Does the ab roller really work? Or are sit-ups just as good? What are the best exercises for firming your middle?
The short answer is, yes the ab roller does work and no, sit-ups aren’t just as good. When I say work, I’m not necessarily talking about what you call “firming”, but I’ll get into that later.
For now, the more interesting question is why the ab roller a better exercise than the sit-up.
Function of Abs
First let’s examine the function of your abs. While they can serve to flex the trunk (as in a sit-up), their main function is to stabilize the body.
Your abs are there to PREVENT MOVEMENT during activities that require you to stabilize yourself—which is virtually every movement.
Think about when your throw a ball, reach over your head to put something on a shelf, stand on one foot, or serve a tennis ball—start to notice what your abs are doing. They’re being activated and holding your core in place so that you are able to perform these movements.
Have your abs ever been really sore after a tough workout?
If yes, notice how difficult every day activities become with sore abs!! Yes, in all these normal movements, your abs are firing and active–because they’re preventing movement.
So let me ask you—what are you accomplishing by doing a sit-up?
Well, a sit-up is pretty much just repeated flexion of the trunk, rather than stabilizing your body—not good. Not to mention, sit-ups are a good way to injure yourself!
The ab roller exercise, however, does make sense. You’re not flexing or extending at the trunk, but you’re supporting your own bodyweight as you roll out. This uses your abs in a role of preventing movement, acting as a core stabilizer—this makes much more sense!
The problem with the ab roller exercise is that it’s extremely advanced and, quite honestly, I’d be surprised if you could find a handful of people at your gym at any given time that could do 10 of these with no problem.
(If you’re one of them, good for you—you probably don’t need to read below).
The good news is, there are some simple progressions and variations to this exercise, and you don’t have to go out and buy anything from a late night infomercial to do it!!
I’ll summarize two basic exercises.
1) Basic Plank
I love planks. Just ask any of my clients!!
This is where you’re in a prone (face down) position, with only your forearms and feet touching the ground. Your back is in a straight line, and your core and glutes are completely tight and activated, working to keep your body in this position.
You should be able to hold this position for 60-90 seconds. If you can’t hold it for at least 40 seconds, definitely start with this exercise before moving to move advanced ab rollouts.
The great thing about planks is that you can do them anywhere, any time! For a while there, my dad was doing these along with pushups every time he changed clothes.
2) Stability Ball Rollout
This is pretty much the same exercise as with the ab roller.
The only difference is you’re placing your forearms on the ball rather than gripping the ab wheel.
The smaller the ball you use, the harder the exercise will be—so start with the biggest one. Trust me—these are hard.
If you get to a few sets of 15 reps on your stability ball rollouts, you can progress to the ab roller!
Now to your third question…
I did my best to answer your core training questions, but I can’t help but wonder what you meant by “firm your middle”..
So far, I’ve assumed that you meant better, stronger, more functional abs.
You chose the phrase “firm up”!
What this hints to me is that you want to lose any fat in that area so that your abs will show and you’ll have the healthy, slim, and dare I say toned look that so many people strive for.
That’s a great goal!
It’s important for you to realize that while taking care of your abs and doing the proper exercises is a good thing, this alone will not give you a 6 pack or the slim look you desire.
It really drives me nuts when I see infomercials full of people with very low body fat, abs showing, etc., swearing that X product will deliver instant results and give you sleek, sexy abs.
Give me a break.
The reality is that you cannot isolate fat loss to a specific area of the body by targeting it with a particular exercise. Period.
Basically, you’ll need to follow an exercise plan designed specifically for fat loss while also focusing on proper nutrition—which is absolutely crucial.
Glen is an Ex-personal trainer with a passion for health and Fitness. He has trained a variety of clients with goals ranging from weight loss and improved overall fitness to improved speed, strength, and sport performance. In his spare time, Glen enjoys traveling, reading, golf, softball, poker, and rooting for the Atlanta Braves and Jacksonville Jaguars.
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