The Evil Wheel: Completing a Rep From Standing

I have a student who has been working for some time on successfully completing a single rep with the evil wheel—i.e. the ab wheel—from a standing start. To say the past attempts he’s shown me were ugly would be a bit of an understatement.

My Student vs. the Evil Wheel

One day, during one of our sessions, my student asked to show me how close he was to successfully completing a rep. And…wow. Not so close at all, it turns out. So, I said, let’s add the ab wheel into your training program, starting from the kneeling position, and work correctly from there.

Months later, we were getting pretty close. Everything looked really good in the kneeling position: he started with and maintained a solid hollow position, and the entire movement was performed with smooth, controlled strength. At this point, I was convinced he was close, if not quite able, to successfully perform the movement from the elusive standing start. Yet when he attempted the movement from standing, the whole world turned to garbage.

So what was happening? As I watched, I saw he was losing what he had 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. So how do you keep your abs, glutes and grip tight on the standing wheel of death? What was short-circuiting my student’s technique?

After watching him and talking to him about what was going on, it hit me: fear and leaks in his technique were making it all fall apart. But he was driven to complete the rep, so he pushed through, painfully, and at the expense of strong, proper form. (This issue, I think, is not so uncommon.)

So how to offer the slightest amount of assistance right when he’s starting to lose his form? This is what we came up with:

The Assisted Ab Wheel Rep from Standing Start

Equipment need:

  • Freestanding pull-up bar
  • A couple of light Jump Stretch bands
  • Ab wheel of death


  1. Take the Jump Stretch bands and loop them together.
  2. Attach the bands to the pull-up bar.
  3. Position the student (or yourself) under the bar, with the free end of the band around your waist.
  4. Get in the start position of your standing ab wheel.
  5. As you roll out, the band will start to give just enough help to maintain the hollow position that you need 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 quickly.

Note: Done correctly, the band doesn’t hinder the movement, and the amount of assistance can be adjusted by using lighter, heavier, shorter, or longer bands.

Why This Works to Defeat the Evil Wheel

The benefit of doing this movement assisted, versus sticking with the kneeling version of the exercise, is that the 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 the trainee (or you) to complete more taxing repetitions when they are attempted.

My student’s 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 soon. So remember: Don’t lose your GAG. Sometimes we all need a little assistance.

Doug Nepodal

9 thoughts on “The Evil Wheel: Completing a Rep From Standing

  • Gymnastic Rings or TRX…just like progressing lower in the Push-up by adjusting the height; you may lower the Rings over time to your level or wave the intensity and volume.

    Additionally, you fix the “shoulder impinging” issue 🙂 hope this helps!

  • Use Pavel’s trick and do the standing wheel in front of a wall. The farther you are from the wall, the lower you can go. You can progress this way without falling on you face. The wall stops you when the wheel hits it.

  • This question is for Pavel tsatsouline. I wanted to know what type of athelete are uk sas ,sbs and usa delta force ,marine, and devgru operators like. Because I have heard so much about them are they hyped? people in my gym always tease of my not so muscular appearance……….. i dont like a big body like bodybuilder but i would like a body like f1 driver i.e. putting emphasis on back, neck, shoulder, shin, forearms and hand grip, abdominal and guletes.
    people say that i am doing it all wrong.

    (sorry bad english)

  • For anyone interested in standing ab wheels, I highly recommend you try it vertically – stand with your toes near a wall and roll the wheel up the wall until your arms are fully extended and your belly touching or almost touching the wall.

    Obviously this isn’t hard on your abs, but many people find this position – hands close together while overhead – challening in other ways, e.g., to shoulder and t-spine mobility. If you don’t feel comfortable doing a vertical “standing” ab wheel, you’re certainly not going to feel comfortable at the bottom position of a standing ab wheel.


  • Just last week my trainer thought to try the above mentioned. We tried rolling the ab wheel into the wall after failing to be challenged by the on-your-knees method. We both ended up with some strained an muscles. Using the bands was great! Not too hard, able to stay hollow and feel that full range of motion. My abs were challenged (a little sore) for the first time in awhile using the ab wheel. I am looking forward to attempting “the goal” after doing with the bands awhile longer. Highly recommend it!

  • I recently had a scary experience with the ab wheel. My instructor told me I should be able to do one. I thought they knew what they were doing. I should have known my own strength or lack thereof in this department. I fell flat on my face surprisingly no broken nose. Did have a busted lip and sore neck for a week. When I hit the floor I was
    sure I would never get up again. Your idea is a brilliant one with the bands. I will share it with (no longer mine) the instructor so no other poor soul falls prey to this stupidity…

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