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January 13, 2022 8 min read

Planks are an excellent way to tighten your core, slim your abs, and shape your waistline. When done in the proper form, a plank will tone your back, glutes, hamstrings, arms, and shoulders at the same time. The basic forearm plank is the best place to start, but you can get even more benefits out of your planks by trying one of the many variations we have listed below.

Doing Planks: Following the Proper Form

Start by doing some dynamic stretches or joint mobilizers, such as knee circles, hip circles, arm circles, or bodyweight lunges with a slight torso rotation. It is quite easy in most gyms to find a seat or bench to use as a place to get in a few very effective stretches while you are preparing to do planks. 

Activating your glutes before doing planks is important because most people have very underactive glutes.

When your glutes do not function properly, you do not perform as well as you could. Performing some basic glute activation during your warm up will help to loosen your hips and prepare your system for the plank movement.

Many experts now recommend planking over push-ups, crunches, or sit-ups, since planks put less strain on your spine and hip flexors while building stronger core muscles.

Building a strong core can help prevent back injuries and improve stability.

Good core strength not only improves your balance and stability, it also helps to prevent lower back injury. Also, having strong core muscles will make it easier for you to do most physical activities. Planks will certainly help you improve your abs, but building up your core strength is going to take more than just learning planks.

You also need to make sure you are doing enough other core exercises with the proper form that are targeting your  rectus abdominis specifically and nurturing the growth of all of those muscle groups in your core properly. 

Doing planks in the proper form will help you reap a ton of benefits.

Follow the step by step instructions for each of the variations below, and be sure to complete the full range of motion for each exercise that you do.

Best Plank Variation #1: Forearm Plank

 

  1. Lie down on your mat and place your forearms directly underneath your shoulders. Your hands should be extended and your body lengthened. 
  2. Tuck in your tailbone and ensure you engage your glutes, triceps, and abs to prevent your spine from arching toward the mat. 
  3. Tuck in your toes under and lift your knees, so that your body forms a straight line. 

Try holding your plank position for 20 to 30 seconds, building up to a minute or longer. Let your eyes fall toward your mat, approximately one foot in front of you, so that your neck is in a neutral position.

Best Plank Variation #2: Forearm to Full Plank

 

Now that you know how to do a traditional plank (or standard plank), you can transition between forearm and full plank. 

  1. Start in the forearm plank position. 
  2. Move and straighten one arm at a time to lift yourself into the full plank. 

Try these slowly first to master the transition. Pick up the pace according to your comfort level. Aim to repeat for 30 seconds for one set, performing up to three sets. Build until you can perform the plank for one minute or longer, as long as you can safely hold proper form. Minimize swaying your hips as you alternate sides. 

Best Plank Variation #3: Side Plank

 

  1. Lie on one side. Ensure your elbow is directly underneath your shoulder, with your arm flat.
  2. Keep your knees on the ground, stack your legs and raise your hips. Try placing your hand on your hip or raising it straight toward the ceiling. 
  3. Squeeze your glutes as you hold for 30 seconds to a minute. 

When you are comfortable with the side plank position, try lifting from a position of stacked feet instead of from your knees.

Then, you can increase difficulty and build greater stability with variations like arm reaches, or raising and lowering your hip. Hold one arm and leg up like a starfish or add a knee pull to challenge yourself further (you can even hold dumbbells if you like).

Best Plank Variation #4: Walking Plank

 

Walking sideways with your plank will go a long way toward strengthening your core as well as your upper and lower body muscle groups.

These muscles include the deltoids, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and even calves. 

  1. Start in a full plank position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders. 
  2. Activate your glutes and abs to prevent injury and gain maximum benefit. 
  3. Begin to shift laterally by simultaneously moving your right hand and foot to the right. 
  4. Lift your left hand and foot to meet in the center and return to the plank position. 

Complete five steps to the right and then five again to the left for one set. Beginners should aim for three sets and slowly work up to five sets. 

Best Plank Variation #5: Reverse Plank

 

By building your strength, you will start gaining greater body awareness and control. This full-body exercise targets several muscle groups, including the glutes, hamstrings, abs, obliques, triceps, and shoulders.

You can either do this exercise on a mat or with a foam roller.

Using the foam roller is a more advanced form of the exercise. It challenges your triceps while helping alleviate wrist strain. 

  1. Sit tall on the floor in an 'L' position with legs extended long in front of you. 
  2. Place your hands behind you, either on the floor or on top of a foam roller. 
  3. Engage your glutes, core, and arms to lift your hips, forming a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. Never let your hips drop or lift too high. Make sure your shoulders are drawn down, away from your ears. 

Focus on engaging the back of your arms and think of lifting up off of the ground in order to relieve any pressure that has built up on your wrists. Take long deep breaths, and if your lower back starts to arch at all, remember to take a break.

Best Plank Variation #6: Spider-Man Plank (Knee to Elbow)

 

  1. Begin in your full plank position. 
  2. Pull the knee toward the outside of your elbow and then push it back to return to a plank position. 
  3. Make sure that your knee is open, so that the inner thigh hovers over the floor as you move your leg. 
  4. Exhale as the knee rounds forward and inhale as you push back. 

Start with up to ten reps on each side. You should be aiming for up to twenty reps on each side as you get stronger. A little bit of rocking is fine, but avoid any rotation or sagging in the hips in order to really work your obliques, abs, and lower spine.

Best Plank Variation #7: Plank Jacks

 

  1. Begin in a forearm plank. 
  2. Jump both feet outward, wider than hip-distance apart. 
  3. Immediately jump them back into the original plank position. 

Plank jacks should be performed quickly, in a similar style to regular jumping jacks. Aim for three sets, 60 seconds each, or do as many as you can safely perform with excellent plank form. Throughout the exercise, be careful not to raise or lower your hips out of the straight-line position. 

Best Plank Variation #8: Planks with Shoulder Taps

 

Planks with shoulder taps work several muscle groups, including your hip flexors, abs, back, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. 

  1. Start with a full plank modified on your knees. 
  2. Pull your abs in tight and prevent your body from swaying as you lift one arm, bent at the elbow, and cross your hand to your opposite shoulder. 
  3. Repeat on the other side with the opposite arm, and alternate your movements. 

We recommend that you start with 10 to 15 reps, followed by a rest, and then repeat for another set. Aim to build up strength so you can perform sets lasting 30 seconds each.

For more of a challenge, lift your knees off the ground to a regular full plank.

As you get more advanced, bring your feet together. This makes maintaining stability more difficult. 

Best Plank Variation #9: Mountain Climbers

 

Mountain climbers can activate your whole body, which makes them a really effective abs workout combined with a sharp burst of cardio. Be sure to keep your wrists, arms, and shoulders stacked throughout the entire exercise.

  1. Start in a high plank position. 
  2. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and use your upper body and pelvis to stabilize yourself. 
  3. Tighten your abs and draw your right knee toward your chest without letting your hips lift. 
  4. Extend your leg back to the starting position to complete one side. 
  5. Alternate with your left knee to finish the rep. 

As you become more comfortable, you can pick up speed. The faster you go, the more cardiovascular benefit you gain, but be sure to still safely maintain proper form. 

Best Plank Variation #10: Swiss Ball Jackknife

 

Swiss ball jack-knives are very good ways to build strength and stability. It is important to keep a neutral spine throughout this exercise. 

  1. Start in a full plank position with your feet on the exercise ball. 
  2. Activate your abs to maintain stability and align your spine. 
  3. Roll the ball forward with your feet, pulling your knees toward you. Try not to drop your hips or round your back.
  4. Extend your legs while rolling the ball back to return to the starting plank position. 

Initially, you can try for two sets of up to six repetitions. Moving the ball further back increases the resistance on your abs.

Some Other Important Tips

It sounds easy enough to do a plank. Just raise your body off the ground and hold that position for 30 seconds or more. But because planking uses so many muscle groups in one exercise, it is actually a  deceptively good core workout.  

With all of the variations we’ve listed above, you can keep challenging yourself, especially if you are trying to lose bodyweight by doing planks and other strength training.

Planks are especially good as part of a HIIT training program. 

To start losing even more body fat, you might also want to try a customized supplement such as SHREDDED-AF, which is an advanced multistage thermogenic that focuses on boosting your metabolism, suppressing your cravings, and providing all-day energy and mental clarity without a loss of energy. 

One way to develop an effective nutrition and workout plan is to  take a closer look at how a lot of male models work to maintain their bodies with a typical two-day exercise routine for staying fit and lean, as well as some basic diet and supplement rules.

You’ll find that a balanced and protein-rich diet can help keep the fat off and lose more weight, which will lead to better overall wellness. Try to gradually increase the number of planks you do each session and the amount of time you stay in a plank (or modified plank) position over the course of time.

Warming Up Before and After Doing Planks

A proper warm up is essential before you start any of these exercises. Even an easy warm up with light dumbbells really does get your body prepared and raises your core temperature to make your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints more flexible and mobile to improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury.

It also increases blood flow, which supports your body during exercise by better facilitating the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. 

If you plan to do a lot of plank exercises regularly, always remember to warm up correctly before and after each workout session. This helps reduce your risk of experiencing back pain or other injuries. Your results will be highly influenced by the quality of your warm ups, and also on how well you can recover from your plank workouts.