Your core is your innermost powerhouse. It consists of a large network of muscles, ligaments, and tendons that together function to stabilize the body. This network is also known as the abdominal wall or abdominal muscles.
When your core is strong, it ensures that you maintain the correct posture and keep your spine in its natural alignment. Your core also helps you breathe efficiently and effectively, prevents backache and other spinal conditions, and makes it easier to perform everyday movements such as squatting, walking, or bending over.
Keeping your core stable while doing any type of exercise can be challenging; however, by employing different types of plank exercises at different intensities you can build up strength in this area.
Here’s what you need to know about different types of plank exercises to ensure that your core stays strong all year round
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1. High Plank/Basic Plank/Traditional Plank
Also known as the standard plank, classic plank, or traditional plank, the high plank is a great exercise to do if you are looking to get your core stronger.
The high plank is when you place your hands on the ground, and then lift yourself up onto your toes. The key to this exercise is not just to raise your body off the ground, but also to keep your back straight and keep your core engaged. This exercise can be done with or without weights.
To perform the high plank:
- Start by placing both of your hands on the ground with your fingers pointing up towards the ceiling.
- Then slowly lift yourself up onto your toes until your body forms a straight line from head to toe (or at least as straight as possible).
- Maintain good posture by keeping your back straight and chest lifted.
2. Side Plank
A side plank is a great way to build strength and stability in your core. This exercise helps engage your abdominals and helps to improve posture. By strengthening your core, you will be able to prevent injuries and increase balance.
Side planks can be done with your forearm on the ground and your head and foot on an exercise ball. This variation emphasizes the oblique muscles, which run from the side of your waist to your hip and back.
Side planks are a great way to fight off that fatigue that sets in after a few sets of squats. They also improve digestion, as these muscles are responsible for the movement of gas through your intestines. Side planks are also great for improving flexibility as well as helping you burn calories.
3. Reverse Plank
A reverse plank is a type of plank that targets the core. It involves keeping the body in a straight line while holding the weight of the upper body on the legs and arms. It is a type of abdominal exercise, which mainly focuses on the abdominal muscles.
A reverse plank can be done with or without weights. In terms of execution, it is pretty simple as you just have to hold your body up in a straight line while keeping your neck, back and hips completely still.
The most important thing is to keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement since this will help you maintain proper posture and protect your lower back from injury.
Reverse planks are a great way to strengthen your core muscles, improve balance and coordination, burn calories, and build strength.
4. Forearm Plank/Elbow Plank
The elbow plank, also known as the forearm plank, is one of the best core exercises for toning your upper body. It works your arms, back, and abs. It’s also great for increasing flexibility in your elbows and forearms.
To do it:
- Lie on your stomach with your elbows directly underneath you.
- Raise your hips off the ground by pushing through the heels.
- Hold this position for as long as you can.
- Lower yourself back down to the ground and repeat.
One of the most important things to remember when doing the elbow plank is to keep your elbows pressed into the ground at all times. This will ensure that you’re working out both sides of your arms at once.
You should also keep your shoulders pressed down and away from your ears. If you don’t, they could end up rolling forward, which can make it difficult to complete the exercise properly.
5. The Knee Plank
The knee plank is a simple exercise that builds strength and stability in the hips, core, and lower-body muscles. It also improves balance and coordination.
To perform the knee plank:
- Start on all fours with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your knees directly above your toes and your core tight as you bend at the hips to lower yourself into a push-up position.
- Slowly return back to starting position, and then repeat for a total of 20 reps.
One key to performing this exercise correctly is to make sure your body is as stable as possible during each repetition. If you are having difficulty keeping proper form, use a wall or chair to support yourself throughout the movement.
6. Single-Arm Plank
Single-arm planks are the perfect planks exercise for those that are strapped or injured. You can perform them in the same position as the other plank variations, but with just one hand.
This exercise takes some of the weight off your core, making it easier to perform at a lower intensity. This is perfect for those who have a shoulder or elbow injury which means they can’t hold a traditional plank position.
The single-arm plank is a basic move that involves holding a straight, extended arm while in a pushup position. The goal is to hold the straight arm statically while maintaining a strong core and glute engagement throughout the entire movement.
When compared to the traditional pushup, the single-arm plank offers the benefits of dynamic core activation and greater upper body stability. It is also an excellent exercise for beginners and can be performed with or without weights.
One of the most common mistakes made with this exercise is rounding the back/changing the neutral spine position during the pushup phase. This results in an unstable platform for the shoulders, which puts excessive strain on the neck and upper back muscles.
To avoid this problem, keep your core engaged and glutes tight throughout the duration of each repetition.
7. Plank with Leg Lifts
Plank with leg lifts is a plank variation that incorporates both lower- and upper-body planks. This is a great way to mix up your plank routine and make sure your core is challenged in a variety of ways.
You can perform a plank with leg lifts with straight legs to work your lower abs and obliques, or with your legs bent and your feet off the ground to work your upper abs and shoulders. This is a great plank exercise for both men and women, as it’s an effective way to strengthen both your front and back sides.
Plank with leg lifts can be a variation of the classic plank, side plank, or even the elbow plank. To do the plank:
- Start with your hands on the ground, either palms-down or palms-up. Make sure that you’re in a pushup position, with your hips and shoulders stacked over each other.
- Once you’re in this position, lift one leg up off the ground, keeping your hips and shoulders tightly stacked over each other. This can be done by lifting one knee or both knees at once. Don’t let your hips sag or lean back — keep your core engaged to prevent any unwanted movement.
- Hold this position for 1-3 seconds before lowering back down into the pushup position.
- Repeat as many times as needed until you’re feeling confident and comfortable with the movement.
8. Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers are an excellent way to work on your upper body strength, especially your core and shoulders. They also provide a great cardio workout by requiring you to keep your heart rate up.
Mountain climbers exercise is a plank variation that moves your body in multiple planes of motion. It’s an effective core workout that works the entire body, including your shoulders and arms. The key to this exercise is to keep your core engaged at all times.
As you climb, focus on contracting and releasing your abs, obliques, and lower back muscles. Try not to let your hips sag or round out as you go up and down the mountain.
If you can’t hold a plank for five seconds, add a medicine ball or resistance band between your feet to challenge your balance and core strength. Mountain climbers can be done anywhere: at home, in the office, or on the go.
Mountain climbers is a good alternative to traditional sit-ups because you are working multiple muscle groups at once.
9. Up-Down Plank
The up-down plank is a variation of the classic plank. Instead of holding your body flat, you are laying back and then pushing yourself up. This adds an element of difficulty to a basic plank as you must actively push up against gravity.
You can also do this with your forearms by interlacing them and pushing them up against the mat. It’s an advanced variation that should only be attempted by those with strong core muscles who can support their weight while they are in a plank position.
The key to the up-down plank is to keep your core engaged the entire time. This will allow you to maintain proper form as you move through each rep.
10. Plank Hip Dips
Plank hip dips are a great exercise to do at the gym or at home. They work your core and lower body, and it’s easy to make them part of a regular fitness routine.
Like all exercises, there are two key factors that determine how effective they will be: how well you execute them and how challenging they are. If you can’t complete a full repetition without stopping or if it is too easy for you, then it may not be enough of an effort expenditure to make a difference in your core and hip strength.
However, if you can do more than a few full repetitions with good form and correct mechanics, then this is a great way to challenge your body and get stronger as a result!
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should I hold my plank?
There is no specific time frame that you should hold your plank for when training core stability. The amount of time you need to hold a proper plank will vary between individuals based on their fitness level and training experience. It’s important that you don’t try to push yourself too hard in an attempt to build endurance quickly; instead, try adding additional sets with less time in between sets so that you can gradually build up your endurance without risking injury or straining your muscles unnecessarily.
What is the difference between a front plank and a side plank?
A front plank is performed with your body in a straight line, while your arms are positioned at the sides of your body. A side plank is performed with one arm and one leg extended, in order to distribute the pressure evenly throughout the body.
What muscles does a plank work?
A proper plank works to strengthen your entire core, including muscles in your abdomen, lower back, hips and shoulders. It can also be used to train other areas of your body that are indirectly involved in supporting the core during planks, including your thighs, calves, and arms. From an exercise perspective, planks are very similar to push-ups because they require you to stabilize yourself using only upper-body strength; however, planks provide more resistance for your abdominal area than push-ups do.
Which muscles should I focus on when performing planks?
When performing planks you should focus on keeping your back straight while contracting all of the muscles in your abdominal area as much as possible. You should also focus on tightening up your glutes and quads during this exercise so that you don’t shift too much weight onto the balls of your feet or arch excessively in order to keep yourself stable during planks.
When can I move on from planks?
Once you have been able to hold a proper plank for a full minute, it is time to move on to more advanced core exercises in order to improve your overall core strength. The best way to do this is by moving from planks into exercises like side planks, reverse crunches, and bicycles.
Overall, planks are a very beneficial exercise that anyone can do, regardless of their fitness level. While they are not the most exciting exercise, they do have a lot of health benefits and help to strengthen your core which is important for maintaining proper posture and reducing back pain.
Plank exercises are a great way to work on your balance and coordination. Planks have become a staple exercise because of their effectiveness, and also because they’re easy to perform and can be performed anywhere at any time.
- 12 Types of Plank Exercises: https://www.medicinenet.com/types_of_plank_exercises/article.htm
- 10 Types of Plank Exercises That’ll Level Up Your Ab Workouts: https://www.bustle.com/wellness/types-of-plank-exercises
- 12 Plank Exercises That Will Fire Up Your Entire Core: https://www.self.com/gallery/plank-exercises
- 5 Basic Exercise Moves Everyone Needs to Know: https://www.self.com/gallery/5-basic-exercise-moves-everyone-needs-to-know#.V4WQvdIZgj8.google_plusone_share
- How To Do A Side Plank Flawlessly: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/a20697895/basic-workout-side-plank/
- If You Only Do 1 Exercise to Get Stronger, This Should Be It: https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Plank-Variation-Exercises-17932974?stream_view=1#photo-31437851
- The Ultimate 8 Minute Plank Challenge: https://gethealthyu.com/ultimate-8-minute-plank-challenge/#_a5y_p=3891478
- How to Do Mountain Climbers Properly Every Single Time: https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/how-to-do-mountain-climbers-benefits
- The Ultimate 30-Day Plank Challenge for Your Strongest Core Ever: https://www.theplankbuddy.com/the-ultimate-30-day-plank-challenge-for-your-strongest-core-ever/