The ab wheel is an incredible workout tool that allows you to get a better ab workout than possibly any other exercise, including planks. However, ab wheel rollouts are difficult to perform. They require a strong core before they can be done without risking injury to yourself. Planks are the next-best ab workout to ab rollouts because they work many of the same muscles. Because planks can be tailored to your fitness level, you can build core strength with planks. Then, you can advance to more challenging plank variations or make the leap to the ab wheel.
Table of Contents
Is An Ab Wheel Effective?
Ab wheels are so effective that when compared to other core workouts, such as crunches and leg raises, the ab wheel consistently comes out on top. In fact, a comparative study found that ab wheel rollouts were the most effective abdominal exercise. If you’re wondering if that simple wheel can really provide a good workout, the answer is a resounding yes.
Are Planks Better Than Traditional Ab Workouts?
The plank is an incredible ab workout because it reduces injury risk and works more than just the abs. While crunches and sit-ups can put a strain on the lower back, planks actually build the lower back muscles, encouraging overall core strength. If you don’t have access to an ab wheel, planks are a great choice for a total core workout.
Core Building Battle: Should You Choose the Ab Wheel or Planks?
So, both the ab wheel and planks are top-notch core exercises, but which is truly better? More importantly, which exercise is best for your skill level? We’ll dive into the benefits and risks of each exercise to determine which one will help you sculpt great abs, which is more versatile, and which is less likely to cause injury. Let’s get started.
Which Will Build a Six Pack?
If you want six-pack abs, use the ab wheel to perform rollouts. In studies, ab wheels outperformed all other ab exercises regarding activation of the upper and lower rectus abdominis (the ab muscles).
- The ab wheel is proven to activate the abs more completely than other ab workouts.
- Planks are superior in abdominal activation compared to crunches, but do not outperform ab wheel rollouts.
Planks also do an excellent job of targeting your abdominal muscles. By performing a plank with your forearms on the floor, you will target your upper and lower abs. This makes planks far superior to crunches and sit-ups, which mostly target the upper half of the abs. So, both the plank and ab wheel will build abdominal tone and strength, but the ab wheel does it a bit better.
Which Exercise Allows for More Variation?
There is a wide range of ways to perform planks, allowing you to target specific core muscles and alleviate boredom. Standard planks focus on the abs and erector spinae (muscles of the lower back). You can target the obliques by performing side planks, while incline and decline planks can hone in on the upper and lower abs, respectively. You can even perform knee-lifts and other movements to make planks a greater challenge.
- There are more than a dozen plank variations designed to target different core muscle groups and provide new challenges.
- The ab wheel allows for only a few exercises—they’re great exercises but have less variety than planks.
There are a few different ab wheel exercises you can do, from standard rollouts to pike rollouts and knee-up variations. However, your options are more limited with the ab wheel than with planks. If you want a change of pace and the ability to zero in on each core muscle group, planks offer better opportunities than the ab wheel.
Better for Beginners?
If you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey, planks are the choice for you. You can begin with a standard forearm plank that you hold for 15 seconds. As you get stronger, you can increase the time you hold your plank, as well as add more challenging plank variations. This helps you ease into your exercise plan and develop the skills you need for more challenging exercises.
- Planks are a great beginner exercise that start simple and can be made more difficult as you progress.
- You can add more challenging plank variations as you develop a strong core.
- Using the ab wheel requires a strong core and hip flexors. Most beginners will struggle to perform ab wheel rollouts correctly.
In comparison to planks, ab rollouts are tough for beginners. The ab wheel requires you to roll all the way out until your arms are extended past your head. This requires strength throughout your entire core, as well as developed hip flexor, back, and shoulder muscles. Using an ab wheel is typically too challenging for beginners, leading to frustration and the urge to quit.
Better for Experienced Athletes?
If you’re a fitness pro who’s used to holding planks and repping out L pull-ups, the ab wheel rollout is the next challenge. The ab wheel is tough to master, but it provides the best core exercise. If you’ve got the core strength for it, choose the ab wheel.
- Because ab wheels are the best ab workout—and the most challenging to perform—they are a great choice for advanced athletes.
- Planks are a good choice for an experienced athlete. The different variations offer unique challenges that the ab wheel doesn’t.
Planks are not a bad choice for experienced athletes. The bevy of plank position variations can provide a constant challenge. Plus, certain types of planks target the obliques and other core muscles more effectively than an ab wheel rollout. The plank is a great choice for both newcomers and hardcore gymgoers.
Which Exercise is Safer?
The plank is an extremely safe core workout with very low injury risk. As long as you maintain proper form and keep your core tight, you will build ab and lower back muscle. This actively helps you resist future injury. If you have experienced back pain during ab workouts in the past, choose planks.
- The plank is a very safe core exercise that builds muscles and helps prevent injury.
- The plank position is not associated with lower back injury the same way crunches and sit-ups are.
- The ab wheel may cause lower back or shoulder injury in inexperienced athletes.
- For experienced athletes, the ab wheel has very low injury risk.
The ab wheel comes with injury risk. In addition to putting strain on the lower back, performing ab wheel rollouts can also cause injury to the shoulder joint. Although an athlete with developed core and shoulder muscles is very unlikely to be injured by ab wheel rollouts, an inexperienced athlete may hurt themselves by attempting ab wheel rollouts before they’re ready. For this reason, the ab wheel is best left on the shelf until you’ve mastered planks.
Are Ab Rollers Better Than Planks?
Both ab wheel rollouts and planks have their benefits and drawbacks, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a judgment between the two of them. Here are the facts about how these exercises stack up:
- The ab wheel provides a better workout for your abdominal muscles than planks.
- Planks have a lower injury risk than using the ab wheel.
- Choose the ab wheel if you are experienced and have a strong core already—they’ll provide more benefit than planks.
- Do planks if you are a beginner and have not yet developed your core muscles.
Because these two exercises work the same muscle groups, they truly go hand-in-hand. Make the ab wheel your long-term goal and use planks to get there. Once you can perform 60+ second planks with ease, you’re ready to graduate to the ab wheel and take your six-pack to the next level.