The number one goal of people that go to the gym is weight loss. And of this group I would guess that flat toned abs is the ultimate physical outcome of this goal.
Now I realize I’m preaching to the choir when I say that a great mid-section is made in the kitchen and not in the gym. But even though many are aware of this they still want to know the newest, hardest and most specific core and abs exercises.
Before I go any further it may help to watch a short video to see what I’m talking about.
And so you see all types of core exercises being done in the gym. One of the more popular ones is the roll-out. This can be performed with a variety of equipment including a stability ball or abs wheel but there are also versions using a barbell, a suspension trainer or even a slideboard.
And while this is a commonly performed exercise it often performed incorrectly.
I say that because the goal of the movement is to remain motionless through the mid-section in the presence of movement through the extremities.
Let’s assume you were performing a roll-out from the knees. You will pivot on your knees and the shoulder will flex as you roll the implement out and away from you. As you return to the starting position your shoulders will extend all while maintaining a neutral mid-section, specifically at the low back.
Typically we see three things done incorrectly when performing the roll-out.
Mistake #1 – Extended Neck
A Diploma Pilates Instructor once introduced me to ‘packed-neck’. It resembles the chin closer to the chest rather than the head tilted up exposing the neck. When done correctly it may cause you to have a double chin.
You have to admit that’s kind of funny, right? Doing an exercise for the goal of a flat stomach (not really, but what some believe) and having a double chin to know you’re doing it properly.
Anyways, you want to make sure you maintain a packed-neck throughout the roll-out as this has an impact on the position of the lumbar spine. If you look up while performing this drill you will over extend your low back and may feel pressure there as a result.
Mistake #2 – Over Extended Lumbar
I didn’t say ‘extended lumbar’ but over extended because you should have a natural curve in your low back. And the goal is to maintain this curve throughout the drill.
But the low back becomes the fulcrum, or middle point, between the two pivot points at the knees and shoulder. If there is a lack of stability through the trunk on the anterior side the body will compensate accordingly.
Imagine engineers building a bridge that can support 100 feet. If the bridge is then built longer than 100 feet the middle of the bridge will be the weakest and thus most susceptible to breaking.
This is similar to what happens with your low back. Except before your low back breaks it will try to shorten the distance between the pivot points. One way to achieve a shorter distance is to over extend the low back which is not a good option.
Better to work through the range of motion you can control rather than try to roll too far i.e. building a 101 foot bridge, and pay the price.
Mistake #3 – Hips Flex to Return
This isn’t as much a mistake as it is a cheat. And depending on the individual and circumstance it may be a good strategy to use when performing a roll-out. Here’s what you want to do think about when performing the exercise.
Imagine a string attached from your belt buckle to the implement that will roll i.e. a stability ball. When the ball rolls away from you want the string to be taut. If your hips fall too far forward the line will go slack and you are probably over extending your low back.
When you return the ball back towards yourself you want there to be some slack in the line. If the line goes taut at this time you are probably pushing the hips back to return to your starting position and taking some of the responsibility off your core.
From the side ideally you want to see a straight line from the knees-hips-shoulders throughout the movement.
One last thing to share with you is a way we cue the roll-out which helps our clients perform it properly is to imagine pressing the implement through the floor to return to the start position. This keeps the pressure on the hands and minimizes the potential of the hips flexing to cheat the movement.
Give this core drill a try. Pay attention to the mistakes above and let me know what you think in the comments section.