If you’ve ever held a plank for more than 20 seconds, you’ve experienced first-hand one of the best calorie-torching, abs-ripping, core-shredding exercises in existence. What if we told you there are ways to make your planks even more effective? Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, we came up with 7 tips on how to intensify your plank!
1. Proper Form
Before we get into amplifying anything, we’ll review some plank basics. After all proper form is everything when it comes to plank workouts. From a push-up position, rest your upper body on your forearms. Your arms should form 90-degree angles, and your shoulders should remain engaged. Your spine must remain straight from your neck to your tailbone. Take caution to not arch your back or let your hips raise up and out of alignment. Contract your abs to brace your core. Never sacrifice this basic form.
2. Shoulder Step-Ups
To intensify your shoulder workout, start in the basic plank position. Pick up and straighten one arm, with your weight still on it. Do the same motion with the other arm so that you end with your weight supported by two straight arms. Pause here. Then, one arm at a time, return to the starting position. This is one rep. For shoulder work, this variation of the plank is more effective.
3. The Jumping Jack Flash
This has to be one of the most effective ways to amplify a plank. Starting in the basic position, (are you ready for this?) jump both feet out to the sides so that in a single movement your feet go from centered to shoulder width apart. Without too much of a pause, jump your feet back to center. Do not let your upper body rotate – the more stationary your upper body remains, the more your core has to work. This is one rep. Repeat if you dare.
4. Extended Arm Plank
From the basic starting position, transfer your body weight to one arm while lifting and straightening the other arm out in front of you. Your straightened arm should run parallel with your body. Pause here, then return to start. Complete the same with the other arm. This is one rep. This variation intensifies the workout for the arm that is supporting your weight. Additionally, fewer limbs in contact with the ground forces your core to work harder to maintain your form.
5. The Death Roll
From the starting position, rotate into a side plank and keep your body straight. Your supporting arm should be at a 90-degree angle from your body. Your other arm can rest along your side that’s facing the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds. Moving through the starting position briefly, rotate to the other side for another 10 second side plank. This is one rep.
6. Planking Frog Tucks
For this variation, start in a push-up position (straight arms). Bring one knee toward your shoulder and place your foot as close to your hand as possible. Do not let your hips raise or sag – keep your head, hips and shoulders aligned as usual. Return your front foot to the starting position and repeat with your other leg. This is one rep. If your foot doesn’t reach all the way up to your hand, make it a goal and work up to that. This move requires core strength, balance, and more flexibility in your hips than a regular plank.
7. Stability Ball/Bench Plank
In this variation, your body’s in the basic plank position – rest on your forearms with your core tight, and your body straight. Now comes the intense part: instead of resting your forearms on the floor, rest them on top the stability ball, and your feet on a bench. This variation is a plank on steroids. Viewed from the side it will look as if you are levitating off the floor. Once you get into position, hold this pose for as long as you can, working up to a minute hold.
As holds true with any form of exercise this intense, you want to ensure your body’s stretched and loosened adequately before you begin. If your muscles are warm you’ll be more flexible, and less prone to injury. You will want to stretch again in a cool-down phase after these exercises, just as you would with any other workout. Since planking of any kind taxes your core muscle groups the most, it is vitally important to do some abdominal stretching after being engaged for this length of time. To give your abs a good stretch, simply lay on your back on the floor, and extend your arms above your head to feel your middle lengthen out. These variations take work, but your gym buddies will be in awe as you flex those abs of steel!