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10 Plank Variations You Should Try If You’re Tired Of The Standard Plank

10 Plank Variations You Should Try If You’re Tired Of The Standard Plank

Ready to build tight core muscles and reveal a washboard stomach? Look no further than the humble plank exercise. You can forget about performing hundreds of crunches, risking a back or neck injury in the process. Planks have an incredibly low risk of injury and actually help to improve posture.

Better yet, there are countless plank exercise variations to work your muscles harder as your strength progresses. Almost all variations work your midsection, abdominals, obliques, and deep core muscles. Many place secondary tension on arms, shoulders, back, glutes, and even hamstrings.

Ready to chisel out a mighty midsection? Start working your way through these 10 plank exercise variations.

Plank Exercise Progression:

  • Hold plank positions for 20-60 seconds
  • Repeat 3 times with 1 minutes break between each set
  • Push yourself to go 5-10 seconds longer each session
  • When you can, perform a variation for 60 seconds
  • Once you can perform a plank variant for 60 seconds, move on to the next variation
  • Perform workouts 3-5 times per week

1. Plank Jacks

Adding jacks significantly increases the engagement of your abdominal muscles during this exercise. They should be performed from the straight-armed plank position.

Purposefully tighten your core and keep your back in line. Plank jacks should be performed between 20-40 times before moving on to the next plank variation!

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2. Caterpillar Crawl Plank

This move is best performed on a hard and smooth surface using a small towel to reduce friction. Assume the straight-armed plank position with the towel beneath your feet. Begin by crawling forwards then backwards with your arms.

Remember, keep your core tight! This plank exercise will also work your shoulders and triceps!

3. Spiderman Plank

Begin the plank with your forearms parallel to the floor. Draw one knee towards your elbow, getting as close as you can without compromising your body position. Then, push your heel back towards its starting position before repeating on the other side.

There’s no twisting or bending during this exercise, and try not to let your foot touch the floor! Perform between 10-20 times per side and you’ll really feel your abdominals burn!

4. Side Plank

Side planks put greater emphasis on the obliques and deep core muscles. It’s a smaller group of muscles so this move quickly becomes tough. Build up to 30 seconds on each side with a quick transition.

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Keep your body, head, and neck naturally in line while performing this move. Place your other hand on your hip and squeeze your hip muscles to straighten your posture.

5. Decline Plank

This is similar to the regular plank, but with your feet elevated to place greater tension on your upper abs. You could use any secure object, such as a bench, sofa, or table.

Remember to keep that back straight and continue to breathe naturally.

6. Ball Roll Out Plank

This balancing act will greatly stimulate the abdominal and core muscles through stabilization. Begin in the forearm plank position on the ball and push your arms forward to roll the ball slightly. Hold this position for up to 60 seconds, then carefully roll it back.

Find a position that best engages your abs and midsection and remember to breathe naturally.

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7. Leg Lift Plank

From the standard plank position, raise one of your legs behind you while keeping your body parallel to the ground. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds before switching to the other leg for a further 30 seconds.

Keep your body alignment in check and stay parallel with the floor throughout this exercise.

8. Leg and Arm Lift Plank

This is a tougher plank variation performed much like the previous leg lift plank, except you must also lift your opposite arm!

Again, it’s essential to keep a horizontal back during the entire exercise. Try doing 30 seconds on each side.

9. Leg and Arm Side Plank

While in the side plank position, raise both your top arm and leg into the air as high as possible. Support yourself with your other arm and leg, but stability should be provided by tensing your midsection.

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Hold each side for 30 seconds before switching.

10. Wall Plank

Admittedly, this plank exercise is far harder than it looks. Get back in a forearm plank position, push your feet against a wall, and hold this position.

Increasing the elevation of your feet will increase the difficulty. If you can perform this exercise for 60 seconds, you’ll have incredible abdominal strength!

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Published on July 18, 2019

11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, chances are you wouldn’t mind a little more definition in your midsection.

Whether you have a six pack or a beer belly, those abs could probably be a little bit sharper. Not to mention developing better core strength is hugely important when it comes to improving your overall strength and athleticism, as well as protecting you from injuries.[1]

The good news? Your abs and core muscles can handle a lot of training.

While most of your muscle groups do best with just two training sessions per week,[2] you can hit your abs every other day to great effect. You don’t even have to leave the house!

Here’s my guide to the 11 best core strengthening exercises you can do at home with no equipment.

1. Planks

Let’s start with the mother of all core-strengtheners, the plank.

Planks not only work your abs and obliques, they challenge those core muscles deep inside your body that help promote stability and power. They can also reduce back pain and improve your balance and posture.

Get down into pushup position, feet behind you, hands under your shoulders. Lock out your arms and legs, squeeze your core muscles, and hold your body stiff (like a plank!) for as long as you can.

For a more challenging variation, try a forearm plank with your arms out in front you. Lay your forearms on the ground for support, with your elbows under your face rather than aligned with your shoulders.

2. Side Planks

To hit your obliques even harder, try this challenging variation: the side plank.

From plank position, rotate onto one side. Prop yourself up on your elbow and one foot with your body straight and stiff.

Don’t forget to squeeze your core as you hold this position for as long as you can.

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Switch sides and repeat to avoid creating muscle imbalances.

3. Reverse Crunches

The regular stomach crunch is a fine exercise, but when it comes to abs and core strength, you’ll want to opt for moves that are a lot more challenging.

When you can crank out 50 crunches without a problem, it’s probably time for something new.

The reverse crunch packs a wallop for your lower abs and can be done anywhere, anytime, just like the standard crunch.

Lay on your back with knees bent in crunch position. Place your hands flat on the ground by your side and lift your pelvis, bringing your knees up toward your face, then back down again.

Engage your lower ab muscles to do the work, not your back. Repeat for a few sets of 12-20 reps.

4. Flutter Kicks

The lower abs are a problem area for a lot of people, so we’ll want to work them hard.

If that sounds like you, flutter kicks are just what the doctor ordered.

Lay flat on your back in leg raise position, hands at your sides or pressed into the floor. Raise your legs together about 6 inches off the floor, then alternate lowering one and raising one a few inches in rapid succession.

It should look like you’re kicking the air, and it should give you quite a burn in your abdominal area.

5. Arms High Sit-Ups

Imagine a crunch, but way harder!

Lay down on the ground in sit-up position, knees bent, feet flat on the floor in front of you.

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Raise your arms up to the sky and keep them elevated as you perform a few sets of sit-ups.

Engaging your arms in this way makes the move extraordinarily difficult and taxing. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of this move versus traditional crunches.

6. L-Sits

The L-Sit is outrageously difficult to perform well, but if you can build your strength here, the benefits are phenomenal.

To perform an L-Sit, you’ll need a stable surface to press off of. You can do them on the floor, but it’s a little easier if you can elevate yourself on a pair of dumbbells, two sturdy chairs, or a similar apparatus.

Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Lock your arms in place at your sides, palms on the ground or surface, and press. Bring your legs into the air, perpendicular to your upper body, using the tension from your locked arms.

Hold this position as long as possible for an intense strength building workout.

7. Stomach Vacuums

And now for something different!

It’s easy to work your front-facing abdominal muscles, but there is another muscle group in your core that’s frequently overlooked: The transverse abdominis.

This muscle isn’t visible through your skin, but it’s incredibly important in stabilizing your body, creating good posture, and holding your belly in tight to your spine.

To strengthen this muscle and get a flatter stomach, try stomach vacuums.[3]

Standing straight and tall. Exhale all of the air out of your body and simultaneously pull your belly in tight. Imagine sucking your belly button back into your spine.

You’ll feel the transverse abdominis engage. Hold as long as possible, rest and then repeat.

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8. Star Planks

Planks are too effective to not utilize multiple variations of them in your routine.

The star plank engaged similar muscles to the traditional plank, but is a lot harder to hold for time.

From the push-up or standard plank position, walk your feet out wide and your hands, as well.

Your body should form an X position. Elevate your core off the ground, squeeze tight, and hold for as long as possible.

9. Boat Pose

Yogis know all about core strength, so if you want a tighter tummy, you should take a page out of their playbook.

Boat pose is an extremely difficult isometric hold that builds exceptional balance and core power.

Star in sit-up position. Crunch yourself up toward your knees, then lift your feet off the floor until they’re about level with your face. Balance on your butt, squeeze your core, and hold this position as long as you can.

Your body should form a V with the only point of contact being your butt on the ground. Holding boat pose should be extraordinarily challenging!

10. Mountain Climbers

Ab work alone won’t shred stomach fat. But when you combine abs and cardio, that’s when you’re onto something magical.

Mountain climbers fit the bill if you’re looking to blast your core and also work up a good sweat.

Get down into plank position. With your arms locked and your body tight, drive one knee at a time off the floor, up toward your chest, and then back to its original position. Repeat in quick succession.

It should look like you’re climbing a hill, and it should exhaust you in a matter of seconds!

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11. Russian Twists

Finally, let’s give the obliques a little more love.

Get down into sit-up position and perform a crunch toward your knees. From here, lean back so your torso is at a 45 degree angle to the floor, clasp your hands in front of you, and twist side to side in rapid succession.

You’ll feel your obliques engage after just a few reps.

For a more difficult variation, lift your feet off the floor similar to boat pose while perform the move, or perform the twist using a heavy medicine ball for added resistance.

The Bottom Line

The biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to six-pack abs is a low body fat percentage. That’s best accomplished by sticking to a smart diet and building your fully body strength.

However, if you want to improve your athleticism, overall strength, or even your longevity, you can afford to work your abs a bit more frequently — 3-4 times per week is perfect.

If you hit them hard enough, you’ll probably see some great improvement in definition as well!

Cranking out endless crunches is one way to go about core training, but there are so many better and more challenging moves you can try without ever having to leave your living room.

Give them a shot!

Featured photo credit: Luis Quintero via unsplash.com

Reference

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