Did you know that plank works much more than just your core? In fact, this classic core-strengthening move works over 20 muscles, including your shoulders, back, arms and glutes. The plank also minimizes the risk of back injury or hip-flexor strain that can come along with traditional sit ups.
But, getting stuck in a plank rut can be easy. Here are some ways to switch things up to upgrade your plank:
1) Shoulder touches
Start in full plank with your forearms extended. Touch your right hand to your left shoulder (like you’re doing the macarena), then replace it to the ground. Touch your left hand to your right shoulder and continue alternating. Try to keep your hips stable. Avoid rocking back and forth from side to side.
2) Plank saw
Start in a basic forearm plank. Rock forward on your toes until your shoulders move past your elbows and then rock backwards so that your heels reach further than your toes. Picture the movement of a hand saw for guidance.
3) Plank walks
Start in a basic forearm plank. One hand at a time, come up to full extended arm plank, then lower back down. Continue following an ‘up, up, down, down’ rhythm.
4) Plank dips
Start in forearm plank. Keeping your core engaged, lower both hips towards the right side. Return to neutral, then lower to the left. Your hips do not need to touch the floor.
5) Reverse plank
Start in a seated position with your legs straight out in front of you. Placing your hands near your hips, lift yourself so that your bum comes off the ground. Aim for a straight diagonal line from head to toes.
This plank can be performed as either a forearm or an full plank, but with your feet positioned on the top of a stability ball. Just when you thought you’d mastered the plank, an innocent air-filled ball will send you right back to the beginning. For an even tougher challenge, crunch the ball in, bringing your knees towards your elbows and then straighten back out.
7) Leg lift
This plank can also be done from either forearm or extended arms. Lift one leg, hold for ten seconds, lower and lift the other leg. Alternate back and forth. You’d be surprised how challenging having just one limb less can be.
8) Plank jacks
This exercise performs double duty, serving as cardio work as well as strength training. Start in full plank with your arms extended and feet together. Then jump your feet out to each side, like you would in a jumping jack. Then jump them back in, continuing the rhythm. We guarantee you will feel these the next day.
9) Side plank leg lift
Starting in either forearm or full plank on one side, lift your top leg. Focus on length over height, reaching your foot away from you. Hold for ten seconds, then lower it back to regular side plank for ten, alternating back and forth. Make sure you perform the same amount of reps on both sides (and don’t be surprised if you find one side harder than the other).
10) Thread the needle
This is another side plank variation. Starting in either forearm or full plank or your side, lift your upper arm towards the sky and then loop it in between your bottom armpit and the ground. This is the space through which you are threading your needle/arm. Return to regular side plank and repeat.