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
- Freestanding pull-up bar
- A couple of light Jump Stretch bands
- Ab wheel of death
- Take the Jump Stretch bands and loop them together.
- Attach the bands to the pull-up bar.
- Position the student (or yourself) under the bar, with the free end of the band around your waist.
- 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 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.