20 Plank Variations For a Stronger Core

Sculpt sexy abs and build strength with these 20 twists on a classic plank.

June 4, 2015
Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Oh planks, how do we love thee? Simply stare at someone in a horizontal plank pose, and it may not look like they're doing much work. The truth? There's a whole lot of strengthening goin' on in there. "Traditional planks and plank variations are a great way to improve core function which will help increase overall strength as well as help to prevent injury," says ACE Exercise Physiologist and Education Specialist Jacque Crockford.

The secret to a stronger core? Changing things up when it comes to your plank routine. "Keep things interesting by using a variety of planks and other core exercises," suggests Crockford. Check out her 20 plank variations to mix up your core routine
 
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For maximum benefit, hold each plank for 30 seconds to one minute (or as noted), and repeat up to three times, four to five days a week. As your core strength improves, add time and frequency. Before you know it, you will be ready to show off your hard work bikini style.

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High Plank Pike-Up with Sliders

Jacque Crockford

Begin in a low plank/push-up position with sliders (or paper plates on a wood or tile floor!) under each foot. Slowly pull your feet toward your wrists, keeping your legs straight or with a slight bend in the knee. Keeping your hips in-line with your back, return to the starting position. Repeat as many times as you can hold good form.

Low Plank with Slider Reaches

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Begin in a low plank position with sliders under each forearm. Slowly extend your right arm in front of you, keeping your hips, shoulders and back in alignment. Return your right arm to the starting position before repeating the move with your left arm. Each arm equals one rep. Repeat up to 10 times.

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High Plank with Single Leg Reach Through with Slider

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Start this move in a high plank or push-up position with a slider under each foot. Slowly move your right foot across your body while pushing into your hands and keeping a strong upper body. Return your right foot to the start position and then begin with the left foot. Each leg move equals one rep. Repeat up to 10 times. 

High Plank Mountain Climber with Sliders

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Begin in a high plank or push-up position with sliders under each foot. Pull your right knee toward your chest while keeping contact with the slider. As you begin to push your right foot back toward the starting position, move your left foot/leg in the same way, creating a “running” motion. Each time your right knee comes up counts as one rep. Repeat up to 30 times.

Low Plank Froggers with Slider

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Begin in a low plank position with forearms on the floor and a slider under each foot. Evoke your inner frog while you bend your knees, separate your feet and pull your knees toward your elbows. Keep hips high and push though your forearms to stay balanced. Repeat up to 10 times.
 
High Plank on Double Bosu

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Place a bosu flat side down, by your feet and another, flat side up, by your hands. Slowly place both feet on one Bosu and hands on the other in a high-plank/push-up position. Engage your core and push though your hands and toes to stay balanced. Hold for as long as you can and then try to beat your time!
 
High Plank on Physioball

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Grab a physioball and place it near your feet. Place both hands on the floor directly in front of it and then slowly place each foot on the ball so the top of your shins are resting on the top of the ball and you are in a high plank or push-up position. Hold and balance. The further your slide down your legs to your toes, the bigger the challenge. Hold for as long as you can, rest and repeat.

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Pike Up on Physioball

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Grab a physioball and place it near your feet. Place both hands on the floor directly in front of it and then slowly place each foot on the ball so the top of your feet are resting on the top of the ball and you are in a high plank or push-up position. Hold and balance. Then slowly push your hips toward the ceiling as you pull your feet toward your chin. Return to the start position and repeat up to three sets of 10.

High Plank on Medicine Ball

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Start by kneeling in front of a medicine ball. Place one hand at a time on top of the ball then press up into a high plank or push-up position. Keep your feet close together for more of a challenge or further apart if you need more stability. Hold for as long as you can and repeat up to three times.
 
High Plank with Single Leg Raise

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Begin in a high plank or push-up position with feet hip distance apart. Press into your palms as you raise one foot off the ground and as high as you can while keeping your hips parallel with the ground. Return the starting leg to the ground before repeating with the opposite leg. Repeat 10 times on each leg for up to three sets.
 
High Plank on Bosu Ball

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Start by kneeling, with a bosu ball placed flat side up, in front of you. While on your knees, place one hand at a time on the Bosu’s edges, gripping the handles, then extend your legs behind you as you push onto your toes. Hold the plank with hips in-line with your head and heels. Stay for 30 seconds or as long as you can and repeat up to three times. 

Low Plank

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

This is your ‘traditional’ plank where you balance on your forearms and toes. Hold this position being careful to keep your head, hips and heels in alignment. Hold for up to one minute and repeat up to three times.

Low Plank with Toe/Heel Touch

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Begin in a low plank position on your toes and forearms. Slowly raise your right foot and place your right toe on your left heel. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the left. Repeat as many times as you can with good form.
 
Low Plank with Single Leg Crossover

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Start in a low plank position. Slowly raise your right leg and cross it over your left, placing your right toe to the floor, creating an ‘x’ with your lower legs. Bring your right leg back to the starting position and repeat the move with the left leg. Each time your right toe touches the floor is one set. Do up to 10 and repeat up to three times.
 
High Plank

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

From a kneeling position, place your hands directly below your elbows, shoulder-width apart. Extend your legs behind you as you press onto your toes. Keep alignment in your head, hips and heels and hold as long as you can. Rest and repeat up to five sets.
 
Side Plank (low)

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Laying on one side, prop yourself on your elbow and be sure your hips, legs and ankles are in alignment and that your shoulder is directly over your elbow. Pushing into your forearm, lift yourself up and extend your other arm straight up overhead. Engage your obliques (the muscles on the side of your abdominals) and hold for as long as you can. Repeat up to three times before changing sides.
 
Side Plank (high)

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Laying on your side, push yourself onto your hand, and be sure your hips, legs and ankles are in alignment and that your shoulder is directly over your elbow and wrist. Extend your other arm straight up overhead, engage your obliques (the muscles on the side of your abdominals) and hold for as long as you can maintain good form. Repeat up to three times before switching sides.

Side Plank (high) with Runner’s Knee

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Laying on one side, push yourself onto your hand, and be sure your hips, legs and ankles are in alignment and that your shoulder is directly over your elbow and wrist. Extend your other arm straight up overhead, engage your obliques (the muscles on the side of your abdominals) and then bend your top leg at the knee pulling it toward your chest. Repeat knee lifts up to 10 times before switching sides.
 
High Plank with Knee Lift

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Begin in a high plank or push-up position. Slowly lift your right leg and bend your knee as you rotate and bring your knee toward the opposite elbow. Return to the start position before repeating the move with your left leg. Repeat up to 10 times on each side.
 
High Tabletop Plank with Single Leg Lift

Photograph courtesy of Jacque Crockford

Begin this move on all fours or in a “tabletop” position. Extend your right leg directly behind you and then, keeping your toe on the floor, lift your left knee off the floor and hold. Be sure to not let your extended leg drop and keep your head, back and leg in alignment before placing your knee on the ground and switching sides. Perform up to 10 on each side.