ab roller workout for lats

One of the staple pieces of ab equipment today is the ab roller or ab wheel, which can be a very effective core training tool that can help you to sculpt the 6-pack of your dreams. Why only settle for 6 pack abs when you can also use this tool to help strengthen your back at the same time?

The ab roller, despite the name, can also help you develop muscular and wider lats with some interesting techniques I discovered.

why men want bigger lats

Why Should Men Want Bigger Lats?

I think you will agree that many people predominantly use an ab roller for a flatter stomach.  In bodybuilding, competitors constantly train the latissimus dorsi muscles, known as the lats, to get the “V” taper where your upper body from your neck, shoulders, and lats contract into a V shape giving you a perfect figure.   If you are cursed with a slow metabolism, usually your midsection area is that last part of your body to shed fat. When your Lats are wider, it’s like a magical illusion that makes your waist look  smaller. Wider latissimus dorsi muscles can give you that old school Arnold Schwarzenegger bodybuilding look.

V Taper Body Building

Many complain about bad genetics, but with enough work, in the gym and training, you can balance your physique. A rewarding figure awaits you as, in my opinion, the core essence of bodybuilding and going to the gym is to achieve a symmetrical, well-proportioned, defined body. So having a killer set of lats is just as important as any other muscle that I train.

eccentric movement ab roller

The Benefits Of Eccentric Movements Using an Ab Roller

Eccentric contraction happens when the extreme length of the muscle expands as tension is generated.  To visualize, when you do a bicep curl your muscles are also working when you lower the weight after curling it upwards.  After the contraction, a slow deceleration back to the original position works your bicep in a different way that most novice weightlifters overlook.  Concentrating and making it a two-part movement can create a mind-muscle connection that can rejuvenate your workouts and help grow muscle twice as fast.

When using an ab roller, it’s the same principle as lifting the weight and slowly releasing it back to the starting point. This is unlike the traditional sit-up or crunch where you only get the contraction on the way up and it can be difficult to move your back slowly to the ground. Doing this can place unnecessary stress on your lower back.  The ab roller acts more efficiently and protects your back when using the proper form with a slight arch, which adds less pressure.  

You slowly roll forward with the ab roller and the true test is contracting your abs and rolling back to the starting point, which gives you a perfect contraction every time.

ab roller back pain

Avoiding Ab Roller Back Pain

Poor form while using the ab wheel can result in back pain. It is possible to extend into a harmful position that can throw out your back and cause you to use a percussion massager for the next week.

To stop this from happening, here are a few tricks that will train you to engage your core while still being able to target the right muscles.

  1. Always take a full breath in before you start. Inhale so you’re filling air into your top abs and sucking in your belly button.
  2. Use your lats by pulling your shoulders down and back at the same time. This helps stabilize your back similar to when you are about to hit a deadlift. When you are at the bottom position, roll backward by pulling your lats like doing a straight arm pulldown on the cables.
  3. Begin with the wheel right under your shoulders. This keeps your core activated and should always be the starting and ending point on each rep.
  4. Have your hips and shoulder perpendicular like you are in a planking position. Your hip should never dip as this means you are doing it wrong and messing up the exercise.
  5. Pay attention to overshooting your hips. Don’t lunge downwards with your hips as you get to the lower position of the movements. It will cause your lower back to arch inwards and put unnecessary strain on your lower back. Also be mindful of throwing your glutes/hips back too high as you come back to the start. Think of using a shorter range of motion where you always have complete control and can maintain constant tension.

I believe Jeff Cavalier of Athlean X has the best technique when doing an ab rollout. Watch below.

How You Can Use The Ab Roller For Wider Lats 

So for this exercise, you can ditch the foam pad or towel you need to place underneath your knees because it can be done while standing.   

ab roller against wall

  1. You start by taking the ab roller with both hands and placing it chin-level firmly against the wall standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Slowly roll the wheel up the wall to the highest point you can reach until you feel a good stretch.
  3. Again, slowly roll the wheel back until you reach the starting point.  
  4. As you get more practice and become comfortable with the exercise, step back slightly and glide vertically up the wall from a lower position.

This exercise is great because you really stretch out the lats and activate them. Over time, they will elongate and definitely help your overall reach.

Ab wheel wall rollers will also build strength in your arms, shoulders, and pecs as a bonus if you focus on doing it correctly 

Try alternating with the common ground version as you will still feel the activation in your upper back if you are doing everything correctly.

What Are The Best Types Of Ab Rollers To Use?

quality ab roller

When shopping for an ab wheel you should spare no expense,  you owe it to your body to have a sturdy and comfortable piece of equipment that you can put lots of gym mileage on.   

I personally dislike using the cheaper, low-end versions as they do not feel stable.   A wider wheelbase and comfortable grips can make this exercise far more enjoyable.  

Some popular versions have a mechanism inside so that once you reach a full extension it activates a rubber part inside that assists you on the way back.  The problem with this is that you lose some of the eccentric movement that you get when using a more free motion style ab roller. 

The functionality of an ab-roller is awesome and it is very portable and without a doubt a must-have piece of equipment for anyone that doesn’t like sit-ups.  It may be the best fitness investment you will ever make! Just don’t leave them behind in the gym after a tiring workout because people love stealing them, and I speak from experience.

Carlo is a rising star in the fitness and health industry. He has collaborated with many athleisure / activewear start-up brands and has a passion for trending fitness-related technology.