We’ve all heard it before – planking every day will help you strengthen and tighten your core. And really, your core strength is called such because it is the “core” of your whole body. If you’ve ever pulled or strained a muscle in your back or abdominal muscles, you know what I mean. But planks don’t have to be boring! These plank variations to tighten your core will challenge you and make toning your body more fun!
Why are planks important?
Planks aren’t just an exercise that tightens your tummy and helps you get those toned abs you’ve always dreamed of. As a core exercise, it also strengthens your inner stabilizer muscles, your back, your glutes, and even other muscles in your legs and upper body!
It’s an exercise that works pretty much your entire body.
How do you do a plank?
The most basic plank exercise is one that’s done in the standard forearm plank position (low plank or elbow plank), but you can also do it on your hands in push-up position (high plank).
Good form is important with any exercise, and the plank is no exception. With any of these different variations, you want to be sure you maintain proper form to avoid injury.
For the standard plank position, on a mat, your forearms are on the ground with your elbows directly under your shoulders. You can hold your hands together or you can place them in a “Sphinx” position with arms straight out in front of you. Imagine there is a string through your spine pulling your body straight – keeping your head, neck, spine, and legs in alignment.
To keep your body stable, engage your core, squeeze your glutes, and pull your shoulder blades down and together. Tuck your toes under and keep your body as stable as possible without letting your hips sag or rise up into the air.
Aim for 10 seconds if you’re a beginner, 30-60 seconds if you’re more advanced, or even longer! Once you’ve figured out a basic plank, try some of these different plank variations for a fun challenge.
Just doing a traditional plank every day can be so BORING!! In addition to the low plank above, my gift to you is a list of 26 different plank variations to help you beat that boredom and tighten that tummy! Here are my favorite plank variations for an extra challenge:
This is one of the basic plank positions. Tighten your whole body, keep your neck and spine in neutral alignment (don’t look down at your feet or allow your head/hips/back/legs to sag), and keep your shoulders/elbows/and wrists in alignment as well. Pull your bellybutton in and hold your body straight for a minute (or more).
The only difference between this and planking on your toes, is that you drop your knees straight down to the ground under you. It makes planking easier, because you are supporting less of your body weight. There is less pressure on the lower back in this position.
Notice that my hips are not in the air, and there is still a straight line going from my head to spine to hips to knees. You can do this variation in either high or low position.
You can modify many of the plank variations below by dropping down to your knees as needed!
Plank with Knee Taps
In high or low position, lower both knees down simultaneously to tap the ground, then raise them back up to your starting position.
You can also do the inverse of this move – knee plank with straightening the legs briefly, then lowering down again – to build strength as you graduate from knee plank to full high or low plank.
Plank with Alternating Knee Taps
Similar to plank with knee taps, but tap only one knee down at a time. Hold that regular plank position, tapping your left knee down for one second, then returning to neutral position. Then tap your right knee down for one second and return to neutral.
Make sure to keep your core engaged to prevent your body from wobbling too much!
Rock & Roll Plank
This can be done in high or low position, shifting your body weight forward and back by using your toes to push your body forward and pull yourself back. I prefer doing this in low plank on my forearms.
This is a very slight movement, only shifting forward and back slightly. Feel those shoulders burn!
In high or low position, punch your arms straight out, alternating sides. Punch your right arm out, return to plank, then punch the left arm out and return to plank.
Keep your body straight and don’t let it rock. You can punch out to the front or punch to the sides.
(Hint: Spreading your feet wider on the floor will give you a wider base of support and keep your body more balanced and stable.)
Related: Plyo Box Workout
If a regular plank is a front plank, this is a reverse plank! Your body is in the same placement as high plank position, only flipped over!
Heels are on the ground, wrists and elbows in line with your shoulders, neck in neutral alignment and the top of your head in a straight line through your spine down to your heels. Don’t let your booty drop down!
Keep everything in alignment, and keep a fist-sized space between your chin and your chest.
Reverse Plank with Knee Lift
Here we go with balance again! In reverse plank position, raise one bent leg up to a 90 degree angle, knee coming toward your chest. CRUNCH those abs, then lower that leg back to start. Repeat on the other side.
Your focus with this moving plank is keeping your whole body tight and allow for as little movement as possible. Pretend you have a glass of water on your back and you don’t want to spill it.
Take your right hand and right leg out to the side, then bring your left hand and left leg in to finish the movement. Then go in the other direction.
This can also be done on the knees, with knees staying in one place and only the hands “walking” side to side. A modified plank still counts as a plank!
In high or low position, keep the legs zipped together and hop the feet from side to side. Try to keep your body as straight as possible throughout the movement.
This isn’t a very far hop, traveling just a few inches from side to side.
In high or low position, open the feet wide and bring them back together as with a jumping jack movement. Keep the body stiff and straight, and don’t let the hips sag. There shouldn’t be a lot of up and down movement with the hips here.
A modification for this exercise is to just tap the toes out to the side, one foot at a time. So plank, then tap right foot out and back in, then left foot taps out and back in.
Plank Hand Tap
Another variation for high or low plank position, reach one hand out in front and tap the floor, then return to start. Want to make it even harder? Hold that hand out in the tap for 1-3 seconds before pulling it back in. Ohhh the burn.
As the name says (sometimes called suicide planks), alternate between high and low position. You can do a certain number of reps starting with one side, then switch to the other side. Or you can alternate leading with the right/left/right/left.
This can also be modified and done on the knees.
Similar to the high/low plank version, but using a bench to get farther off the floor.
Plank with Leg Lifts
In high or low plank position, contract the glutes to raise one leg off the floor for a second or two, then lower back down. Be careful not to let your hips rock or twist as you balance. If doing this movement on the knees, simply straighten and lift one leg and then lower back down to start.
The leg lift is an excellent burn for the booty and hamstrings!
Related: Posture Exercises Everyone Should Do
Plank with Oblique Knee
In high or low position, bring one knee to the same side elbow with a big crunch. Return to start. Keep back flat and stable.
Plank with Knee Cross Under Body
This is similar to mountain climbers, but you are bringing your knees across the body. In high position, contract the abs and crunch a knee under the body toward the opposite side. It’s easy for hips to make their way higher into the air with this move, so keep them down and keep your body in alignment.
Rotate your body so that your weight is resting on one hand (or forearm) and the blade of your bottom foot. You can stack your feet on top of each other, or you can put them both on the ground side by side. Keep the head/spine/hips/feet in alignment.
Side plank position really works your oblique muscles and transverse abdominis. If you need more support, bend the bottom leg and lower your knee to the floor. Keep your body in alignment as if in full side plank.
Side Plank Hip Drops
In side position, lower your hip close to the ground (don’t drop it all the way to the floor!) and contract your abs to straighten back up to start.
In high position with hands on dumbbells (Be safe! Use weights with a flat side on the head, not round ones!!), row one dumbbell back at a time. Keep feet wide to balance yourself and don’t allow your body to twist.
Weighted Side Plank Twists
In high plank position with hands on dumbbells, rotate body into side plank and raise weight straight over your body. Lower back down to start and repeat on the other side.
Side Plank Thread the Needle
In side plank, hold your arm straight up in the air, then lower it and reach it under your body. Return to start position to complete the move.
To make this move a little more difficult, hold a 3-5 pound weight in your arm!
In high or low position, contract the abs to pull the pelvis up toward your belly button. Release the contraction and return to normal.
Yes, this feels weird. And if you have a dirty mind, you might giggle when you do it. But it works your core muscles, I promise.
Plank Hip Drop
Also called plank hip twists, these is one of my favorites for spinal flexibility. In high or low position, rotate the hip area so that one hip drops toward the floor, then repeat on the other side. This is great for…well…everything.
Keep control of the movement and don’t go too fast.
Plank Oblique Crunch
Like the pulse variation, this one is a very subtle movement. It is different from the hip drop in that you aren’t actually dropping your hips, but you are pulling the side of the hip up towards the bottom of the ribcage in a tight oblique crunch, then repeating on the other side.
Your body moves very little, but your obliques will feel it very much.
Bird Dog Plank Balance
This isn’t quite a bird dog position, as we are not on our hands and knees. But in high or low plank, reach one arm and the opposite leg out and off the ground, then return to start. Repeat on the other side.
This is a more advanced move and requires a LOT of control and balance. As you can see in the video, I was pretty wobbly myself. Practice with just arms or just legs first, and build up strength and balance until you are able to do both.
Do you have a favorite plank position, whether it is listed here or not? Comment below and let me know! I’d love to try out a new one!
Get more home workouts and fitness tips here!