Fire up your core, and improve your strength and endurance by learning how to progress your planks. As one of the most basic core exercises in the fitness world, these advanced plank variations help your step up your game.
The plank position is a staple in any fitness routine and one that needs to be mastered before you move on to other exercises.
As a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. it's an exercise I use as test to determine core strength.
The goal is to have everyone hold a plank with good form for a minimum of one minute.
Tips On How To Perform A Plank
Before moving forward, you need to be able to hold a both a forearm plank and a straight arm plank for sixty seconds.
- Lift the body off the floor so that the points of contact are the forearms and the balls of the feet (feet flexed)
- Shift slightly so that the upper arms are perpendicular to the floor and elbows under the shoulders
- Brace the core, stabilize the scapulae, lock the knees, and tighten the glutes.
- Hold a straight line.
If you’re training more gymnastics style, you’re going to come into a bit more of a posterior pelvic tilt (as shown in the video below).
Avoid These Mistakes In Your Plank Position
Once you're in the plank position, make sure not to:
- Allow the low back to arch (thus deactivating the muscles you’re trying to work)
- Have your shoulders up by your ears
- Twist and turn through the lumbar spine
- Let your glutes go lax
How To Progress Your Plank
While there are so many plank variations out there, below are three ways you can progress your plank and make them harder.
Likewise here are a few ideas on plank alternatives if you want to train that way instead.
- Use an elevation (either on the feet or hands on something like rings)
- Make the surface unstable (stability ball, bosu, rings, trx)
- Add movement (walking planks, rows, and shoulder work while you plank, passing balls etc)
Within those three things come literally hundreds of variations of the plank.
Below are eight of my favorite plank variations with a quick video of what they look like.
Remember that, as always, form comes first. If you're not able to maintain the plank position, it's your low back that will take a beating.
Elbow Plank With Leg Lifts
- Come into the starting position for a forearm plank
- Keeping your hips square and core engage, alternate lifting one leg at a time
Feet Elevated Forearm Plank
- Using a bench, chair, stairs, couch, or swiss ball, place your feet on an elevated surface
- Keep your forearms on the ground.
- Bring the shoulders down from your ears as you hold the plank position.
- Use socks on hardwood, core sliders, or TRX suspension straps.
- Come into a plank position on your hands.
- Slowly push the body back to that the shoulders are behind your wrists.
- Pause before pulling the body forward so that the shoulders are further forward past the hands.
- Keeping push back and forth slowly.
Swiss Ball Plank With Abduction
- Plank your forearms or hands on a swiss ball and take the feet wider than normal as you come into the plank position.
- Squeeze and hold as you lift one leg and take it out to the side.
- Bring it back to the starting position and repeat on the other leg. Try not to let the low back cave or the hips to twist.
Medicine Ball Plank
- Grab a medicine ball and place your hands on either side of it (can also be done with a single kettlebell).
- Take the feet wide and lift the hips into plank position.
Bench Plank With Elevated Feet
- Place your forearms onto a bench or elevated surface.
- One by one prop your feet up on a medicine ball.
- Engage the core and hold in the forearm plank position.
Dual Kettlebell Plank
- Place two kettlebells of the same weight on the floor. They can be handles up or laid flat. Flat is easier.
- Place one hand on each kettlebell and raise it into the plank position.
TRX Suspended Plank
- Lay on the floor and place the top of the feet into TRX suspension straps.
- Raise up onto your forearms or hands into the plank.
- Engage quickly to control the swing.
Elevated Reverse Plank
- Sit on your bum and place your feet on a bench or couch.
- Walk your hands behind you with your fingertips pointed out.
- Squeeze the glutes, tuck the hips under, and elevate the hips.
Lateral Walking Plank
- Come into a plank on your hands
- Take the right arm out to the side along with bringing the left leg closer to the right.
- Next bring your left arm toward the right and widen the stance with the right leg.
- Essentially, walk sidewayd while maintaining position.
- Make it harder by adding a mini loop to your legs.
Other Fitness Tips To Help You Get STRONG
- Gluteus maximus exeercises
- Lower glute exercises
- 4 Day workout routine for women
- SMASH Home workout program
Frequently Asked Questions About Plank Variations
Any plank variation that adds movement like a body saw or plank to pike or uses an unstable surface like rings or TRX straps will be harder than normal.
If you need to scale your plank, begin working on an elevation (forearms elevated) and slowly moving down. Likewise, strengtheing your bear plank will be a good place to start.
Don’t forget to pin these tips on how to progress planks!
The plank exercise isn’t just about the abs or getting yourself a six-pack. It’s one of the main movements in developing all-around core strength to perform better, feel better and move better.
Moreover, there are always ways to make planking harder (and extreme!) but form comes first. Always. If you find yourself unable to stabilize or the low back caves, you’re probably not quite ready for that variation yet.