Anyone who thinks planks are boring is wrong. If you stick to the standard forearm planks every workout, of course, they’re going to start to feel stale. But there’s a whole world of plank variations out there, and a good portion of them are so hard they’ll leave puddles of sweat and tears on your mat.
The next time you’re up for a challenge, make your way down this list of planks, starting with the easiest variations and then moving on to the ones that will fire up every muscle in your body. You might not feel the burn at first, but trust me–once you make it to the plank pike, you won’t dare call planks boring ever again.
First things first, there are a few form notes that will hold true no matter what kind of plank you’re doing. To start, you want to keep your body in a nice straight line from your head to your heels. Keep your gaze down on the mat in front of you so your neck is in a nice neutral position. Keep your core engaged (think: belly button to spine) and your hips in line with your shoulders. Additionally, you want your arms to be aligned. If you’re on your forearms, keep your elbows right in line with your shoulders and if you’re on your hands keep your wrists right in line with your shoulders. Keep your arms strong but be careful not to lock your elbows. Finally, be careful not to slouch. Press into the ground so your weight is lifted up and out of your shoulder sockets. Keep these points in mind as you move through the following planks.
1. Straight-arm plank
The straight-arm plank is your foundation. Though it’s a bit tougher on your arms than a forearm plank, it’s a teensy bit easier on your core. During a straight-arm plank, your hands are stacked under your shoulders as you hold your body in a straight line from your head to your feet.
During a forearm plank, it’s a bit more difficult to keep your hips in line with your shoulders, so you use your core a bit more. However, it also takes weight out of your wrists, which can make it more comfortable than a straight-arm plank. You’ll want to keep your elbows right under your shoulders and make sure you’re pushing up and out of your shoulder socket instead of sinking down into them.
3. Side plank
Instead of having the support of both of your arms, you add balance into the mix when you’re holding a side plank. This can make the exercise feel even harder–and ignite an even greater burn!–than the traditional plank. From a kneeling position, shift your weight into one arm, keeping your wrist right under your shoulder. Your feet can either be stacked on top of each other for a greater balance challenge or staggered with your top foot in front of your bottom foot, with your front heel touching your back toe. If having both legs up is too much, you can drop your bottom knee to the ground. In either position, keep your hips up and in line with your shoulders instead of dropping them down to the ground.
4. Bear plank
Bear planks make your entire body roar–seriously. Unlike the bear crawl, where you’re on all fours with your knees hovering above the floor as you travel across the room, the bear plank is stationary. Even though it’s a tiny movement, the burn is immediate. Start on your hands and knees with your wrist right under your shoulders and your knees right under your hips. Press your palms into the mat as you lift your knees and let them hover an inch or so over the mat.
5. Reverse plank
This is a normal straight-arm plank, just reversed. While a traditional plank targets the front of your body, this version targets the back of your body too, making it even harder. Begin seated with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet flexed. Bring your arms to your side with your palms flat on the ground, fingertips spread wide and pointed straight ahead. Squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips up, opening your chest and drawing your shoulders down back away from your ears. Keep a soft bend in your knees to avoid locking them.
6. Mountain climbers
Take your plank on the move with mountain climbers. Start in a straight-arm plank and keep your hips down as you quickly bring one knee into your chest, alternating from one leg to the next. You can either walk them in (pausing with both feet together in a plank in between each knee lift) or run them in (keeping one foot off of the ground at all times). While going mountain climbers, you’ll feel your core working harder as it keeps you stable while you move.
7. Plank jack
This move is just what it sounds like–a plank fused with. jumping jack. Start in a straight-arm plank and engage your core, keeping your hips steady, as you hop your feet out and in like a jumping jack.
8. Plank walkout
The plank walkout is essentially a burpee without any jumps. Start in a standing position and bend your knees as you walk your arms forward into a plank, making sure you don’t drop your hips toward the floor or walk your arms out too far. Once you hit your plank, take a breath and walk your hands back toward your feet, pressing down through your heels as your lift so you land in a squat position before returning to a stand.
9. Walking plank
To perform a walking plank, you start in a straight arm plank and then one arm at a time lower into a forearm plank and then come back into a straight-arm plank. This move doesn’t look like much but because you’re staying low to the ground your core is constantly engaged. And moving in and out that forearm plank truly sets your core on fire.
10. Plank to Pike
This move is honestly so difficult. It’s the hardest on this list because it’s so hard to maintain the balance to perform it correctly. And the harder you’re working to balance, the harder your core is working. Start in a full arm plank either wearing socks or with gliders under your feet. Point your toes and begin to lift your hips as keep your legs straight and pull your feet in toward your hands, keeping your weight in your wrists. Slowly return to your starting position.
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