Plank exercises are a safe, challenging, and effective method of training and conditioning your core. Planks and plank variations are used in many fitness programs, like boot camps, yoga, Pilates, CrossFit, and more.
Planks strengthen your abs and your entire core, but also prevent muscle imbalances caused by performing only sit ups or crunches. Planks condition the front and back of your body simultaneously, strengthening your spinal and gluteal muscles to compensate for your abdominal work. When planks develop muscles equally on both sides of the body, the result is better posture, increased spinal support, and less frequent lower-back pain.
Planks improve your functional movement including squatting, twisting and bending, lifting and jumping, and throwing are all functional movements that begin in your core.
There are abundant plank variations, from traditional and side planks to planks using added weights or unstable surfaces like Bosu or stability balls. As a beginner, focus on planks that are performed with only your own bodyweight.
As a beginner, focus on building up the time you can hold a full plank. Start with 15 seconds, then 30 seconds, continue to increase your plank hold time until you are able to hold the plank for a full minute.
To perform basic simple forearm planks, assume a pushup position and lower your upper body onto your forearms while keeping your legs extended straight back. With your elbows directly under your shoulders come up onto the balls of your feet while maintaining a straight line from your head to heels. Hold for at least 15-30 seconds and build up to a minimum of one minute.
Examples of intermediate plank variations add movement to your planks including:
- Knee to chest planks.
- Twisted knee to chest planks.
- Mountain climber planks.
- Side planks with foot taps.
- Side plank hip dips.
- Forearm stability ball planks.
- Side forearm stability ball planks.
- Forearm plank knee taps.
- Forearm plank hip drops.
- Plank walks.
- High plank to forearm plank.
More advanced planks include movement and single arm and leg balancing:
- Pulsing full planks.
- Side planks with knee crunches.
- Plank crunch twists.
- Push-up side planks.
- Rocking forearm planks.
If you have access to a stability ball or Bosu trainer, try these advanced plank variations:
- Stability ball forearm planks.
- Stability ball balancing planks.
- Stability ball knee tucks.
- Stability ball side forearm planks.
- Bosu plank walks.
- Bosu side forearm planks.
Planks and plank variations should be the foundation of your core training. A strong core will help you become stronger, stand taller as it improves your posture, become more stable and balanced while challenging you.