9 Best Ab Rollout Alternatives (Ab Wheel Substitutes)

You want the benefits of doing ab rollout exercises but either don’t have access to an ab wheel, or you just don't enjoy doing them. The ab rollout primarily targets your core muscles but also works your back and shoulder muscles too. If you're looking for a great ab rollout alternative, we've rounded up nine substitutes for you to try.

Although the ab wheel is excellent for working your 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, we’ve rounded up nine substitutes that will help you to achieve a similar workout.

1. Barbell Rollout 

The barbell rollout mimics the movement of an ab wheel 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. 

Additionally, 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.

Related Article - Types Of Barbells - Which Is Suitable For Rollouts?

How To Do A Barbell Rollout:

  • 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.  
  • 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. 
  • Hold for 2 seconds, allowing your abdominal muscles to stretch. 
  • 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. 
barbell rollouts

2. Towel Rollout 

The towel rollout is an excellent alternative 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 at-home workout. 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 rollout. 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.

How To Do A Towel Rollout:

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

3. Plank Walkouts 

There are many variations of a plank walkout available, but we're going to be doing the most core-focused option. Plank walkouts are the perfect beginner exercise 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. 

How To Do Plank Walkouts:

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

4. TRX Roll Out 

If you have access to a TRX System, then this ab wheel alternative is a must-try! The TRX roll out requires both core and arm strength and can be adjusted according to your strength level. Positioning yourself closer to the TRX straps makes the exercises easier, while positioning yourself further out will make it harder.

Related Article - 5 Best TRX Alternatives

How To Do A TRX Roll Out:

  • 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.  
  • Find this distance and, In an upright kneeling position, hold each handle of the TRX with each hand. Keep your arms straight.  
  • Breathe in and engage your core.  
  • Extend your arms out overhead, keeping your hips forward through the motion. 
  • While in the extended position, hold for 2 seconds. 
  • As you breathe out, keep your arms straight and abs engaged, and pull yourself back up to return to starting position.  
TRX Roll Out

5. TRX Pike 

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. However, it does require good upper body strength and stabilization. 

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How To Do A TRX Pike:

  • Begin in a high plank position with your feet placed in the lower straps of the TRX.  
  • Breathe in, engage your core, and pull your shoulders back.
  • 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.
  • Hold at the top of the movement for 2 seconds. 
  • Take a breath in again, slowly lowering yourself back into the starting high plank position.  
TRX Pike

6. Plank 

The plank exercise is a simple yet effective core-focused exercise. It requires no equipment 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.  

How To Do A Plank:

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

7. Stability Ball Iso Ab Rollout 

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.

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How To Do A Stability Ball Iso Ab Rollout:

  • 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. 
  • Next, engage your core and take a breath in.  
  • Slowly roll forward, dropping your hips but maintaining a straight back and legs until your elbows reach the top of the ball.
  • Hold for 2 seconds. 
  • Keep your core engaged and slowly breathe out while pulling your elbows back toward your chest. Raise your hips up slightly as you return to the starting position. 
Stability Ball Iso Ab Rollout

8. Cable Crunch 

Cable crunches are 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 of the advantages of this exercise. 

How To Do A Cable Crunch:

  • Holding the 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. 
  • Take a breath in and as you exhale, crunch down. Ensure that you keep a rounded back while crunching. 
  • Inhale as you lift back up, straightening your back to the starting position.  
Cable Crunch

9. Hanging Leg Raises 

Hanging leg raises are great for improving overall core strength, 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 instead.

Related Article - Power Tower Workout Routines

How To Do Hanging Leg Raises:

  • With an overhand grip, grab the bar about shoulder-width apart. 
  • Take a deep breath and engage your abs. 
  • 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. 
  • Inhale while you slowly bring your legs down, keeping your core engaged throughout the motion.  
Hanging Leg Raises

Benefits Of Alternative Exercises Rather Than Using 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 (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 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. 

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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 our 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 strength - without needing an ab wheel.

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


Last Updated on December 17, 2022