Ab Rollouts and Crunches are two of the most popular core exercises you’ll find in a weight room. For good reason too, both are extremely effective at building core strength and stability.
However, you may be wondering, is one of these exercises better than the other? Or, are crunches a good alternative for Ab Rollouts if you don’t have an Ab Wheel?
In this article, I’m going to answer these questions by comparing the two core movements side-by-side. I’ll also explain how to execute each exercise properly along with the muscles they work and the benefits they provide. In just a few minutes you should have a solid understanding of which may be best for you based on your training goals.
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- Barbell with Bumper Plates on each side
- Abdominal Core Muscles (Rectus Abdominis, Obliques Externus Abominis)
- Back (Latissimus Dorsi and Teres Major)
- Start on your knees with your hands on the Ab Wheel handles.
- Brace the core hard and begin rolling the wheel forward.
- Roll out until you feel you’re about to fall and then begin pulling the wheel back.
- Repeat until all reps are completed.
Don’t allow your hips to stay behind you as you begin to roll forward. Hips should stay relatively in line with the knees and shoulders, similar to a Plank.
Some potential benefits of incorporating Ab Rollouts into a workout routine include:
- Increased core strength and stability
- Improved posture
- Better balance and coordination
- Enhanced athletic performance
- Reduced risk of injury in the lower back and other areas of the body.
How Many Reps?
Ab Rollouts are a very challenging core exercise and the reps done per set are going to reflect that. Instead of the 20 – 25 reps that are common for core exercises like crunches and sit-ups, Ab Rollouts will be much less.
I treat Ab Rollouts like most supplement strength exercises – 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps each set.
Crunches primarily work the Rectus Abdominis.
The Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) and Quadriceps Femoris are also working due to the legs being held in the air. Placing your feet flat on the floor instead of up in the air would turn these off.
- Lay flat on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees, feet off the ground
- Place your hands behind to head and keep your chin off you chest throughout the entire movement
- Lift your shoulder blades off of the ground approximately 3 to 5 inches
- Slowly return to the starting position and immediately repeat the exercise until all reps are completed
Do not pull on the back of the head. The hands behind your head should only be there to support the head, not pull on it. Keeping your chin up and away from your chest will help in preventing this.
Focus on the squeeze of the contraction at the top of the rep. It’s easy to mindlessly rep through crunches without getting much benefit out of them. Focus on each rep.
By not crossing your feet while they are in the air, you force the groin to remain active and work during the reps which can be a small added benefit.
Ab Rollouts vs Crunches: Which is Better?
Now, let’s take a side-by-side comparison of these two core exercises to see which is best for some common lifting goals.
Better For Developing Core Strength: Ab Rollouts
These two exercises differ in the way that they function. Crunches are an ab flexion movement whereas Ab Rollouts are more of a core stabilization exercise. But, even though they differ in movement, they’re both going to target the core.
With that being said, Ab Rollouts are going to stress and challenge the entire core much more than a regular Crunch will. Therefore, if your goal is to develop as much core strength as possible, Ab Rollouts are going to be the better choice between the two exercises.
Better For Beginners: Crunches
As I just mentioned, Ab Rollouts are going to be way more challenging than Crunches. On top of being more challenging, if not done correctly, Ab Rollouts can place a ton of strain on the low back.
For these reasons, I would generally recommend for beginners start with Crunches first. Once a sufficient amount of core strength has been built up, then perhaps give Ab Rollouts a shot.
Are Crunches a Good Alternative for Ab Rollouts?
Generally speaking, any exercise that targets and emphasizes the core can be a good alternative for Ab Rollouts. However, Crunches aren’t necessarily one of my favorite alternatives for Ab Rollouts. I would prefer to substitute Ab Rollouts with other core stabilization exercises.
Movements like Stir the Pot, Dead Bugs and Planks are better direct comparisons to Ab Rollouts.
I just spent the last half of this article comparing which is better, Ab Rollouts or Crunches. But, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t be utilizing both exercises in your training program, assuming you have the proper equipment.
Both movements are great options for developing core strength and stability.
Finally, by incorporating both movements into your workouts, you can add variety and keep your training sessions from getting stale.