightly and create a slightly rounded lumbar spine to make sure you are recruiting the abs as much as possible.  

2. Towel Rollout 

Man Doing Towel Rollout Exercise In The Gym

The towel rollout is an excellent ab wheel substitute for those who don’t have access to a barbell. This exercise requires only a gym towel and a smooth floor surface, making it an ideal ab at-home workout.[2]

It should be noted that this is a rather challenging alternative exercise but can be adjusted to suit your strength level.

If you’re not able to perform a standard towel rollout, start with a towel pull-in. Once you’ve built up enough strength, you can transition over to a standard towel ab rollouts.

For a towel pull-in, you’ll position yourself in a standard plank pose with your toes on the towel. Next, you’ll drive your knees in toward your chest and slide back out again.


  • Great ab rollout alternative if you don't have an ab wheel or barbell.
  • Can be done anywhere.
  • Challenges the deep core muscles and increases stability.

How To Do It:

  1. Position yourself the same way you would to do a regular ab wheel exercise. 
  2. Place the towel where the ab wheel would be, with both hands positioned side-by-side on the towel. 
  3. In a slow and controlled motion, engage your abs and slowly push the towel forwards.
  4. Hold for 2 seconds. 
  5. Reverse the motion and pull yourself back in, ensuring that your abs are doing the majority of the work.

Tips From A Trainer!

Go to the point where you can maintain a neutral spine position. If you feel you are breaking form then don't go as far and work up to it as your core strength increases. 

3. Plank Walkouts 

Man Doing Plank Walkouts In The Gym

There are many variations of ab rollouts available, but we're going to be doing the most core-focused option.

Plank walkouts are an effective core exercise, perfect for beginners, and don't require a large amount of space to execute. 

Additionally, as your strength improves, they can be slightly adjusted to increase the difficulty.

This workout offers more control compared with an ab wheel, and it helps to strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the hips and shoulders, working the entire body. 


  • Trains anti-extenion (your abs are working to protect your spine from arching).
  • Strengthens the hip flexors.
  • Great for beginners who want to work their way up to doing an ab wheel rollout. 

How To Do It:

  1. Depending on your strength level, begin either in a high plank position or in a kneeling high plank position. 
  2. Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes, keeping them activated for the entire movement. 
  3. From the starting position, slowly walk your hands out, extending your arms above your head. 
  4. Hold for 2 seconds, ensuring that your hips don’t sag. 
  5. Walk your hands back into the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure your hips aren't sagging in the plank position. Tuck your pelvis, squeeze your glutes and draw your belly button up to keep a strong position.  

4. TRX Roll Out 

Man Doing TRX Roll Out Exercise

If you have access to a TRX suspension trainer, then this ab wheel substitute is a must-try! TRX ab rollouts requires both core and arm strength and can be adjusted according to your strength level.

Positioning yourself closer to the TRX straps makes the exercise easier, while positioning yourself further out will make it harder.

If you don't have access to a TRX trainer, there are affordable TRX alternatives that can be a practical solution to maintain effective suspension training.


  • Great for beginners who are trying to build up core strength.
  • Improves shoulder mobility.
  • Can easily be progressed to make it harder.

How To Do it:

  1. To determine the correct distance from the TRX straps, your hands should end up being where the straps hang freely - when you’re in the extension phase of the exercise. 
  2. Find this distance and, in an upright kneeling position, hold each handle of the TRX with each hand. Keep your arms straight, this is the starting position.
  3. Breathe in and keep your core tight.
  4. Extend your arms out overhead, keeping your hips forward through the motion. 
  5. While in the extended position, hold for 2 seconds. 
  6. As you breathe out, keep your arms straight and abs engaged, and pull yourself back up to return to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

As with the other roll out and walk out variations, you want to avoid your lower back sagging. Start the movement with your pelvis slightly tucked under and create a slightly arched back to get the most core engagement.

5. TRX Pike 

Woman Doing TRX Pike Exercise

Another alternative exercise that uses a TRX System is the TRX pike. This one is slightly more challenging than the TRX roll out but works the entire abdominal wall.

I would only recommend those who have trained longer try this one as it does require good upper body strength and stabilization. 

This one is for those looking to be challenged and need an ab roller substitute exercise and want to target several muscle groups in one exercise.


  • Builds a strong core whilst challenging balance and stability.
  • Build strength in the upper body.
  • Works the lower and upper abs.

How To Do It:

  1. Begin in a high plank position with your feet placed in the lower straps of the TRX. 
  2. Breathe in, engage your core, and pull your shoulders back.
  3. Breathe out as you lift into the pike position. To do this, drive your hips up as high as you can go. You don’t need to complete a full pike pose to benefit from this workout.
  4. Hold at the top of the movement for 2 seconds. 
  5. Take a breath in again, slowly lowering yourself back into the starting high plank position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement, don't let the hips sag when your in the lengthened position. 

6. Plank 

Man Doing a Plank

The plank exercise is a simple yet effective ab exercise, it's one I will always do myself as I believe this a seriously effective exercise for building core strength.

It requires no equipment, only your body weight, and can be tailored to suit your skill level by adjusting the time spent holding the plank pose.

Like an ab rollout, the plank offers an anti-extension workout. This type of workout helps to keep your spine in a neutral position, which not only helps to strengthen your back muscles but also helps to limit injuries caused by overextension.[1]


  • Protects your back and helps prevent injury.
  • Helps strengthen your back, chest, shoulders, neck and improves posture
  • Can be easily modified if you can't hold a full plank position.

How to Do It:

  1. Resting on your forearms, position your arms shoulder-width apart, with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. 
  2. Extend your legs out behind you, keeping them straight and bearing the weight on your toes. 
  3. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes for the duration of the exercise. 
  4. Increase the time as your strength level improves.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders and your body is in a straight line without the hips hiking up or sagging. Keep drawing your belly up and squeeze your glutes.  

7. Stability Ball Iso Ab Rollout 

Man Doing Stability Ball Iso Ab Rollout Exercise

There are two variations of the stability ball ab rollout. We recommend the iso (isometric) ab rollout variant as it engages the abs in the same way.

However, the reduced range of motion offers more tension on the abs, resulting in a more effective ab workout.

Stability ball rollouts are much easier to do than compared with ab wheel roll-outs, making them a great exercise for beginners still building up their core strength.


  • Using the stability ball creates an unstable surface and engaging more of your core.
  • Will help boost fitness levels and athletic performance.
  • Helps in every day movements to protect your back.

How To Do It:

  1. Begin in a high plank position with your hips slightly raised. Clasp your hands together and place them on top of the stability ball. Position your elbows slightly more than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Next, engage your core and take a breath in. 
  3. Slowly roll forward, dropping your hips but maintaining a straight back and legs until your elbows reach the top of the ball.
  4. Hold for 2 seconds. 
  5. Keep your core tight and slowly breathe out while pulling your elbows back toward your chest. Raise your hips up slightly as you return to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure you use a stability ball that is appropriate for your body size and fitness ability. The larger the ball, the easier it is as it helps you stay more stable throughout the movement. As you master the stability ball rollout, you can switch to smaller stability balls.

8. Cable Crunch 

Cable Crunch Hold Exercise

Using the cable machine to do cable crunches is an excellent ab workout that lets you adjust the resistance, making them far better than regular crunches. 

This is thanks to the heavier weight, which enables you to train to failure with fewer reps. 

However, it's important to ensure the correct form when doing this exercise, as an incorrect form can negate all the advantages of this exercise. 

If you don’t have access to a cable machine in your gym or home gym, you can try out cable crunch alternative exercises that can effectively target your abdominal muscles.


  • Activates lower and upper abs.
  • Keeps your abdominal muscles under tension for longer, perfect for hypertrophy training and developing those six pack muscles.
  •  Helps reduce risk of exercise-induced injuries.

How To Do It:

  1. Holding the rope handle cable attachment with your palms facing toward you, take a step back and kneel down. Your knees should be in line with your hips, be sure not to sit back on your heels. 
  2. Take a breath in and as you exhale, crunch down. Ensure that you keep a rounded back while crunching. 
  3. Inhale as you lift back up, straightening your back to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Ensure your thighs are perpendicular with the floor. Leaning to far forwards or backwards will effect the amount of work the core is going. Your spine will be in a flexed position which is absolutely fine so long as your spine isn't moving under load and you don't have any injuries to your back. 

9. Hanging Leg Raises 

Man Doing Hanging Leg Raises Outdoors

Another advanced core exercise, hanging leg raises are great for improving overall core development, spine health, and mobility.

This exercise primarily targets the abdominal muscles (the rectus abdominis and the obliques), as well as the hip flexors.

Additionally, hanging leg raises help to improve your grip and shoulder strength too. To get the most out of this exercise, use controlled movements and avoid swinging your body. 

If you find hanging too difficult, you can opt for a power tower workout instead. This is the perfect hanging leg raise alternative as it is also a challenging exercise.


  • Great for improving lower abdominal strength.
  • Improves shoulder mobility and stability.
  • The hang position allows you to lengthen and stretch out your upper body. 

How To Do It:

  1. With an overhand grip, grab the pull up bar about shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Take a deep breath and engage your abs. 
  3. As you exhale, lift your feet off the ground. Keep your legs straight, hinging at your hips. Lift your legs as high as you’re able to while keeping your legs straight, ideally to hip level.
  4. Inhale while you slowly bring your legs down back to the starting position, keeping your core engaged throughout the motion.

Tips From A Trainer!

Maintain as much control as possible during a hanging leg raise to ensure your abs are doing most of the work, try not to swing. Keep your lower abs engaged even at the bottom of the movement by keeping your pelvis in a slightly tucked under position.

Benefits Of Using Alternatives Rather Than Ab Wheels

There are many reasons why people should consider alternative exercises rather than using ab wheels. While ab wheels offer a great core workout, they do have their drawbacks.

The most common mistake people make when using an ab wheel is improper form. This includes using their arms and lats (instead of their abs) to pull themselves back in. 

Additionally, many people tend to bend their arms during the movement. This reduces the tension placed on the abdominals, causing a less effective workout. 

Another common mistake people make is to arch their back. This places significant strain on the lower back and can cause serious injury.  

Using an ab wheel can be tricky if you don’t have the required core strength needed to extend and return. Our alternative exercises allow you to modify the workout to suit your strength level and slowly progress from there.

In doing so, you’re far less likely to injure yourself, and you're still able to target your abdominal muscles effectively. 

Common Ab Wheel Rollout Questions

Is the ab wheel better than sit-ups? 

Yes, an ab wheel exercise targets your entire core and upper body muscles, while sit-ups will only target your abdominals. Additionally, an ab rollout provides an anti-extension exercise. This helps to build the muscles around your spine and is better for functional fitness as well.

Can an ab roller alone give you a six-pack? 

Simply put - no. While an ab roller offers excellent abdominal muscle training, this alone is not going to give you a visible six-pack. Ab workouts can help make your muscles stronger and slightly larger, but ultimately, it's your body fat percentage that will determine how visible your abs are.  

Should rollouts and regular abs both be part of a training program? 

Yes, you should incorporate a varied training program and avoid doing the same exercises every day. Although ab rollouts do target the rectus abdominis (your abs), it’s best not to train them using the same range of motion every time. An effective ab training program incorporates various movements that target more than just your ab muscles.  


That wraps up my comprehensive guide to the best ab wheel alternatives. Now that you know the benefits of these substitutes, you’ll be able to achieve your goals and build your core strength - without needing an ab wheel.

These nine ab wheel substitute exercises provided will help you train your core and achieve your goals in no time! 




Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website