Ab rollouts are one of the best exercises for the core... and one of the most butchered.
Why do them? They train the anti-extension and isometric stabilization functions of the core. This is contrary to most of the ab work you probably do, which is primarily based on flexion and shortening of the rectus abdominis.
Think of the rollout as a moving plank. Your core's primary focus is to stabilize the spine while the outer extremities are in motion.
If your core is doing its job, your lower back will maintain a strong, neutral position throughout. If your core isn't doing its job, you'll experience hyperextension in the lower back.
There are two major mistakes to avoid:
Mistake 1: Hyperextending the Lower Back
Don't start with a hyperextended posture in the lower back (lordotic curve). If you roll out with your lower back in hyperextension, the result will be a lot of unwanted sheer force/pressure on your spine.
Start with a very slight posterior pelvic tilt to keep the lower back neutral:
- Tuck your butt in and squeeze your glutes (think of a sad dog tucking its tail between its legs).
- Keep your ribs down and brace your core (think of bracing before getting punched in the stomach).
Mistake 2: Moving the Hips Back and Forth
Another common mistake is overuse of the hips. This takes the majority of the tension out of the core, which defeats the purpose of the exercise. It's not a hip rollout.
You'll notice lifters starting with their hips positioned back before moving them through flexion and extension (back and forth) during rollouts. Stop that.
Start by pushing your hips forward toward the floor so your thigh and torso angle are one straight diagonal line. From this position, the only movement is from your arms, not your hips. Remember, the rollout is like a moving plank.
- Push your hips forward when setting up so your thigh and torso angle are linear diagonally.
- Roll out with your arms extending forward while keeping your hips in place.
- Pull the roller or ball back in to your starting position using your lats.