5 Top Barbell Roll-out Alternatives

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Doing barbell roll-outs can be helpful but you may want other options. Find out what exercise alternatives can do similar positive things for you.

Barbell roll-outs mainly work your ab muscles and to some extent muscles like your obliques, lats, and hip flexors.

That means barbell roll-outs can help you get bigger and stronger abs, potentially prevent back pain, and offer more general exercise benefits to a tiny extent.

Whether you don’t enjoy doing barbell roll-outs, you don’t have a barbell available, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these barbell roll-out substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.

1. Roll-outs with other equipment

A barbell is a typical choice for roll-outs because it is so common in (home) gyms.

However, you can also use other pieces of equipment like an ab wheel, exercise ball, and possibly even a towel in combination with a slippery floor.

Take the following steps to do an exercise ball roll-out:

  1. Sit right in front of the exercise ball on your knees. Put your hands relatively close to you on the exercise ball. Keep your body straight from your knees to the top of your head and your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the rest of the exercise.
  2. Slowly roll the ball forward as far as comfortable. Your contact point with the exercise ball will change to forearms, elbows, and upper arms. Make sure you don’t lower your hips below a straight line with the rest of your body.
  3. Roll the ball back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
How to do an exercise ball roll-out

Exercise ball roll-outs are one of the easiest roll-out variations because you end up leaning on your elbows at the end of the movement.

If you are more experienced with core training you may need to choose the other roll-out equipment options and possibly even wear a light weighted vest.

Since all of these alternatives are basically the same movement as barbell roll-outs but with other equipment, they work basically the same muscles.

2. Double crunches

Having a yoga mat or another soft surface can make double crunches a lot more comfortable. That aside, take the following steps to do this barbell roll-out alternative:

  1. Lie down on your back with your legs stretched and right next to each other on the ground. Hold your arms against your chest if you are a core training beginner, next to you for balance, or stretched above your head if you are more advanced.
  2. Slowly move your hips towards your chest as far as comfortable while folding your knees and moving them towards your chest in a controlled motion. At the same crunch up your upper body starting with your shoulders as far as comfortable.
  3. Return to starting position in a controlled motion.
How to do a double crunch

Doubles crunches are similar to barbell roll-outs in that they focus on both the upper and lower part of your ab muscles.

One potential disadvantage of this alternative is that double crunches will focus just a bit less on your oblique muscles.

Additionally, if you are more experienced when it comes to core training you may need to make double crunches more challenging to keep seeing progress.

To do this you can hold some form of compact weight against your chest, clamp something between your legs, or strap on ankle weights.

3. Hanging sideways leg raises

For hanging core exercises like sideways leg raises, you need a captain’s chair, a pull-up bar, or another similar setup where your legs hang freely.

As an example, take the following steps to do a sideways knee raise on a pull-up bar:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. Let your legs hang down for now.
  2. Raising your knees held together upwards. Slightly tilt your hips to the left or the right so that the knee on that side is in a higher position than the other knee. Let gravity do its work on your lower legs throughout the exercise.
  3. Raise your knees to at least hip height. Once you are at the highest you can hold for a second or less.
  4. Start lowering your knees until your legs are back in starting position.
  5. Repeat but with the other knee in the higher position.

Many people will find the bodyweight version more than challenging enough for their oblique muscles.

That being said, stronger individuals can consider adding weights to this barbell roll-out alternative to see more and faster results.

To do this, ankle weights are great since they can’t fall down. You could also clamp a weight like a dumbbell between your legs.

One potential downside of sideways hanging leg raises is that they don’t really work your abs. If this is still your main goal, you want to go for straight-up knee or leg raises instead.

4. Regular crunches

You have likely heard of crunches and there are good reasons for this. Take the following steps to do this barbell roll-out alternative:

  1. You start lying down on your back with your legs bent at the knees and your feet flat on the ground.
  2. You can place your hands behind your head, cross them over your chest, or put them anywhere else. The point is to not really use your arms or move them during the exercise.
  3. Raise your head and shoulders from the ground as much as possible while keeping your lower back on the floor. Make sure you don’t use your arms but your ab muscles to do this movement.
  4. Lower your head and shoulders until you are back in the starting position.
How to do a crunch

Regular crunches have a focus that is a lot more narrow than barbell roll-outs. This exercise mainly works your ab muscles and more specifically the upper part of your abs.

If you want to focus more on other muscles you can choose plenty of crunch variations.

There are a variety of crunch equipment options including dumbbells, a weight plate, kettlebells, etc. to make this movement harder for your muscles if needed.

That being said, most people will be able to see amazing results from the bodyweight version too.

5. Lying leg raises

Take the following steps to do a lying leg raise for training your abs:

  1. Lie down on your back with your legs stretched and right next to each other on the ground. Put your arms on the ground at your sides for balance.
  2. Slowly turn your hips and move them toward your chest. In theory, your legs should not really move relative to your hips. You can go as far as raising your lower back off the ground. Keep the middle of your back on the ground.
  3. Slowly lower your legs back to the ground.
How to do lying leg raises

You only want to move your hips to work your ab muscles. Moving your legs would engage your hip flexor muscles instead.

So a potential downside of lying leg raises is that doing them suboptimally would mean they are not a great substitute for barbell roll-outs.

That aside, lying leg raises are another example of a movement with a relatively isolated focus. More specifically, your lower abs will do most of the work.

Why you are looking for an alternative to barbell roll-outs will influence whether this is a good or bad thing.

A benefit of lying leg raises is that the bodyweight version is already relatively challenging.

Individuals more experienced with core training likely do not need any extra resistance for this at-home-friendly ab exercise.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.