Ab wheels are a popular type of fitness equipment used for goals like abs, losing belly fat, and more. Are ab wheel workouts the right exercise for you and how many repetitions should you do?
The questions you need to ask yourself are what specific goal you have in mind and what your strength training level is. The answers to this make a big difference in how many repetitions you should do.
For resistance training beginner with weak core muscles ab exercises could be too challenging. In that case you want to build some muscles with other exercises like crunches and sit-ups first.
If you are able to full ab wheel rollouts a typical ab wheel session to build abs will look something like 4 sets of 10-40 repetitions depending on how advanced you are. Between each session, you want to give your abs at least 48 hours rest to repair and grow.
If your goal is losing weight, losing belly fat, and getting a flat stomach for the least amount of effort you should do 0 ab wheel repetitions a day and choose one of the many better exercise options for these goals.
This article will explain in more detail how many ab wheel repetitions you should do for different goals and experience levels, and better exercise alternatives.
What is your goal with ab wheel exercises?
The first important point is that you need to decide exactly what goal you are after with doing ab wheel workouts. Some habits, exercises, foods,… can be good for one goal but bad for another.
To get to your desired goal you need to stay open to the idea that other options than ab wheel exercises may be the smarter choice in some situations.
A more concrete example would be someone asking “how many cookies should I eat to lose weight?”. There is an answer to that question but as you will see the answer can seem a bit ridiculous if you pair a suboptimal method with a certain goal.
How many ab wheel repetitions should you do a day to get abs?
The main reasons why people look into ab wheel exercises are trying to get a flatter stomach and/or getting visible abs or a six-pack.
The first thing you need to know is that you generally can’t target fat loss significantly in specific body areas. In other words, exercises that target your ab muscles don’t necessarily burn belly fat. Even exercise itself in general is usually not the area of health where you get the most fat loss results from.
However, where ab wheel workouts can help anyway is by making your ab muscles bigger.
To get visible abs you want to combine getting to a low body fat percentage, basically losing body fat, and getting bigger ab muscles by doing certain exercises. So ab wheel workouts can help you get to your ab goals if you are at a low fat percentage, if not that is the first step to getting visible abs.
How many ab wheel repetitions should you do to get abs?
Once you are at a low body fat percentage you can look into how many ab wheel repetitions you should do to get abs.
The way you build muscle in places like your abs is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.
Number of ab wheel repetitions for abs
For the best muscle gain, one study suggests not doing repetitions until failure with heavier weights, so related to when you first start with ab wheel exercises. And then once your body weight starts being a relatively “low weight”, continuing until failure looks the best for muscle gain (1).
In more specific numbers, the number of repetitions in one set of ab wheel roll-outs for ab gains should be until you personally are 2-3 repetitions away from not being able to continue. At a certain point, for ab wheel roll-outs when you can do more than something like 20 repetitions you want to do reps until you can’t continue.
Up until the next point, about 38 ab wheel roll-out repetitions, any more than that and your extra gains will be relatively low (2). As you can see the number of ab wheel roll-out repetitions you should do in a session for abs is not a one size fits all.
Number of ab wheel exercise sets for abs
Number of ab wheel roll-out repetitions for abs in short
In practice how many ab wheel roll-out repetitions in a session you should do to build abs will look something like these examples:
- Beginners: 4 sets of 15 roll-outs
- Medium: 4 sets of 25 roll-outs
- Advanced: 4 sets of 35 roll-outs
If you are serious about building abs with the ab wheel you can consider using external weights, for example wearing a good weighted vest. This can help with building muscle mass. Keep in mind that this is for if you reach the point when regular ab wheel roll-outs are not challenging enough anymore.
Every day vs rest days
While doing something every day is a great way to make it a habit, for weight lifting exercises this isn’t always the best idea when it comes to getting the most results.
As mentioned before, working out damages your muscles. This in turn leads to more muscle mass if you let your body repair and build extra muscle. Often this takes more than a day if you did your ab wheel roll-outs intensely enough.
So to gain the most ab muscle mass you want to give your body at least two days rest, maybe more, between workout sessions.
How many ab wheel roll-outs for losing weight & belly fat?
Another reason people turn to ab wheel exercises and other ab exercises is because they think it will specifically help them lose belly fat and get a flat stomach. Unfortunately targetting fat loss in a specific area is generally not possible.
The way you lose fat is by making sure there is less energy coming in from food than you use each day. Your body still needs to get this energy from somewhere so at that point it turns to stored energy stores like body fat.
How ab wheel workouts can help you lose weight, lose belly fat, and help you get a flatter stomach is by increasing the number of calories you burn. However, exercising is not a guarantee for losing weight.
Calories burned with ab wheel exercises
The first thing you have to know that it is hard to make accurate predictions when it comes to calorie burning during workouts. These numbers vary a lot from person to person. Things like age, weight, activity levels, key hormone levels, and a lot more influence the actual amounts.
The exact number of calories burned with ab wheel exercises is hard to estimate, but there are estimations for sit-ups, which are similar.
30 minutes doing sit-ups at a vigorous pace can help you burn around 177-305+ calories depending on weight, intensity, and much more.
Compare that to running at just 5.2 mph for 30 minutes which can help burn 266-457+ calories.
Ab workouts are generally one of the worst types of exercises you can do for losing weight, losing belly fat, and getting a flatter stomach. If these are your goals there a lot of better workout options. If you do decide to do ab wheel repetitions for calorie burning you will have to do a lot of them.
Every day vs rest days
To build ab muscles with ab wheel workouts you want to take some rest days. If you’re trying to lose weight with ab wheel exercises this is less important. If you’re trying to burn calories with ab wheel workouts you can do them every day.
That being said, extra muscle mass, even if it’s just a small amount, helps you lose more weight. For that reason you may want to implement rest days between your ab wheel sessions anyway.
What happens if you do 100 ab wheel roll-outs a day?
Let’s say you do 100 ab wheel roll-outs a day, what kind of effects can you expect?
If you do 100 ab wheel roll-outs a day you can expect stronger core muscles than before. If this is your goal it may be smarter to implement rest days instead of every day. You also want to make sure you eat enough of the right types of nutrients to support muscle repair and growth.
Doing 100 ab wheel roll-outs a day will also help you burn a small number of extra calories but so small that you will barely notice any fat loss progress in the first few weeks. Once you start building some muscle you will start to notice more and more fat loss progress.
The scale might not move that much at first because you are gaining muscle weight while losing fat weight. However, you are likely still becoming healthier and lowering your body fat percentage.