Ab Rollouts and Planks are two very popular ab exercises for strengthening the core. While they both target the abs and other core muscles, they are performed differently and offer different benefits.
More importantly, you may be wanting to know if one movement is better than the other. Or, are planks a good alternative if you don’t have an ab wheel?
In this article, I will compare and contrast Ab Rollouts and Planks, looking at their similarities, differences, and benefits of each. I’ll also discuss who might benefit from each exercise, and give tips for performing them correctly.
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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.
There are a ton of muscles that have to work to execute a Front Plank. It’s one of the reasons why Planks are such an effective core exercise.
The abs, the Rectus Abdominis and even the Obliques, are both heavily emphasized. However, many muscles are required to act as stabilizers, especially the shoulders and upper back.
- Start on the ground on your stomach.
- Assume a push-up like position on your elbows and toes. Elbows should be directly under the shoulders.
- Position your body in a straight line from the shoulders through the hips, knees and ankles.
- Brace the core tight. (As if you’re going to be punched in the stomach)
- Do not let the body slouch to the ground nor push the hips up high in the air.
- Hold for the designated amount of time.
The biggest mistake that I see with Front Planks is athletes holding the position, but not properly keeping the core engaged and just allowing the torso to slouch. So, while they are technically up on their elbows and toes, all they’re really doing is straining the low back.
The other mistake I see is the exact opposite and that is athletes shooting their butts into the air, resembling more of a Down Dog position.
The difference between the two is the second, having your butt too high, is easier to notice and corrected more often. However, letting the body slouch during a plank is often allowed to pass as ‘good form’ when it is not.
Ab Rollouts vs Planks: Which is Better?
Now, let’s take a side-by-side look at the two movements to see if one exercise is better than the other for some common lifting goals.
Better For Developing Core Strength: Toss Up
Ab Rollouts and Planks are two of the best movements one can do for not only developing core strength but improving core stability as well. Both exercises also have the added benefit of developing upper body strength and stability as well.
Ab Rollouts may be a bit more challenging, but to say one is better than the other for building a strong core would really be splitting hairs.
Ultimately, my suggestion would be to find a way to incorporate both exercises into your strength program.
Better For Beginners: Planks
Ab Rollouts seem like a simple exercise. Start on your knees, grab an ab wheel, roll forward and roll back. However, the actual execution of the exercise is not quite as simple as it seems.
Knowing how to keep your hips tucked and core braced as you roll out and back can take some time to get the hang of.
Ab Rollouts are also more challenging overall than Planks, especially for a beginner that may still be learning both movements. And, if performed incorrectly, Ab Rollouts can place a lot of stress on the low back.
Finally, Planks actually function as a great precursor for Ab Rollouts. Learning how to properly brace the core during a Plank will make Ab Rollouts much easier to tackle for a beginner.
Are Planks a Good Alternative for Ab Rollouts?
Absolutely, yes. In fact, Planks are one of my favorite alternatives for Ab Rollouts.
Both exercises put a huge emphasis on core stability and teach athletes how to brace properly which has a huge carryover benefit to so many other exercises in the weight room.
Planks can be a great alternative for beginners, but can also easily be modified to challenge even the most advanced lifter. Add weight to the hips or incorporate an unstable surface like a medicine ball or stability ball and you can increase the difficulty immensely.
I just spent the last half of this article comparing which is better, Ab Rollouts or Planks. But, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t be utilizing both exercises into your training program, assuming you have the proper equipment.
Both movements are excellent at 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.