There's no doubt that 'the plank' is one of the best core exercises on the planet. But for many of us, endless sets at the end of each and every workout can get a little boring.
As a set of stabiliser muscles, the abdominals respond best to isometric work such as planks, so there's no surprise it's such an effective movement for building core strength. But in order to reap maximum benefits (and to prevent exercise boredom) it's important to employ different variations of this exercise into your workout regime.
Ready to plank your way to a rock solid core? Here are 12 variations you need to try.
Position a TRX with the straps at around shin height. Face away from the TRX, and whilst kneeling, place your feet in the loops. Now crawl forward until your upper body is extended in front of you, prepared for plank position.
You can hold your plank either on your hands of your forearms. Be sure to brace your core at all times to maintain stability.
For an extra challenge, double up on the TRX straps by placing your hands in a separate TRX that sits in front of you. This is an advanced movement and shouldn't be attempted until you have mastered the single TRX plank for a minimum of 60 seconds.
Knee Drive Plank
Knee drive planks add a challenging dynamic element to a standard plank. Holding a standard plank position, resting your weight on either your hands or your forearms, drive your left knee forward slowly until it reaches your left elbow. Bring your leg back, return to the starting position, and repeat on the right hand side. Try to perform 10 reps on each side.
Using a bosu (bubble side down), adopt a plank position with your forearms on the bosu. Hold tight, as this one activates the transverse abdominis much more effectively than a standard plank.
The best way to describe the chaturanga is as the base of a press up position. If you're like most people, your arms will tire first, so be sure to brace your core and squeeze your glutes to remove some of the tension from the abdominals.
The chaturanga can be modified depending on which muscle group you wish to target the most. Use a narrow hand position to target the shoulders and triceps, or a wider hand position for greater emphasis on the chest.
For greater shoulder emphasis, plank with your hands extended out in front of you, leaning forward onto your hands and keeping a neutral spine. For an added challenge, dovetail from a regular plank position (on hands) to an extended plank by slowly crawling your hands forward whilst keeping your feet rooted in the same position and bracing your core. Once your body is fully extended, crawl back in again and repeat.
Arm Tap Plank
Starting in a plank position on your hands that replicates the top of a press up, hold firm. Now, lift your left arm off the floor and touch your right shoulder. Return it to the floor, then repeat the movement with the opposite hand. Perform 15 - 20 reps on each side.
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, adopt a standard plank position. Bend your left elbow and slowly lift it up towards the ceiling, bringing the weight up to your chest in a rowing movement. Lower back down with control, then repeat on the opposite side. Work with lighter dumbbells and focus more on the stability aspect, rather than going for rowing strength.
Start in a standard plank position, and move your feet together until your heels touch. Shift your body weight onto your left hand side, taking the weight off the right foot and lifting your right arm up toward the ceiling. You should now be balanced on your left side, with just your left arm and leg touching the floor.
Hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Side planks are a great way to engage the obliques and the serratus anterior, which are essential for complete core stability.
One Arm Plank
Adopt a standard plank position, and slowly lift one arm until it is fully extended in front of you. Keep your back flat, resisting the urge to tilt your hips to the opposite side of your arm. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then repeat with the opposite side.
One Leg Plank
Same as the one arm plank, except you're extending one leg instead of one arm. This is a great move for targeting the lower abdominals and also recruiting the glutes.
Bird Dog Plank
Ready for an extra challenge that will test your balance and co-ordination? Adopt a standard plank position, and lift your left arm out in front of you, fully extended as in a one arm plank. Now, extend your right leg out until straight and parallel with your arm. The only parts of your body touching the floor should be your right forearm and your left foot. Hold for 15 - 20 seconds, then switch sides.
Medicine Ball Plank Rollout
This one is the hardest yet. Start in a forearm plank with your arms resting on a medicine ball. Now slowly push your arms forward to move the ball a few inches out in front of you. Hold for a count of five, then roll it back in. Keep your core braced at all times. This movement is a great way to build up strength to eventually work up to full abdominal rollouts with a wheel.
Ready to get planking? Experiment with these 12 variations and get ready to reveal a rock solid core!
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