Hello abs! Change up your core workout with these fresh variations on the plank.
SHORE UP YOUR CORE
The plank is one of the best exercises you can do for your core because it builds isometric strength to help sculpt your waistline and improve your posture. And depending on the type of plank you try, you can also engage your back, arms, shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings. Win!
Whether you can hold a plank for 20 seconds or two minutes, you’ll love these fresh variations on the standard move. Bonus: 16 of them don’t require a single piece of equipment.
This is what most people consider to be a standard plank. Lie facedown with legs extended and elbows bent and directly under shoulders; clasp your hands. Feet should be hip-width apart, and elbows should be shoulder-width apart. Contract your abs, then tuck your toes to lift your body (forearms remain on the ground); you should be in a straight line from head to heels. Hold for 60 seconds or as long as you can.
Health contributing yoga and wellness editor Kristin McGee demonstrates this plank done at the top of push-up position. Kneel on all fours with hands directly under shoulders. Come onto toes, contract abs, and straighten legs; keep body in line from head to heels.
PLANK WITH ARM/LEG LIFT
This move from Health contributing fitness editor Tracy Anderson targets your upper back, chest, sides, core, and glutes.
From plank position, press your right hand into a mat and turn your body so your weight is on the outer edge of your right foot; stack your left foot on top. Imagine you have a big beach ball under your right side; press your torso up and away from the ball, extending your left arm with fingers pointed toward the sky. Tighten your lower-ab muscles and brace your entire core. Hold for 60 seconds, then return to plank position and repeat on the left side; that’s 1 rep. Do 3 reps.
Adding this type of jumping jack to the standard plank engages your abs even more.
SIDE PLANK CRUNCH
Try this move from Jillian Michaels and you’ll never call crunches boring again. Lie on left side with left hand on floor beneath left shoulder, right fingers behind head; let inside of right foot rest on floor in front of left foot.
Tighten abs; push into left hand to lift body so it forms a diagonal line from head to heels. Crunch forward and down, bringing right elbow to left elbow; return to starting position. Do 10 reps; switch sides and repeat.
This yoga hybrid works your back, abs, and shoulders. Compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups give you a really big bang for your strength-training buck!
Add a resistance band to work your core, shoulders, AND hamstrings. Place band around wrists and ankles; form a straight-arm plank. Move left hand and right foot out 6 inches. Return to start; repeat on opposite sides. That’s 1 rep. Do 10.
This exercise works both the rectus abdominus (six-pack) and transverse abdominus (waist-cinching corset muscles).
Lie facedown with legs extended, elbows bent, feet hip-width apart, elbows shoulder-width apart. Contract abs, then tuck toes to lift body, elbows directly under shoulders. Hold for 4 breaths. Bend knees (do not touch ground), tilt pelvis up; hold for 4 breaths. Keeping abs tight, straighten legs, hold for 4 breaths. Repeat 3 times.
PUSH-UP SIDE PLANK
Get in low push-up position with hands under your chest and a little wider than shoulder-width apart (inset). Keeping your body straight and core tight, press up, extending your arms without locking your elbows.
Transfer your weight onto your left hand, lifting your right arm toward the ceiling (shown below). Lower down, and repeat on the opposite side; that’s 1 rep. Do 12 reps.
Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, bend forward at the waist and place your hands on the floor; crawl forward to plank position with shoulders directly over wrists. Bend elbows to lower your body toward the floor, then push back up.
Next, bend your left knee, bring it up and in toward your chest, then rotate your waist as you raise your bent left leg out until it’s parallel to the floor. Return to plank and repeat on the opposite side. Return to standing.
PLANK WITH OPPOSITE LIMB EXTENSION
This is a total-body exercise that places extra emphasis on your core. Keep your spine straight and your abs engaged throughout the movement.
Challenge your balance. From a straight-arm plank, lift right leg up and hold. Lower down. Repeat with left leg.
SIDE PLANK WITH INNER THIGH RAISE
Come into side plank on right side with core engaged, hips lifted, sides of both feet on floor, right foot in front of left; lift left arm straight up. Raise right leg as high as you can, then return to floor. Repeat on other side.
TWISTING KNEE PLANK
Get into a straight-arm plank. Twist your lower body to the left, then to the right; return to center. Bring your left knee forward to touch your left elbow; hold for 1 second, then return to center and repeat on the right side. That’s 1 rep; do 20 reps.
PLANK WITH SIDE SNATCH
Adding a dumbbell movement works your back, too. Come to plank position with body straight, feet wider than shoulder-width, hands gripping 8- to 10-lb dumbbells.
Engage core muscles; in a single movement (keeping arms straight), twist at the waist (allowing toes to pivot) and lift dumbbell in left hand out to left and up overhead Return to plank position; continue for 60 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Place your shins and tops of your feet on a stability ball with your hands on the ground in plank position. Engage your core, squeeze your butt muscles, and hold for 1 minute.
PLANK WITH ELBOW LIFT
Get into push-up position with feet shoulder-width apart and hands under shoulders. With abs engaged, squeeze upper back muscles while drawing left elbow back and up (arm close to body, as shown). Slowly straighten arm back down to floor. Repeat with right arm.
SIDE PLANK WITH TWIST
Health contributing yoga and wellness editor Kristin McGee demonstrates this Pilates move. Lie on your right side with forearm directly under shoulder, hand perpendicular to your body, and legs stacked. Engage your abs and the right side of your waist, lifting your hips so your body forms a straight line from head to feet. Extend your left arm toward the sky, staying engaged through your core (shown).
Now scoop your left arm in front of your body and reach under the space between your chest and the ground, twisting only from the waist up. Come back up; repeat 4 times, then lower body to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
Kneel in front of a stability ball with your forearms and elbows on the ball, hands clasped. Roll ball forward until your legs are extended and your body is in plank position, toes tucked. Your shoulders should be stacked directly above your elbows, chest lifted off the ball, and neck in line with your spine. Brace your abs and make small circles to the right with your forearms, as if stirring a pot. Do 15 reps, then repeat, making circles to the left.
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