More defined abs? Stronger midsection? Time to plank.
When it comes to training the core – particularly the abs – the plank will come to most people’s minds, and for good reason.
The plank is one of the oldest exercises and has stood the test of time through the different era’s of fitness like machine based training, functional training, etc.
The plank has been shown to be able to get a high activation of the rectus abdominis (6 pack muscle), the transversus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, and a ton more of the muscles that wrap around the midsection.
At it’s basics, it’s an isometric movement for the abdominal muscles with them focusing on maintaining rigidity.
The standard plank has the legs and shoulders stationary, with the legs extended out and even, and the arms right under the shoulders.
1.Hard Style Plank
This version is a simple change from the standard, but it can make for a big step up in challenge. Simply shift your elbows further forward than normal and focus on trying to squeeze your butt and posteriorly tilt your pelvis as hard as you can while also pulling down through your elbows (not moving though). Collectively this will drive your ab contraction through the roof!
2. Plank w/ reach
The last variation looked to increase the challenge by changing the moment arms of the movement, this looks to increase the challenge by changing the points of contact to the ground. If you do a good job of maintaining your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor, this can be a very hard exercise.
3. Ball Plank Saw
This move combines the last two by reducing our connection to the floor and having our arms moving, increasing the moment arm. This makes for a challenging movement! The added benefit of the unstable surface creates a more reactionary demand on the midsection.
4. Plank Bench Row
In this exercise we progress the 1 arm reach and make it into a row, increasing the weight and challenging for resisting rotation at the shoulders and trunk. Having your stationary arm elevated on the bench allows for more range of motion to work through during the row.
5. Elevated Plank to Push Up Switches
Transitioning to a movement that puts more challenge on the trunk to maintain position as the extremities move more can be an effective option for a lot of people. Through going from a plank to a tall plank/push up position, we can challenge the trunk to work extra hard as the shoulders are moving and the trunk has to fight to maintain the hips in line with them.
6. Plank – 1 leg
The prior variations have all focused on moving the arms, now we flip it. Keep your arms in place and alternate time on each leg. This can make for a really challenging way to strengthen the hip flexors as well as only one side can work at a time to keep the hips from extending and sagging down.
7. Hands elevated plank w/ march against band
Taking the demand even further for the hip flexors, we can toss a band on the feet and start doing some active marching. The down leg has to maintain an isometric contraction for the hip flexors while the moving leg is doing an isotonic motion. This is a good way to crank up the heat on them and get them working really hard!
8. Plank w/ alternating arm & leg lift
Now we step up and have both the arm and leg move. Through alternating we force the trunk to work reflexively as we transition the working sides. This can be an excellent variation for transferring to higher level tasks.
9. Quadruped Plank to Tall Plank – legs moving
If you can successfully maintain your hips, shoulders, and spine position through this, you’re a rockstar. This variation takes some high level control to do well and will get your abs lit up if you take the time to master it!
Hope these help and if you’re looking for more variations, check out the programs we offer!