Planks are an isometric exercise, which means you hold the stationary position for a goal-driven period of time — usually around a minute. Holding a plank is hard enough, but introducing variations really ramps up the intensity and makes for a more dynamic workout.
Ready for rock-hard abs? The following plank variations will help you carve out a strong core and sculpt your mid-section. Your plank should always form a straight line from your head to your heels (no high butts or saggy bums). Make sure your belly button is pulled in to brace and activate the core.
1. Side Planks With Hip Lifts
Lie on your right side, and prop yourself up on your right elbow. Your elbow should be directly underneath your shoulder, with your forearm and hand flat on the ground. Stack your legs on top of one another. Place your left hand on your left hip. Slowly raise your hips off the ground by engaging your core, and pushing against the floor with your feet and your forearm until your body forms a straight line. To begin: contract through the right obliques to lift the hips as high as you can from a horizontal position. Then drop the hips back to horizontal and repeat. Continue lifting the hips, doing 10 reps, then switch sides.
2. Plank To Push Up
This exercise is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Start in plank position on your forearms, propping yourself up on your elbows and your toes, with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders. Then, transfer yourself into a pushup position, replacing your forearms with your hands. The movement should be up, up, down, down. Your body should stay still and not rock; keep your hips parallel to the ground at all times. For added difficulty, perform a push-up when in the push-up position before returning to plank.
3. Mountain Climbers
Start in plank position on your hands. Keep your hips down (don’t bend at the waist) and quickly bring your right knee as close to your chest as you can. Do the same movement with your left knee, quickly as if in a running man motion. Continue alternating for 45 seconds, keeping the movements quick and continuous.
4. Stability Ball Planks
Prop yourself up in plank position on your forearms, and on a stability ball, so that your toes are all that’s in contact with the ground. Your elbows should be under your shoulders so that your arms and torso form a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute. Once you can do a minute, extend your arms to increase the angle between your arms and your torso as much as you can. Keeping your hips down, use your abs to roll the stability back toward you, and bring the angle between your arms and torso back to 90-degrees.
5. Walking Planks
Start in push-up position. Walk your hands and feet out to one side and back and perform the same movement on the other side. Complete 10 reps.
6. Plate Drags
You’ll need a lot of room for this one to move. If you don’t have sliders, you can use paper plates or a towel as an alternative. Start in push-up position with your feet on the sliders. Walk yourself forward with your hands, careful to keep your hips up and your shoulders aligned with your wrists. Don’t let your body fishtail; everything should remain straight. Once you reach the end, walk backwards to your starting position. Repeat 5 times.