Six Plank Variations to Strengthen and Challenge Your Core

Because you can only hold a traditional plank for so long before becoming bored.

plank variations

Photo by Christina Chu

Remember those times in elementary school gym class where you had to do the plank test? Turns out, your P.E. teachers really had your future fitness in mind.

Planks are essential in every training program with my clients. They are not just a great core exercise, but they help with trunk stabilization which is crucial for heavy lifts, running long distances, and sitting upright for long periods of time.

To execute a perfect plank, here are three tips to set yourself up for success:

  1. Think about tucking your belly button into your spine. This will help prevent the arch in the lower back and engage your entire trunk.
  2. Squeeze more than just your abs. Your glutes, upper back, and shoulder blades should also be engaged during the plank to maximize efficiency and prevent injury.
  3. Don’t forget to breathe! It is quite common for people to hold their breath during a stationary exercise like a plank. Incorporate breathing as part of practicing your form, and only move up if you have mastered breathing.

We here you though—planks can get pretty boring. So, below are six variations of the common plank that I use with my clients who need an extra challenge.

Forearm Plank

Lying on your stomach stack your elbows directly under your shoulders, with your forearms on the ground and lift your hips up. This is a good beginner variation, and one I use to test a client’s core strength for the first time. Start with 30 seconds (or however long before form starts to deteriorate), and build up time from there.

Plank Leg Raise

In a tall plank (or push-up) position, with your hands stacked below your shoulders and your feet stepped back, slowly lift one leg while keeping your hips parallel to the ground. Then place that foot back down and lift up the other. Start with 8-10 reps on each side.

Plank Shoulder Taps

In  a tall plank position, bring your right hand to left shoulder, place down, then left hand to right shoulder. Focus on keeping your hips level. Start with 8-10 reps on each side.

Plank Leg and Arm Raise

In a tall plank position, raise your right hand and left foot slowly and under control simultaneously. Complete the same on the opposite sides. Focus on keeping the rest of your body still. Start with 8-10 reps on each side.

Yoga Ball Plank

Using a yoga ball, execute a forearm plank with your elbows on the ball. Safety comes first, so if this feels out of control, either move to a larger yoga ball or test it out with a Bosu ball (one of those stability balls that have a flat side) instead. Focus on keeping the ball still. Start with 30 seconds.

Plank Rollouts

Starting in the yoga ball plank position, carefully roll your elbows forward, maintaining the stable plank. Roll your elbows back to starting position, keeping everything under control. Begin with 8-10 reps or 30 seconds.

Did you try these moves out? Tag us at @BeWellBos and @ChristinaYChu on Instagram to share your hard work!