Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Power Wheel

I’m eyeing a Power Wheel.

Yes, I have a cheap plastic exercise wheel in my garage, and once in a blue moon, I’ll bust it out and do some ab roll-outs.

(Ab roll-outs are done by gripping the handles of an exercise wheel and rolling it away from you on the floor while in a plank position. Doing ‘em from your knees is, obviously, easier.)

It’s not a bad way to spend $15. Exercise wheels are a super-portable and effective tool to add to your collection of fitness equipment – you can throw one in your gym bag or suitcase – and as one study concluded, roll-outs are “the most effective exercise in activating abdominal and latissimus dorsi muscles while minimizing lumbar paraspinal and rectus femoris muscle activity.”

(Seriously: If you’re still using one of these, you need to join the rest of us in the twenty-first century. And while you’re at it, lose the ThighMaster, too.)

Sadly, my little wheel is cursed with stubby handles, making it impossible to play around with a wider grip. Plus, the wheel feels flimsy and is clearly meant for indoor use only. While I doubt it’s going to buckle and break on me if I were to use it outside, the thought of face-planting on asphalt has crossed my mind more than once.

An alternative is to put a couple of plates on a barbell and use it for roll-outs. I remember doing this at CrossFit Palo Alto months ago – it allows for different grip widths and it’s definitely not going to fall apart on you. The problem? Not everyone has access to a barbell set – and even for those who do, it’s not the most portable or efficient equipment for squeezing in a few roll-outs.

Also: Without foot straps, neither a cheap-o ab wheel nor a big-ass barbell set is going to allow you to do hand walks:

These look AWESOME. In the words of Zach Even-Esh: “I don’t know of any movement that matches hand walking for upper body strength and abdominal training.” And I believe him.

That’s why I’m seriously considering picking up a Power Wheel – despite its heftier price tag. Not only does it appear to be made of sturdier stuff (and capable of outside play), it has Velcro and latex straps for your feet. The thought of turning myself into a human wheelbarrow kind of appeals to me: I’m a big fan of bodyweight exercises, and hand walking would be a fantastic movement to add to the mix.