Plank Variations to Challenge Your Core

Take your planks to the next level by implementing these variations in your core workouts!

Plank Variations to Challenge Your Core
María Rubio María Rubio
6 min read

Planks are among the most popular strength training exercises for a variety of reasons – they’re super effective for your goals, usually don’t require any special equipment besides a comfortable surface, and they’re easy to do and even master once you’ve built enough core strength.

With that in mind, a lot of people tend to move past the need for planks when they’ve already mastered them because they feel like they’re not as challenging anymore. And while we agree that the basic plank gets much easier with time, there are countless variations that you can try to keep challenging your core!

We’ve prepared a list of some of the best plank variations that you can add to your workouts, so you can build a stronger core and abs!

Extended plank

When you’ve already mastered the standard plank, a great way to make it more challenging at first is by trying the extended plank! The position is almost the same as the high plank, except that you’ll place your hands a little further away from you, making your abs work harder along with your shoulders and upper back muscles.

How to do it:

  1. Assume a high plank position by getting on the floor on your hands and feet, forming a straight line with your body from head to toes.
  2. With your feet hip-width apart, walk your hands forward until they’re below your face instead of your shoulders. The further you walk them, the harder the exercise will be.
  3. Keeping your core tight, hold this position for the desired duration. Remember to keep a neutral spine position without lifting your head or letting your hips fall.

Spiderman plank

This plank variation requires you to be closer to the ground to make the movement more challenging. It’s a dynamic exercise that you could add to your cardio workouts to give your core a good burn, as well as your shoulders, triceps, obliques, and even your glutes. Plus, it’s a great movement to improve hip mobility!

How to do it:

  1. Start in a plank position with your elbows bent so that your forearms support your body weight and place your feet hip-width apart. Make sure to keep your spine in a neutral position with your face looking down.
  2. Begin the movement by driving your right knee toward your right elbow while you keep your balance with your left foot on the floor.
  3. Hold for a second, then go back and repeat the movement with your left leg, alternating each time.

Reverse plank

This exercise is commonly seen as a yoga position, and if you didn’t know already, yoga has many benefits for lifters! Just like the name indicates, the reverse plank is like a regular plank but reversed, meaning that you will be facing up instead of down. This particular position helps engage your core and target your posterior chain, such as your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.

How to do it:

  1. First, sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Place your hands on the floor on each side of your body and lift your body off the floor, thrusting your hips up so that your whole body forms a straight line.
  2. With your arms completely straight while supporting your weight and your feet pointed at the heels, keep this position for the desired count. Your core should be engaged and your face looking up to keep a neutral spine position.
  3. Make sure to squeeze your muscles throughout the movement so you don’t lose balance. When you’re done, just bring your hips back down to the floor.

TRX plank

If you’re looking for a plank exercise that really challenges your core and stability, the TRX plank is the perfect movement for you. Since the TRX straps are not stable, you need to put in the extra work with your abs, shoulders, and lower back to keep your body in place while you move throughout the full range of motion.

How to do it:

  1. Adjust the TRX straps to mid-calf height and get on the floor, facing away from the straps. Place your forearms and knees on the floor and let both feet through the straps, so that they’re around the lower part of your shins, almost at the ankles.
  2. Keeping your core engaged, press through your feet to get into a low plank position, with your feet in the air supported by the TRX straps. Make sure that you’re keeping a neutral spine position with your face looking down.
  3. Hold a plank position for a count, then go back to the kneeling position and repeat, making sure you keep your balance each time you extend your legs.

Side plank crunch

This movement combines two great core exercises – the side plank and the crunch – into a single full-body exercise that will challenge your balance and your muscles from your head to your feet. When it comes to plank variations, it’s always great to throw in a couple of unilateral exercises like this one to tackle any muscle imbalances that you might have!

How to do it:

  1. Start by laying on the floor and turning to your right side with your feet stacked. Place your right forearm on the floor just below you and lift your body off the floor, forming a straight line. You can place your left hand behind your head or in the air, however you feel more comfortable.
  2. Keeping your core engaged, drive your left knee up and your left elbow down so that they meet, lightly tapping them together.
  3. Hold this position for a moment without losing your balance, then go back to the starting position and repeat. Finish your reps and switch to the other side.

Bird-dog plank

You’ve probably heard or even done the bird-dog exercise before, but adding a plank element to it will turn the difficulty up a few notches! On top of having to maintain your balance throughout the movement, this exercise will give your core a good burn, plus other major areas such as your shoulders, hips, and legs.

How to do it:

  1. First, get on the floor in a high plank position, with your arms straight below your shoulders and your feet pointed on the floor. Make sure that you’re facing down so that you keep a neutral spine position with your whole body in a straight line.
  2. Begin the movement by lifting your right hand and your left leg off the floor, pointing both out so that they’re parallel to the floor while you keep your balance with the opposite hand and foot.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds while engaging your core, then slowly lower your hand and foot and repeat on the other side, alternating each time until you’ve finished your reps on each side.

Power plank with row

Planks are not exclusively a bodyweight exercise! The power plank with row uses a pair of dumbbells, or even kettlebells, to perform a rowing movement with your arms while you’re in a high plank position. It targets major muscle groups in your core, upper back, arms, shoulders, and chest areas, making it a killer movement for upper-body days.

How to do it:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and get into a full plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor and your arms extended over the weights. Your body should form a straight line without letting your hips go up or down.
  2. Keeping your arms straight, begin the movement by shifting your body weight to the left side and driving your right arm back as if you were rowing until it reaches your chest.
  3. Hold this position for a moment while squeezing your muscles, then bring your arm back to the starting position and repeat with the other arm. Alternate from side to side until you’ve completed your reps.

Plank jacks

This movement is yet another combination of two popular exercises – plank and jumping jacks. This exercise targets your abs, shoulders, lower back, and even your inner thighs, which is an area often forgotten in strength training routines. Plus, you can add this movement to a cardio routine if you want!

How to do it:

  1. First, get into a high plank position, with your arms completely straight while you hold yourself up with your hands. Form a straight line with your body down to your toes and keep your head looking down.
  2. Engage your core for stability and begin the movement by jumping your feet out and apart from each other, so that your legs are open wide. Your torso should stay in place with only your legs moving.
  3. Without skipping a beat, immediately jump back to the starting position and keep jumping in and out until you have completed your reps. You can perform this movement a little slower if you want, making a quick pause between each movement.

These are only a few variations of the plank, but there are so many more that you can try! You can use different kinds of equipment, from free weights to resistance bands and exercise balls, or even cable machines. Get creative with your strength training workouts and search for different plank variations so you never get tired of this muscle-building exercise!

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