Ab Wheel vs. Crunches [Head-to-Head Comparison]

Performing rollouts with an ab wheel works your abdominal muscles more completely than doing crunches. Ab rollouts also strengthen core muscles in your lower back and hip flexors. However, using an ab wheel properly requires that you already have a strong core, making ab wheels a poor choice for beginners. Crunches, on the other hand, are a good ab-strengthening exercise for all fitness levels. Use crunches and other ab workouts to build up your strength before graduating to the ab wheel.

Ab wheel vs crunches

Ab Wheel: Pros and Cons

Let’s examine the ab wheel in-depth to determine if it’s the right piece of equipment for you. We’ll take a look at how the ab wheel shines and where it falls short. Then, we’ll do the same for crunches before delivering a final verdict. The information below will help you decide which of these core exercises is right for you.

Ab Wheel: Pros

Using an ab wheel with proper form activates both the upper and lower abdominal muscles. It also engages the multifidus and erector spinae, which are the muscles in your lower back, as well as your obliques. Simply put, the ab wheel activates more muscles than the traditional crunch, which primarily focuses on the upper abdominals. If your goal is achieving the best ab workout, using an ab wheel beats crunches every time.

  • Uses more muscles than crunches.
  • Activates the abdominals more completely, leading to a better workout.
  • Will not put you at risk of neck injury.

Because the ab rollout is performed in the plank position, it won’t put stress on your neck. Doing crunches, especially if you place your hands behind your neck, can lead to painful neck injuries. With the ab wheel, this injury won’t be a concern.

Ab Wheel: Cons

The biggest downside of ab rollouts is that they are one of the most advanced abdominal exercises you can perform. While this may be just the thing you’re looking for if you’re a fitness guru looking to push your abs to the next level, the ab wheel isn’t friendly for beginners. It can be difficult to perform an ab rollout if your core muscles are not already very strong. Additionally, using an ab wheel with improper form places a lot of stress on the shoulders and lower back, which may result in injury.

  • Requires strong core muscles to perform the exercise correctly.
  • Improper form can cause lower back or shoulder pain.
  • Requires specialized equipment (the ab wheel).

Unlike crunches, which can be performed anywhere, ab rollouts require an ab wheel. This means you’ll need to invest in your own equipment if your gym doesn’t have an ab wheel on hand. It also makes performing your standard workout routine more challenging if you are traveling or working out anywhere other than your typical gym space.

Crunches: Pros and Cons

Crunches have been a gym staple for many years. In fact, they’re usually the first thing that comes to mind when athletes are asked to name ab exercises. It’s time to question this classic though, to find out how it measures up to the ab wheel.

Crunches: Pros

The best thing about crunches is that they are very easy to perform. You can tailor them to your fitness level by increasing or decreasing the intensity. Simply reduce the range of motion to make crunches easier, or hold crunches in the top position to make them more difficult. As long as you sit up far enough to engage the abdominal muscles, you’re getting a workout. For this reason, crunches are a good tool when you are looking to build core strength before moving to more advanced exercises.

  • Easier to perform than ab rollouts.
  • Great for beginners looking to strengthen their abs.
  • No equipment required.

Crunches require no investment in special equipment. Whether you’re working out in the gym or in your home, you can perform crunches anywhere there’s space. All that’s required is your body weight. Because of this, crunches are a low-stress, low-cost way to begin your fitness journey.

Crunches: Cons

You won’t get the same level of workout from a crunch as you will from the ab wheel. Crunches will work the abdominal muscles and obliques, but won’t do much to strengthen hip flexors or the core muscles in your lower back, as an exercise like leg raises. Plus, crunches mostly target the upper half of the abdominal muscle. The lower portion of your abs won’t spend much time under tension during a regular crunch, making it unlikely you’ll achieve a six-pack from crunches alone.

  • Work fewer muscles than the ab wheel.
  • Less effective at targeting the entire abdominal region than ab rollouts.
  • Can cause injury to your neck or lower back.

It’s relatively easy to injure yourself when performing crunches. If you place your hands behind your head, you may put stress on your neck, which can lead to injury. Also, some find that crunches cause or aggravate lower back injuries. Although these injuries can be avoided with careful form, neck and lower back pain cause many to swear off crunches for good.

Which is Better: Ab Rollouts or Crunches?

If you’re strong enough to use an ab wheel while maintaining good form, use it instead of performing crunches. You’ll get a better ab workout for your time and will avoid common injuries. The ab wheel is a worthwhile investment if you’re looking to improve your core as much as possible.

  • The ab wheel is the best choice if you are at an advanced fitness level.
  • Crunches are better for beginners.
  • Consider alternatives to crunches for gaining abdominal strength.

If you are at the beginning of your fitness journey, crunches are a better choice than the ab wheel. Although it looks simple, the ab wheel is a challenging piece of equipment. It requires significant strength to use. Because the ab rollout is such an effective exercise, consider alternatives to crunches as you build your fitness and prepare to conquer the ab wheel.

The Best Alternative to Crunches and Ab Wheels

We know that crunches aren’t the best ab workout and that the ab wheel is for advanced users only, so is there a middle ground? Absolutely. By performing ab workouts such as planks and mountain climbers you’ll work your abs in a similar way to the ab wheel but at a lower intensity. Mastering a few plank variations will build your muscles safely and enable you to start using the ab wheel for an even better workout.

  • Perform planks and mountain climbers instead of crunches.
  • Plank-position workouts are beginner friendly and strengthen core muscles so you can move up to the ab wheel.
  • Planks and similar exercises aren’t associated with neck and lower back injuries.

Because planks and mountain climbers are performed in a face-down position, similar to the starting position for ab rollouts, you’ll effectively train your abs to use the ab wheel. Planks require you to use your entire core to support yourself, strengthening your lower back. This training will allow you to use the ab wheel without back pain. Plus, since planks and mountain climbers don’t require bending, you won’t experience any of the neck and back injuries associated with the traditional crunch.

Is Using an Ab Wheel Better Than Doing Crunches?

While using an ab wheel is a much better core workout than doing crunches, the ab wheel is an advanced piece of gym equipment. To build a strong core and avoid injury, train your abs with planks and mountain climbers before moving up to the ab wheel. Crunches are less effective than these other beginner exercises and have an increased risk of injury. Training your abs with crunch alternatives will help you grow strong enough to use the ab wheel.

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