Thanks for the clarification Justine.
The ab roller is essentially a curl up or crunch. It is safe for most exercisers, but there are some conditions that should be a reason to avoid the exercise or modify the ROM. Things like diastasis recti, spondylolysis, spondylolisthesis, pregnancy, etc.
There is a small number of fitness pros and enthusiasts that are turning against the curl up from research information that cast a negative light on the possible wear and tear to the spine. But the studies that were negative are not totally without flaws. First the studies used the spines from pig corpses and flexed the spines through the complete possible ROM thousands of times till damage occurred. No one (or poor little piggie) should ever take their spine through a full ROM repeatedly in that manner (especially if they removed it and planned to put it back). There were a number of other flaws such as the tissue was no longer viable and unable to repair itself if the piggie had done a reasonable number of flexions and then recovered before doing more flexions, etc. People sometimes just read the headline or listen to the sound bite and make decisions based on not only inaccurate information, but incomplete information.
The ab curl/crunch is probably on of the most widely performed exercises of all time. A vast majority of those suffering from low back pain/injury report improvement in symptoms when using this exercise correctly. The ab roller should not cause problems if the curl up is performed with proper form and ROM.
Just about every exercise is contraindicated for someone and perfect for someone else. So, while I don’t personally use or recommend them, I wouldn’t automatically say that no one should use it, and I wouldn’t automatically refuse to buy one for my club.
What I would do, whether we had a roller at our gym or not (we do, but I don’t use it with my clients), is develop a culture within my clients to ask a trainer how to use a piece of equipment if they’re not sure what to do or how to do it properly. i.e. limiting range of motion by rolling towards a wall that is within their shoulder, back, and core tolerance.
If you choose not to buy an ab roller, that could be a good lead-in for discussion, education and rapport. “We don’t have one right now. Can I take a few moments to show you a few other exercises that would target your core?”
PS, if you don’t have an ab roller and you want to make one, an Olympic bar with round rubber plates on each side makes a nice ab roller and has more stability since there are two points of contact with the floor.
Hello Justine Walsh,
It can be safe; but, will it be used properly? I agree with your conversation with Paul Thomas; not a necessary piece of equipment with its faults. As for convincing the public, you are the professional trained to know these things and have the people’s best interest at heart, I am sure. Just let them know all this and I am positive they will concur.
Natalie aka NAPS 2 B Fit.
I am fairly certain you are talking about the wheel roller type ab exerciser. I do not recommend them.
The vast majority of users do not have the motor control to use them properly. The amount of stress that the movement places on the low back is not reasonable. Even someone with very strong stabilizer muscles and abs can relax for an instant and seriously injury their low back. And the relationship of the position, movement, and manner in which the spinal stabilizers are engaged and working to a movement that occurs in daily living is virtually non-existent. I see using this exercise device in the same light as standing on a fit ball. Why? What are you really training that can’t be trained more safely and more effectively?
I recommend that anyone considering such equipment or any exercise that they are inexperienced with, take the time to evaluate the exercise biomechanically. If you are still interested in the usefulness of the exercise after determining the potential drawbacks, design a system of progressions from the most basic static positions of the exercise to the full movement. Then you perform the progressions yourself and re-evaluate your design. When you are certain that your progressions are safe and effective, you can begin teaching this exercise to clients, The re-evaluation process continues as you learn how clients respond to the progressions and if there are any reasons for clients not to perform the exercise.