If you’re serious about building core strength and sculpting your abs, a plank workout is one of the best ways to ways to do it. There are a lot of reasons why planks are so great, but here are just a few: They work all of the muscles of your core, including those sought-after “six-pack muscles” (or rectus abdominus), the transverse abdominus, back, internal and external obliques and hips.
They’re also great for improving your posture, reducing back pain and increasing your overall strength and stability. Plus, in addition to being some of the best core exercises for men and women, planks are better at burning calories than crunches because they’re a dynamic movement that works your arms and legs, too.
Doing the same moves over and over can sometimes get boring, and result in diminishing returns. To help you get the most out of your plank workout, we’ve gathered five awesome plank exercises (and their many variations), for people at every skill level. Try them out and feel the burn!
1. Forearm Plank
This may be one of the easiest forms of the plank, but it’s important to get the form correct. And even in its easier forms, planks are still great core exercises for men and women. To get into a forearm plank, get down on the floor as though you were going to do a pushup. Then, bend your arms 90 degrees and rest them beneath you so that you’re supporting yourself from your elbows to your hands. Keep your elbows about shoulder-width apart, and your elbows directly underneath your shoulders.
In this and all plank variations, try to make your body make a straight line from your feet to your shoulders. Don’t let your hips either rise up or lower down (no sagging or high butts!), and keep a neutral neck. See how long you can hold this pose. Try working up to longer and longer times, until you can hold this pose for two minutes or longer.
Ways you can take this variation to the next level include lifting one leg or one arm straight out (while using your core to keep your body level) or resting your forearms on an exercise ball. Alternately, you can try taking one leg at a time and moving it laterally outward, tapping your toes against the ground, then returning to the centre.
2. Straight Arm Plank
A straight-arm plank is our next plank variation. The position for this is similar to the forearm plank, but instead of supporting yourself on your forearms, your arms will be straight, and you’ll hold yourself up on your hands, like the start of a push-up. Make sure your wrists are directly under your shoulders. Spread your fingers and press your hands into the floor. Gently press your shoulders back along your spine to elongate your neck.
Just as with the forearm plank, you can turn the straight-arm plank into a series of super plank exercises by lifting your legs or arms, one at a time. Another variation is to raise your hands one at a time and tap your opposite shoulder. For an even bigger challenge, try lifting your opposite arm and leg straight up at the same time.
You can also try wrist turns. While you’re holding a straight arm plank, turn one of your hands slowly backward until it faces your feet. Hold it there for several breaths, then turn it around forward again. Repeat on the other side.
Want to add some cardio? Jump your legs out and in quickly to perform a plank jack, or raise each knee towards the opposite elbow in quick succession to do mountain climbers.
3. Plank Taps
Begin in a plank position on your hands. Tap the opposite shoulder with your hand, keeping your core tight to keep body from swaying, so you’re able to tap from one side to the other. Do 15 to 20 taps (or 30 seconds) for one set. For the next round, instead of tapping on your shoulder, try tapping on the opposite knee.
4. Plank Walk-Up To Push-Up
5. Side Plank
A side plank is another great exercise that will really help you sculpt your core. Lie on your right side, keeping your knees straight. Support yourself on your forearm and lift up so your body makes a straight line. You can also do this with a straight arm, and as a variation, try lifting your top leg into the air. Keep tight throughout the exercise. Repeat on both sides.