Diversify-Your-Core-Workouts-with-These-15-Plank-Variations

15 Different Plank Variations to Intensify Your Core Workout

The standard plank is a fundamental exercise in the world of fitness, known for its effectiveness in strengthening the core. 

However, like any other exercise, if we don’t introduce variations, its effectiveness can start to diminish. 

In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind this phenomenon.

At its most basic level, physical training follows the principle of progressive overload: muscles need to be consistently subjected to increasing stress to stimulate their growth and development. 

But when we stick to the same routine, our muscles adapt, and the workout becomes less effective. 

That’s why it’s crucial to incorporate variations.

Plank variations serve as an excellent complement to your training. 

Not only do they add variety and challenge to your routine, but they also engage different muscle groups and target your core from various angles. 

This can lead to increased strength, stability, and body control.

But it’s not just about increasing physical strength. 

Plank variations can also improve body awareness and coordination, which can be beneficial in other areas of life.

So, if you’re ready to elevate your workout and discover new ways to challenge yourself, keep reading. 

In this article, we will explore 15 different plank variations, each of which can provide an additional stimulus to your core training.

 

1. Forearm Plank

The Forearm Plank is a cornerstone in the vast world of bodyweight exercises. This exercise requires neither special equipment nor complex movements. It’s about endurance, stability, and determination. 

In every Forearm Plank, each fiber of your core engages, working together in a well-coordinated display of strength and tension.

It all starts with:

  • Position yourself face down, resting on your elbows and forearms on the ground. The elbows should be directly aligned under the shoulders.
  • Extend your legs straight behind you, resting on the balls of your feet.
  • Lift your body to form a straight line from head to heels, keeping your core engaged and your back straight.
  • Hold the position for your desired time, focusing on maintaining proper and stable form.

 

2. Plank with Shoulder Touch

The Plank with Shoulder Touch, on the other hand, transforms the static nature of the standard plank into a dynamic game of balance and control. 

This variation adds a touch of complexity, challenging you to defy gravity as you push the limits of your stability. Here’s how to perform this exercise:

  • Begin in a high plank position, with your hands positioned directly beneath your shoulders and fingers pointing forward.
  • With a slow and controlled movement, lift one hand off the ground and touch the opposite shoulder, aiming to minimize weight shifting.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat the movement with the other arm.
  • Keep your core engaged throughout the exercise to ensure that your body remains as stable as possible.

 

3. Plank with Arm Lift

The Plank with Arm Lift is an exercise that invites challenge, testing your balance and control as you add a dynamic element to the classic plank position. 

In this variation, you navigate through a sea of body tension, seeking balance as one arm lifts off the ground to reach the sky. 

Here’s how to execute this exercise:

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands resting on the ground directly beneath your shoulders and fingers pointing forward.
  • Keeping your core engaged and your body as stable as possible, lift one arm to bring it parallel to the ground.
  • Slowly return the arm to the starting position, minimizing body movements.
  • Repeat the exercise with the other arm.

 

4. Plank with Leg Lift

The Plank with Leg Lift is another piece in the challenging and exploratory puzzle that is the plank. 

Like an acrobat, you elevate one leg off the ground, putting your stability and strength to the test. 

Performing this exercise requires concentration and precision:

  • Start from a high plank position, with your hands positioned directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Without altering the position of your body, lift one leg to bring it parallel to the ground, always keeping your core engaged.
  • Slowly bring the leg back to the starting position and repeat the exercise with the other leg.

 

5. Side Plank

The Side Plank is a tribute to symmetry and balance, an exploration of the lateral strength of your core. 

It takes the static nature of the plank and flips it, challenging you to sustain the tension on one side of your body. 

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Start by lying on your side, resting on one elbow on the mat directly beneath your shoulder.
  • Extend your legs and stack your feet on top of each other.
  • Lift your body, supporting it only with the arm and feet, maintaining a straight line from head to heels.
  • Hold this position for as long as possible, keeping your core engaged and your body stable.

 

6. Plank with Knee to Elbow

The Plank with Knee to Elbow is an exercise that requires coordination and precision. In this version, every part of your body has a specific function.

During this exercise, your body performs a series of fluid movements as your knee and elbow come together.

Let’s go through the steps to execute this exercise:

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands positioned directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Lift your right knee to touch your right elbow, keeping your core engaged and your body stable.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat the exercise on the opposite side.


7. Dolphin Pose Plank

The Dolphin Pose Plank is a lesson in fluidity and control, a journey through the arch of your body as you move between two positions that challenge the strength of your core. 

Like a dolphin leaping out of the water, you will bend your body into an arch, testing your strength and flexibility. 

Learn the proper technique for executing this exercise:

  • Start in a forearm plank position, with your elbows positioned directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Lift your hips towards the sky, pushing back with your hands and bringing your body into a position similar to “Downward Facing Dog” in yoga, but with the elbows on the ground.
  • Slowly return to the starting position, aiming to keep the body as stable as possible.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions.

 

8. Plank Up Downs

If the standard plank has ushered you into the world of fitness, the Plank Up-Down will take you to a higher level of training.

  • Start as if you’re about to execute a standard plank, your hands firmly planted on the mat, your body forming a straight line from head to heels.
  • Next, with a smooth and controlled movement, lower one arm at a time onto the mat until you’re in a forearm plank. Imagine you’re sliding under barbed wire, keeping your body flat and your core engaged.
  • But don’t stop there. Push back up onto your hands, one at a time, returning to the standard plank position.
  • Remember to alternate the starting side.

Don’t worry if you find this variation challenging at first. Keep trying, and over time, you’ll see improvements.

 

9. Plank with Rotation

The Plank with Rotation is a test of balance and strength.

It combines the endurance of the plank with the dynamic movement of rotation. 

Here, your body becomes a pivot point, a center of rotation around which everything moves. 

Here’s how to perform the exercise:

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands positioned directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Slowly rotate your body to the right, lifting your right hand towards the sky while maintaining balance on your hands and feet.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat the movement on the left side.
  • Continue to alternate sides for the desired number of repetitions.

 

10. Bird Dog Plank

The Bird Dog Plank is an exercise in stability and coordination. 

This variation of the plank challenges you to explore the synergy between the upper and lower limbs in a game of tension and release. 

Take a look at the proper execution of this exercise:

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands positioned directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Extend your right arm and left leg simultaneously, aiming to keep them parallel to the floor.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat the movement with the left arm and right leg.
  • Continue to alternate sides for the desired number of repetitions.

 

11. Plank Walk-Out

The Plank Walk-Out is an exploration of balance and strength, a journey that takes you from vertical to horizontal, challenging your stability. 

Pay attention to these instructions for performing this exercise:

  • Start in a standing position, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your body forward from the hips, place your hands on the floor, and slowly walk your hands forward until you reach a plank position.
  • Once in the plank position, walk your hands back to return to a standing position.
  • Continue to repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions.

 

12. Plank Jacks

Plank Jacks are a dynamic blend of the traditional plank and jumping jacks, bringing an element of cardio into your plank routine.

Not only will this exercise challenge your endurance, but it will also test your coordination. Follow these steps to perform the exercise:

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your feet together.
  • Engage your core, then jump to spread your feet wide apart, similar to the motion of a jumping jack.
  • Immediately jump again to bring your feet back together.
  • Continue repeating this jumping in-and-out motion for your desired number of repetitions. Remember to keep your hips low and your core engaged throughout the exercise.

 

13. Frog Jump Plank

The Frog Jump Plank is a variation of the plank that combines cardio, strength, and flexibility into one dynamic movement. 

It’s an exercise that challenges your core, legs, and cardiovascular system in a ballet of jumping and landing. 

Here’s how to execute this exercise:

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands positioned directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Jump your feet towards the outside of your hands, as if you were in a squat position.
  • Jump back to return your feet to the starting position.
  • Continue to repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions.

 

14. TRX Plank Hold

The TRX Plank Hold is a resistance exercise that tests your strength and stability. 

Using the TRX straps, you’ll have to support your body in a position that continuously challenges your balance. 

Follow these instructions closely to execute the exercise:

  • Place your feet in the TRX straps and start in a plank position, with your hands positioned directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Maintain the position, making sure to keep your core engaged and your body in a straight line from head to toe.
  • Try to hold the plank for the desired amount of time.

 

15. Plank to Pike

The Plank to Pike is a captivating exercise that combines core strength with flexibility and balance. It’s a movement that takes you from a horizontal position to a vertical position, continuously challenging your body control. 

Here’s a detailed description of the exercise:

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands positioned directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Keeping your legs straight, lift your hips towards the sky to bring your body into an inverted “V” position, similar to a downward dog pose in yoga.
  • Pause for a moment, then slowly lower your hips back down to return to the plank position.
  • Continue to repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions.


Benefits of Planks

Planks may appear as a simple exercise at first glance, but they offer a surprising range of benefits for your physical health. Here are some of the key ones:

  1. Core Strengthening: Your core, including the abdominal, hip, and back muscles, is essential for overall physical strength. Planks are an excellent isometric exercise that intensely works these muscles, helping you build a solid foundation of strength.
  2. Improved Posture: Planks target the muscles that are crucial for good posture. By regularly training these muscles, you may notice improvements in your daily posture.
  3. Increased Flexibility: Planks also promote flexibility by stretching and strengthening the posterior muscles of the shoulders and feet.
  4. Reduced Back Pain: Since planks strengthen the core without putting pressure on the spine, they can be an excellent tool for those seeking to reduce or prevent back pain.
  5. Enhanced Athletic Performance: A strong core can contribute to improved athletic performance in various sports and physical activities.

 

Plank Variations for Beginners

If you’re reading these lines, you’re likely about to embark on your fitness journey. 

Starting with the plank may be your first choice, but there are plank variations that might be more suitable for beginners.

These beginner-friendly plank variations are designed to help you build a solid foundation of strength before progressing to more challenging exercises.

Kneeling Plank: A traditional plank can be demanding for beginners. The kneeling version reduces the load on the core, making the exercise more manageable. In this variation, assume a position as if you’re about to perform a standard plank, but instead of supporting yourself on your toes, place your knees on the floor. Ensure that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.

Wall Plank: This is perhaps the simplest variation of the plank. Instead of resting on the floor, you lean against a wall. Stand facing a wall, then lean forward and place the palms of your hands on the wall, keeping your arms straight. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels.

Incline Plank: A perfect variation for beginners. This exercise utilizes a bench or an elevated surface to modify the body’s angle, thereby reducing the difficulty. Start by positioning yourself in front of the elevated surface, and place your hands on it while keeping your arms straight. Extend your legs behind you and ensure that your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels.


Plank Challenges

I’m sure you’ve heard of the plank challenges that are popular on the web. 

These challenges are a fun and stimulating way to improve your strength and endurance over time. 

But what are they and how do they work?

The 30-Day Challenge: The most popular challenge is the 30-day plank challenge. It starts by holding the plank position for 20 seconds on the first day and progressively increasing the time each day until reaching 5 minutes on the 30th day.

Here’s how it works:

  • Days 1-2: 20-second plank
  • Days 3-4: 30-second plank
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Days 6-7: 40-second plank
  • Days 8-9: 1-minute plank
  • Day 10: Rest
  • Days 11-12: 1.5-minute plank
  • Days 13-14: 2-minute plank
  • Day 15: Rest
  • Days 16-17: 2.5-minute plank
  • Days 18-19: 3-minute plank
  • Day 20: Rest
  • Days 21-22: 3.5-minute plank
  • Days 23-24: 4-minute plank
  • Day 25: Rest
  • Days 26-27: 4.5-minute plank
  • Days 28-30: 5-minute plank

The Progressive Challenge: If you want an even greater challenge, try the progressive challenge. 

This challenge is based on the idea of increasing both the time and the difficulty level of the plank. 

For example, you could start with a standard plank and then progress to more challenging variations like a plank with arm or leg lifts, a side plank, and so on.

 

Common Mistakes During Plank Execution

Properly performing the plank requires precision and attention. 

It’s important to focus on the details to avoid common mistakes, which can reduce the effectiveness of the exercise and potentially lead to injuries.

Raising the Hips Too High: This is one of the most common mistakes. Raising the hips too high can decrease the effectiveness of the exercise and put pressure on the lower back. Ensure that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.

Dropping the Hips Too Low: Similarly, dropping the hips too low can overload the lower back. Remember, your body should form a straight line.

Misalignment of Neck and Shoulders: During a plank, the neck and shoulders should be aligned. Many people tend to strain their necks forward or hunch their shoulders, but this can lead to tension.

Irregular Breathing: During plank exercises, it’s important to maintain a steady breathing pattern. Holding your breath can increase blood pressure.

Not Engaging the Core: The plank is a core exercise, so it’s crucial to engage the right muscles. Make sure to tighten your abdominal muscles while performing the exercise.


Tips for Perfect Plank Execution

Executing a perfect plank may seem challenging, but with some tips and plenty of practice, you can refine your form and get the most out of this powerful exercise.

Proper Elbow Position: Your elbows should be aligned directly under your shoulders to distribute weight evenly and minimize stress on the joints.

Engage the Core: During a plank, your core should be engaged. Imagine pulling your belly button towards your spine. This helps maintain proper alignment and protects the lower back.

Maintain a Straight Body: Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Avoid lifting or dropping the hips.

Don’t Forget to Breathe: It may feel natural to hold your breath during a plank, but it’s important to maintain steady breathing. Deep breathing helps maintain core tension.

Relax the Shoulders: Keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears to avoid tension. Additionally, try to distribute weight evenly between your toes and elbows to avoid excessive strain on the shoulders.

Stay Focused: Like with any exercise, concentration is key. Keep your gaze fixed on a point on the floor to help maintain balance and proper form.

 

Tips for Incorporating Plank Variations into Your Workout

Plank variations can be a great way to add intensity and variety to your core workout.

Here are some tips for effectively integrating these variations into your training routine:

  • Start Small: You don’t have to do all 15 variations at once. Begin with one or two variations and as you become more comfortable, add more variations to your routine.
  • Incorporate into Existing Routines: Plank variations can be a great complement to almost any workout. If you’re doing a cardio workout, try incorporating planks during rest intervals. If you’re doing a strength training workout, use plank variations as “filler” exercises between weightlifting sets.
  • Use as Warm-Up or Cool-Down: Planks, in all their forms, are great for warming up and cooling down. They activate your muscles and prepare your body for the workout.
  • Create a Plank Circuit: Another way to incorporate plank variations is to create a plank circuit. This could consist of 5-6 plank variations, each performed for a designated period, followed by a short rest period.
  • Combine with Other Exercises: Planks primarily target your core, but they can easily be combined with other exercises for a full-body workout. For example, you could do a set of planks followed by squats, deadlifts, or push-ups.

 

Ideal Frequency and Duration of Plank Sessions

Frequency: Ideally, you should aim to incorporate planks into your workout routine 3-5 times per week. This allows you to work on core strength and stability while also giving your muscles rest days to repair and strengthen.

Duration: As for duration, a good starting point could be 30 seconds for each plank variation. As your core strength improves, you can gradually increase the duration to 1 minute and beyond.

Number of Sets: Begin with one set of each plank variation you’re performing. As you get stronger, you may want to increase to 2-3 sets per exercise.

Recovery: Make sure to give your body adequate rest time between sets. One minute of recovery can be a good starting point.

Progression: As with any exercise, it’s important to strive for progression over time. This could mean increasing the duration of your planks, increasing the number of sets, or incorporating more challenging variations into your workout.

 

Conclusion

Plank variations are an incredible tool for developing your core, improving posture, increasing flexibility, and much more. 

And let’s not forget their ability to push you out of your comfort zone, inviting you to experience new levels of endurance and strength.

Each plank variation we have explored is a piece that adds to your overall capability, a step along the path toward your stronger and healthier self. 

The important thing is not how quickly you travel this path, but the willingness to embark on it and keep going despite the challenges.

Therefore, do not underestimate the importance of varying your plank exercises. 

Not only will they breathe new life into your workout, making it more stimulating and engaging, but they will also help you develop a more comprehensive and balanced strength and endurance.

So, the next time you find yourself on the mat for your workout, challenge yourself with a new plank variation

You might be surprised at what you’re capable of achieving.


FAQs

How many minutes per day should I do a plank?

The answer to this question can vary depending on your fitness level, but generally, you could start with short sessions of 20-30 seconds and gradually build up your endurance.

Does plank only work the core muscles?

While the plank is primarily known as a core exercise, it engages a range of muscles throughout the body, including those in the arms, shoulders, and legs.

Is it normal to feel back pain during the plank?

If performed correctly, plank should not cause back pain. If you experience pain during the exercise, it may be a sign that your form is incorrect or that you are holding the position for too long.

What should I do if I can’t maintain proper form during plank?

If you’re struggling to maintain proper form, it may be helpful to regress to simpler variations of the plank or reduce the duration of your plank until you feel stronger.

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