Table of Contents
Planking is MacGyver of the exercises with own weight. It is super hard and greatly suitable for almost every situation. Versatile motion is the most known for its work-out with abdominal muscle, although there are more than 20 muscles engaged during planking, including shoulders, back, arms, legs and glutes. It also enables you to work on your body core without any risk of injury of the back and overweight of the hip flexors which come with the traditional sit-ups.
If you want to know the right technique of the good old planks, start with the exercises for beginners. Train maintaining of each motion for 30 seconds by adding 15 second with every new training. After managing to keep in plank position for whole one minute, get to the intermediate and advanced variations which will turn you to plank-professional. (At least it will move you to a whole new level of the planks and will make your friends on Instagram jealous.)
Planking for beginners
This primary planking will create the basis for all the other motions in this list. Start with managing this one and when your strength, balance and endurance is getting better, try harder variations.
1. Standard plank (High plank)
When it comes to planking, the form is everything. When you take care of the correct form, you will not only ensure great exercise but you also protect your body from injuries. Start with the knee position by kneeling down with the arms directly below shoulders. Lift the knees enough to support your weight on your toes and hands (like when, you know, doing plank!) Spread the fingers to make a stable base. Straight the shoulders over your hands and heels over toes. Hold the body in a straight line from head down to the heels. Keep your core tight and be careful of not letting the back to round or stomach to sag.
2. Rocking plank
From the standard plank position, lean forward until your shoulders move past your hands. Push shoulders backward until your heels extend beyond toes. Move slowly in a controlled way for practicing balance, coordination and strength of shoulders. This motion can be performed on the hands or forearms.
3. Knee plank
If the keeping in the basic plank position is too hard for you, try to bend the knees down to the floor. Keep your back straight and core tight – imagine pushing the belly to the back (instead of sucking it in to the stomach). Train this position until you can manage to perform standard plank.
4. Plank with shoulder touch
From the standard plank position, straight the right hand the way it touches the shoulder. Put it back down and repeat this step with left hand touching the right shoulder. Even though you are doing the Macarena, don’t let your hips to move from side to side. If it can help, imagine a glass of water (or Margarita!) placed on your back. It will keep your concentration on the tight and stable core.
5. Side plank
Starting in the position of standard plank, join the legs until your heels touch. While lifting the right hand to the ceiling, lean to the left side until you can keep balance on one hand.
6. Forearm plank (Low plank)
Start in the standard plank position and get down on the forearms. Keep them mutually parallel, hands are on the floor or linked together if it is more comfortable for you.
7. Reverse plank
Sit down on the floor with legs straight forward and hands along the body. Put the hands down right next to your hips with fingers heading to your legs. Lift the hips as high as you can and try to create a straight line from chin down to the toes. In this position, you can find out that your shoulders are not as flexible as you have thought; no rush. And try, you know, not to cry.
8. TRX plank
Set TRX the way it was approximately 30 cm above the ground. Turn away from TRX and kneel down. Put your legs to the loops (There is no elegant way to do it – when you manage to get into them without falling down on your face, it will be fine!) Sneak forward until you are extended and ready in plank position. Put hands or forearms on the ground. Lift the knees the way your body creates straight line.
9. Crouching hover plank
Start in the knee position. Keep your core tight, back straight and legs bent (in 90° angle), lift the knees. Balance on your arms and toes.
Now when you managed to perform the planking, escalate the game by adding other motions and asymmetric balance keeping. It will not only increase the number of engaged muscles but these motions will also improve your coordination and endurance.
10. Walking plank
Take your planks on the move by adding the upward and downward motion. Start in the standard plank position on the hands and toes. Slowly lower the right hand down on the forearm, then left hand the way you are supported by forearms. Put the right hand on the ground and start pushing the body back upward enabling the left hand to follow. Repeat it, now your left hand is the leading one. For maintaining the rhythm, sing „Follow the Leader“. Ignore any strange gazings in the gym; they are envious.
11. Chaturanga plank
Slowly lower down from basic position making sure that your shoulders are in a straight line above the hands until your body is in line with your hands. Keep the elbows the way they touch the ribs and the way the core is tight and nothing except your hands and toes touches the ground. Imagine that the ground is hot lava (or, you know, any surface which you wouldn’t want to touch. Floor in cinema, anyone? Be creative – time will be running faster!)
12. Extended plank
Add another extra motion of the shoulders to the standard planks by extending your arm as far in front of you as you can, while you are maintaining the right plank form.
13. X plank
For performing of this variant, there is no need to be one of the X-men (Even though it wouldn’t be bad! We will keep your secret). Start in the standard plank position. Move your legs to the sides until your feet are wider than the hip width. If it is hard enough, you can stay in this position (Y plank, perhaps?). In the other case, add extra work for the upper part of the body by walking with the hands wider than shoulder width until you are in the full X.
14. Bosu topside plank
By using BOSU (* half gymnastic ball with tight platform on the cut side), kneel down and place your forearms on the top of the bubble side. Lift your knees until you are in plank. Keep in the position!
15. Bosu walking plank
Do you remember walking plank (No. 10)? Now we will change your gentle stroll into hike. Start in the standard plank position with hands on the bubble side of Bosu. Lower down the forearms one after another. Get back upward into standard plank position. Repeat by starting with the opposite hand.
16. Single arm plank
Test your balance and strength! Start in the standard plank position. Gradually lift the right hand by extending it in front of you. Keep your back straight up (resist this impulse to lean your hips to the left) and imagine that you are reaching the only thing you have always wanted but you could never get it. Such as My Little Pony you asked for birthday three years in a row. No? Only I did?
17. Single leg plank
Start in the standard plank position. Lift one left behind you, while the body is kept straight and legs extended. Repeat it on the other side.
18. Side plank with lift leg
From the side plank with bottom foot, press into the ground, while you are lifting the top leg as high as you can without letting your hips to drop. For higher stability, try to do it on your forearms first, then do it on the hands. And if you are P!nk, do it on the rubber sling hanging upside down 6 meters above the stage while singing. No pressure though.
19. Knee-to-inside-elbow plank
You know the drill: Start in the standard plank position. Slowly move your right knee under and across your body toward the inside of the left elbow. Get as close as you can without dropping your right shoulder or hip. Repeat on the other side.
20. Knee-to-outside-elbow plank
Start in the standard plank position. Slowly move your right knee toward your right elbow. It will attempt you to look back how near your knee is – don’t do it! It will round your shoulder and lower your hips. Just get as far as you can without losing the form. If you will manage to touch. If you can get it all the way touch, you will get an extra credit and are excused from Friday’s final exam. Repeat on the other side.
21. Side plank crunch
Start with side plank. Push into the ground with bottom foot, while lifting top leg. Bend the knee and move it toward elbow. Try not to lean forward or backward. Repeat on the other side.
22. Plank with feet on fitness ball
Kneel down away from the fitness ball. Lift one leg behind you and place your shin bone or foot on the ball. (The ball will roll you away at this point, as balls do. For beginning, it helps to put the ball to the wall in order to not escape so far.) Lift the ball and also your second leg. Straight up into the plank position. Use your forearms or hands in dependance upon the height of the ball and your ability to balance.
23. Side plank a.k.a. Mermaid raise
Prepare the soundtrack from Little Mermaid and get into the position of side plank. Lower down your hip to the ground. Then change the motion and lift your hip as high as you can – you are beautiful rainbow! Singing is optional (but we are in).
24. Reverse plank hip lift
Start with sitting down on the floor with legs extended in front of you and with arms along the body. Place your hands tightly to the ground on each side and lift your hips as high as you can. Slowly lower them down to the floow (without touching the floor) and lift them again. To make it easier, start with bent knees and work up to extended legs.
25. Reverse plank leg raise
Start in the reversed plank position with lifted hips and head facing forward. Lift one leg as high as you can without lowering the hips. Repeat on each side. Take it slowly; you are not dancing Can Can.
26. Plank hip dip
From the standard plank position, slowly dip both hips to right side. Go as low as you can without touching the floor. Lift back into standard plank position and repeat on the other side. When doing the last plank, don’t hesitate to drop on the floor. Wait for an applause; you deserve it!
27. Autograph-a-fitness-ball plank
This one is useful not only for your brain but also for your abs! (Six-packs brain? Why not!) Kneel down toward fitness ball. Put the forearms on the ball and lift the knees into the plank position. Move the ball with your elbows and “write” your name in cursive. Start with your name (unless it is “Ed”, in this case you should write (longer) name of someone else). Work up to the writing of the whole name with last name. Or you can write your name in combination with last name of someone you are in love with as in high school, only without the public humiliation!
28. TRX plank with abduction/adduction
Kneel down away from TRX. Reach behind you and place your feet into loops. Place your hands to the ground and lift the knees into the plank position. Spread the legs as wide as you can and slowly join them together working on your outside and inner hips and legs.
29. Side plank thread-through
From side plank position, lift your top arm heading upward as if giving high-five with imaginary friend. (If you have a real one, you are free to give him this high-five.) By slight bending in the waist, reach down and “thread” your top arm through the space between your side and floor. You should feel deep side crunch. Get back into starting position and repeat on the other side.
30. Plank Jack
Start in the standard plank position with legs together. Spread the legs by jump as if doing horizontal jumpingjack. Join the legs together by jump. (If the jumping is too hard for you, you can walk with legs apart, always one leg after another.) Do not try to add the jumpingjack arms; in the fight between you and gravity, gravity always wins.
31. Rowing plank
Holding a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand, get into standard plank position. Make sure that your weights have flat edges, otherwise you are not able to balance on them. Bend your right elbow and slowly lift it upward to the ceiling holding your elbows closely to your hip. Lower down the weights and repeat on the other side.
If you are really ready for a challenge, you will love these circus tricks, ehm, advanced planking variations. They will test your balance, strength of the core and tolerance to people who will be staring at you while you are exercising. (Don’t worry, they are amazed by your strength and resourcefulness. By this and the sweat splash under you.)
32. Bird dog plank
Start in the standard plank position. Lift your right leg behind you, then lift your left arm in front of you. Keep your body in a straight line from the fingertips down to toes. You will find out soon that your core and balance work the most.
33. Fingertip plank
It is exactly how it sounds, don’t overthink it. Don’t break your fingers too. Or ours, for making you to try it.
34. BOSU wobbly plank
Flip Bosu the way the side with bubble is heading to the ground and flat side is heading upward. Kneel down to the Bosu and put your hand at the top of Bosu grabbing the edges. Lift the knees to plank position. Keep in the position! Move your body weight from side to side, forward and backward for the real challenge. The real professionals can make it with eyes closed. On one leg. In a sea full of sharks. Okay, maybe without those sharks.
35. Sphinx plank
Starting in the forearm plank position, push up on your hands. Lower down to the forearms with both arms at the same time. It sounds easier than it is done. Exercise until you can manage the motion down.
36. Plank rollout
Start on the forearms on fitness ball. Push arms forward in order to move the fitness ball several centimeters away from you. Keep in the position for a few seconds and then roll back to you. It is a very small motion but you can feel it in a big way!
37. Side plank with bottom leg lift
Start in the side plank position and lift your top leg on the ground directly under your bottom leg. Lift your bottom leg using top leg to stabilize you. You can keep with lift leg or to move your knee upward to the elbow.
Funny fact: If you lean too backward, you can feel sharp pain in the groin, so be careful and go slowly. (Well, it is not as funny as just fact.)
38. Plank drag with feet on towel
Grab a towel (if you are on wooden or cement floor) or two paper plates (if you are on the carpet). Get into standard plank position with legs on towel/plates. Walk by hands 10 steps ahead and drag legs behind you. Towel/plates should enable your hands to slide over the floor.
39. Sea with plank crawl
Start on the forearms with both feet on weight plate. By using forearms, drag forward pulling the plate behind you the way Ursula was dragging her tentacled booty out of the ocean. (Some people call this exercise “army plank crawl” but sea witch is more entertaining.)
40. Plank plate drag
This motion can be really boring (sorry) but you will appreciate how well it works for your abs. Get into standard plank position with both feet on the weight plate (experiment a little with finding out which weight is challenging for you). By contraction of your core, drag the plate to you until you are in crouched position. Push the plate out and repeat.
You can use a towel instead of plate at this exercise.
41. Scorpion plank
Scorpions may sting but this plank will cause its own pain type. Start in the standard plank position. Lift your left leg, bend it in knee. (This is your stinger!) Lower yourself halfway toward the ground by bending your hands and extending your left leg behind your back touching the left toes the ground on your right side. Push back and repeat on the other side.
42. 90-degree bird dog plank
After managing bird dog plank (No. 32), try to extend your left arm and right leg toward the sides making 90-degree angle with each limb.
43. Plank crunch on fitness ball
Always lift one leg after another placing legs on fitness ball. (If you want to have funny party trick, start with fitness ball in front of you and roll over it to the plank position. You are Superman!) From the plank position, pull the knees toward the chest crunching your abs and rolling the ball toward you. Push the ball back out to you.
44. Plank pike-up on fitness ball
This motion is similar to plank crunch (No. 43), however, it requires more balance and core strength. From the plank position with legs on the ball, lift the body into the reversed V form (hips upward!) bringing the ball toward your hands. Keep your legs straight and try to get your hips as close to your shoulder as you can. Your butt should be straight up in the air.
45. TRX plank 3-way crunch
Three is the magic number! Start in plank position with toes in TRX stirrups. Crunch your knees toward your left elbow and then back, move them toward chest and back again. Finally, crunch them to your right elbow and back – these three crunches mean one repetition!
46. Plank with cross-under toe touch
Start in the standard plank position with legs spread apart little wider than hip width. Keeping the left leg as straight as you can, move your body until your left hand touches the leg. Repeat on the other side. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings! Warning: This motion is not recommended for those who have Tyrannosaurus Rex hands.
47. Plank climber on slides
Put your both hands on the paper plates and lift yourself into standard plank position. Keeping in the plank position (you know, without sticking your butt up in the air), move your right leg forward to your hands. Quickly change so the left leg is forward. Alternate forward and backward as if you are running on one place. On your hands. Because you are a bear.
Do you want to know more about plank? Take a look at our article What will happen to you when doing plank every day. Will you try any of these variations? Or do you perform them regularly? Share your experiences with plank in the comments. In case you like the article, support it by sharing.