By Doug Nepodal, Senior SFG
So I have a student that has been working for some time on successfully completing a single rep with the ab wheel from a standing start. To say that the past attempts he’s shown me were ugly would be a bit of an understatement. These were always done as a look-what-I-added-to-the-homework-you-gave-me! kind of thing.
One day, during one of our sessions, my student wants to show me how close he is to successfully completing a rep from a standing start. And… Wow. Not so close at all, it turns out.
So, let’s add the ab wheel into the program, starting from the kneeling position, and work them correctly.
So months later, we’re getting pretty close. Everything looks really good in the kneeling position: He starts and maintains a solid hollow position through the whole movement, and the entire movement is performed with smooth, controlled strength. At this point, I’m convinced he is close, if not quite able, to successfully perform the movement from the elusive standing start. Yet when he attempts the movement from standing, the whole world turns to garbage.
So what’s happening? As I watch, I see that he is losing what he has beautifully termed GAG (glutes, abs, grip). Personally, I prefer AGG, because saying you need to GAG hard for an exercise doesn’t sound all that appealing for some reason. So the question burns: How do I keep abs, glutes and grip tight on his standing wheel of death?? What is short-circuiting his technique?
After watching him and talking to him about what was going on, it hit me: Fear, and leaks in his technique, are what is making it all fall apart. Yet he is too driven to complete the rep, so he pushes through, painfully, and at the expense of strong, proper form. (This issue, I think, is not so uncommon.)
So how to offer just the slightest amount of assistance, just when he’s starting to lose his form? This is what we came up with:
A Simple Recipe for a Very Happy Student
- Freestanding pull up bar
- A couple of light Jump Stretch bands
- Ab wheel of death
And that’s it!
Take the Jump Stretch bands and loop them together; then attach said bands to the pull up bar. Position the student (or yourself) under the bar, with the free end of the band around your waist. Now get in the start position of your standing ab wheel. As you roll out, the band will start to give just enough help to maintain the hollow position that one needs to make this exercise look—and be—smooth and controlled. This is where my student, and many others I’ve worked with, falls apart: He loses GAG, and things go bad FAST. It’s important to note that the band doesn’t hinder the movement, and the amount of assistance can be adjusted by using lighter, heavier, shorter, or longer bands.
The benefit of doing this movement assisted, versus just sticking with the kneeling version of the exercise, is that his goal is to be able to successfully complete repetitions with the ab wheel from the standing start. The movement, even when assisted, requires greater strength than the unassisted kneeling version, and thus is strength-building. The importance of successfully completing a movement should not be overlooked, either – this will only help him to complete more taxing repetitions when he attempts them.
The movement now looks 100% safer and stronger with just a little bit of help, and I’m confident he will be able to complete an unassisted rep very soon.
So remember: Don’t lose your GAG. Sometimes we all need a little assistance.
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Doug Nepodal, Senior StrongFirst Instructor