Ab Wheel Roll-Out vs. Double Crunch
Both work the midsection, but which one is better at developing the upper portion of the six-pack?
Photography by Robert Reiff / Paul Buceta; Model: IFBB Pro Peter Putnam / Loutfi Ajaoun
Ab Wheel Roll-Out
More and more guys are hitting this clever contraption on a continual basis than ever before. Truth is, it doesn’t take long for you to feel the effects of such a simple piece of equipment. Not only that, but your arms, shoulders and lower back are also brought into the equation right from the very first rep! The ab wheel is an excellent tool you should add to your daily ab routine. One of the keys is to keep your arms as straight as possible, and try to avoid the tendency to overextend your neck on the way down. In other words, don’t try and look up as your torso approaches the floor, but rather keep your head neutral and your eyes focused on the floor. That’ll protect your cervical spine throughout the set.
One of the easiest bodyweight moves to do, the double crunch is an ab exercise that’s always best done at the very end of your workout, especially after your big compound moves in which intra-abdominal stability is critical for performance and safety. Few ab moves around will fatigue your midsection with greater speed and success than the double crunch. To make the move as difficult as possible, extend your legs and arms away from each other as far as possible at the beginning of each rep. Keep your feet a few inches off the ground when your legs straighten, because the weight of your legs makes for some serious resistance. When you crunch together, build a rhythm so that your elbows approach your knees in the crunch position. Since you’re not using any weight, don’t target a number; instead, go to absolute failure.
Advantage: Double Crunch
This one isn’t so obvious. The double crunch is brutal for sure, using both your upper and lower ab regions simultaneously. Yet as anyone who’s tried the ab wheel roll-out, or even the exercise ball roll-out knows, after just a couple of reps, you’re totally spent! But the double crunch is the winner targeting the upper abs. Here’s why: In ab training, you can’t completely isolate any one portion of the abdominals regardless of the move, but you can involve one section over another from one move to the next. For the upper abs, you have to have forward flexion (bringing your torso toward your legs) for them to be fully innervated. But during the ab wheel, there is neither flexion nor extension for that matter. That’s why the ab wheel is predominantly an inner core (transverse abdominal muscle) exercise as opposed to being a move for the upper or lower abs or obliques. The key for the ab wheel is expiration, where you’re forced to draw your navel in as tight as possible. So while both are great, when it comes to that blocky six-pack, the double crunch wins.