I spend $100+ a week on Megaformer Pilates classes. Yes, I know how insane that is. No, I don’t have any intention of bettering my budgeting any time soon. What can I say? I love the feeling of strengthening my muscles on the machine, working them in 50-minutes worth of planks and lunges until my core, legs, and butt are shaking. It’s the only workout that I can do multiple times a week, for months on end, without getting bored or burnt out. And also, it helps me get seriously strong. Thankfully, I have inexpensive taste in clothing and a limited social life, otherwise it would be hard to justify the expense.
But the other morning, when a trainer at New York City’s [solidcore] (that, along with SLT, are the Megaformer studios currently depleting my bank account) made a comment about squeezing your core during the workout the way you would on one of those “old school ab rollers,” a lightbulb went off in my brain. Could I get the same full-body, core-quaking workout that I rely on in my $40 Megaformer classes in my living room, from a $17 device that hasn’t been popular since 1996?
In the words of Justin Bieber, “YUP.” While the Megaformer offers a few more bells and whistles that help amp up your workout (and let’s be honest: there’s something to be said about dim studio lighting, loud music, and an enthusiastic trainer that adds to the appeal, too), there are some ways you can use an ab roller to get the same sort of moves in at home.
“I love to utilize the stability aspect of the ab roller, so the movements become more functional” says FitHouse trainer Mark Osmundsen. “It also helps clients focus on engaging the muscles of the upper back—otherwise known as their ‘wings’—while working the abs and obliques.” He adds that your abs have to “scoop” the rest of your body weight when you use an ab roller, which requires a level of lift and support that help to strengthen them in a way that normal crunches just… don’t.
In addition to getting your core and back quaking, you can also use the ab roller to work pretty much all of your other major muscles, too, including your glutes, obliques, hamstrings, shoulders, and quads. And though buying an “As Seen on TV” exercise tool might feel ridiculous, Le Sweat founder Charlee Atkins recently told us that it’s the best of the best in that category. “Ab rollouts are an advanced core exercise that prevents extension at the lumbar spine (lower back),” she said. “Most people who complain of low back issues are prescribed ab exercises. ‘Anti-extension’ exercises, such as an ab rollout, will help stabilize the pelvis and spine.”
So while I won’t be quitting my Megaformer class habit cold turkey, I will be supplementing it with at least some morning movements on my living room floor that make me feel straight out of a ’90s workout video. Oh, and you can buy an ab roller of your own—for only $18!—right here. I just did, so Instagram, get ready.
Here, Osmudsen shares four ab-roller moves that will work your entire body:
- Kneeling side plank saw (obliques/back): Stack your knees and square your pelvis to one side. Then, grab and press down on your ab roller directly below your shoulders, and push it slowly out in front of you while breathing in. Then, exhale while pulling wrists back in slowly to stack underneath your shoulders.
- Ab roller pike (abs/shoulders): Gripping onto the ab roller, stack your wrists under your shoulders and hold a plank. Using engaging forces downward, pull your abdominals in and pike your pelvis upward while rolling the ab roller toward your feet. Then, roll slowly back down into a plank position and repeat.
- Ab roller leg curl (hamstrings/glutes): Place your feet on each handle of the ab roller, and press your shoulder blades town into the floor. Lift your pelvis and bend your knees in, rolling the device slowly in toward your butt. Then, extend it slowly back out, keeping core and glute tight and hips lifted as much as possible.
- Box lunge with roll out (glutes/quads): Holding the roller in your hands, step one leg in behind the other, keeping your knee over your ankle. Lower the roller to the ground and press it in and out, stabilizing with your core. Press into your heel, lift and repeat.
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