When we think about foundational ab movements, usually the Plank, Crunch and Sit-Up (or variations thereof) immediately come to mind. This is because they're elementary and require very little for someone to be able to perform them without trouble. As we begin to expand our notions of ab training, it becomes more clear that to fully develop the strength, stability and rigidity required for maximal output in other movements, the basics are no longer going to cut it.
Enter the Ab Rollout!
Most have seen and heard of this "dynamic plank" and have a general understanding of how to perform it, but there are a staggering amount of trainees that wildly miss the mark in practice.
Why is it that the Ab Rollout is so hard to master?
In short, there are multiple components of the movement that challenge different skills. Our abs must be strong and stable enough to support our bodyweight under changing conditions. We must be mobile enough through our shoulders and lats in order to reach the ranges of motion needed. Our glutes have to be able to control our pelvis against resisting and increasing forces. And after all of that, the system has to be able to sync it all together in coordination.
Needless to say, we need to have some options for scaling back or working on one piece of the puzzle at a time!
For the Band Assisted Ab Rollout:
1) Anchor a band to an elevated position and then stretch it to loop around your waist.
2) It should be taut and actually be pulling your pelvis into a neutral position while in a quadruped (all fours) position.
3) As you extend out, the band will stretch further to assist more in the weaker parts of the range of motion.
4) The band should provide enough support for you to perform a perfect ab rollout without any technical breakdowns. Adjust this tension based on your goals and abilities. (This method can also be used for a progression for practicing a standing ab rollout!)
4.1) Don't get smacked in the face by the band!
And the Short-Range Ab Rollout:
1) First you must find out the point in a traditional rollout that your technique becomes compromised. Typically this is indicated by an inability to maintain a neutral pelvis (low back starts to arch).
2) Then, set a barrier right at this point. This can be a bench, wall, someone's foot, or anything else that is stable and won't budge!
3) Perform the beginning part of the rollout as normal, all the way until the wheel makes contact with this barrier. At this point, there should be no positional breakdowns.
4) Allow your body to hold that "resting" position for a second and then reverse the motion into the concentric.
Well that's all good and well but what about those who have mastered the rollout already and need a bit more of a challenge?
Here we can add in a pause:
1) The execution and set-up is going to be exactly the same as a normal rollout but when we get to full extension at the bottom of the rep, add in a pause!
2) The key is to maintain perfect positioning and not allow your body to move.
3) Reverse the motion as normal for the concentric!
4) For added difficulty, exhale and inhale during the pause as well! (Editor's note: this fucking sucks)
Or maybe we want to practice for the Holy Grail of the standing ab rollout by performing Quadruped Eccentrics:
1) Start with your knees hovering off the ground. Your hips should be right over your knees and aim for 90º angles at your joints.
2) Slowly begin the movement and start to extend out while keeping those knees elevated.
3) Continue like this as far as you can, but once you feel your positioning start to become compromised, drop your knees to the floor and reverse back to the start.
4) Overloading the eccentric like this is great for improving strength fast but can also cause a lot of muscle damage so be careful to not perform these too frequently or with too much volume!
5) You can also add in the Short-Range method mentioned above and combine them!
Anyone who has worked with me over the years knows well my proclivity for any kind of Ab Rollout variation. However, it has been a great challenge to be able to confidently implement the full iteration due to all of the roadblocks looming over true mastery of the movement.
It has taken substantial tinkering and experimentation in order to find simple regressions that fit the majority as well as quick modifications that scale the movement up for those able to handle more.
These variations WORK!