15 Planks Variations for a Killer Core from 15 Planks Variations for a Killer Core

15 Planks Variations for a Killer Core


15 Planks Variations for a Killer Core


Planks, an extremely effective isometric exercise, are great because they use your own bodyweight to maintain the stability of your entire core, which is exactly what the core muscles are supposed to do, and prevent back pain. Personal trainers always recommend this resistance exercise. The key is to master the basic plank as it’s one of the best moves for strengthening your core. The possibilities to vary a plank are endless; just use your imagination. All of them target the muscles in your back (erector spinae)and abdominals (rectus abdominis, transversus abdominus). Secondary muscles in your shoulders, chest, quads and glutes are also engaged depending on what kinds of planks you’re doing. Most of the variations on this list don’t require any equipment.

Side plank


Side planks don’t get as much attention, but they are hugely beneficial to your mid-section. Regular face-down planks don’t work the weak muscle called the quadratus lumborum, the deepest abdominal muscle. It is key for preventing back pain. You can make this exercise even more difficult by lifting one-leg or one arm. You can also add a twist to really challenge your balance, while working your obliques, and toning your shoulders.

Plank rollout


Adding a stability ball to any exercises will make it a lot more difficult because you have to worry about your balance. Do a standard forearm plank as you push your arms away forward and backward, moving the ball away and closer to you. Hold each movement for 5-10 seconds for a total of a minute or two, or for as long as you can. You can also move in circles. Only move your arms; keep your body still.

Plank walk-up


Assume a pushup position. Lower yourself on one side by lowering one elbow, keep your other arm straight as you bend the elbow at half-way point. Then lower your other elbow and straighten the first one. This exercise should be done as quickly as you can. You can make it more challenging by dragging a dumbbell from one hand to another. You still have to maintain balance but doing so is more difficult when you move some kind of load around. 

Three-limb plank


Start in a normal plank position and then try arm punches, leg lifts and other movements that will require you to maintain balance while you’re not on all fours. Try elbow lifts, side plank crunches, caterpillar planks when you bend forward at the waist (it looks like mountain climbers), or planks with lateral arm reach when keeping your torso stable as you slowly reach one arm out to the side.

Mermaid plank


The Mermaid plank tones you core, especially the obliques, and shoulders. Your feet are inverted. From a standard side plank position, put your left elbow on the floor directly beneath your shoulder. Place your right foot in front of your left. Reach out with your right arm over your head parallel to your body, as you face the floor. Raise your hips, and then return to starting position. Try at least 8 reps.

Walking planks


Walking while holding a plank is a very hard exercise, but it delivers results faster. A lot of muscles are activated – core, arms (triceps), shoulders and back. What you need to remember is to keep your hips facing the ground as you move side-to-side as one unit. Your hands and feet should be close together. Move one hand and leg 3-4 inches away, and march them back together. Hold for 2-3 seconds and repeat.

Plank Jacks


This exercise is kind of like Jumping Jacks but in a plank position. It strengthens your core, lower back and glutes (gluteus maximus). You can do it anywhere as you don’t need equipment. Bend your elbows so your weight is resting on your forearms. Form one line from shoulders to ankles. Jump your feet out as you keep your upper body still, and return. This is one step. Do at least 10. Your core should be engaged only by contracting the abs.

Plank with donkey kicks

Donkey kicks are one of the best exercises for a strong behind, making this plank variation a great exercise to tone your core and butt. Assume a regular plank position as you place your elbows under your shoulders. Don’t stick your pelvis out. Lift one leg and bend the knee. Point the heel toward the ceiling as high as you can. Lower the leg and switch. Try to do around 5 on each leg.

Reverse plank


This exercise is done by balancing on forearms and heels, facing the ceiling. Extend your legs in front of you as your hands are behind, straight, and just outside your hips. Hold for a few seconds. Lift the hips until you form a straight line from shoulders to heels. Lift one leg if you want to make the movement more challenging. The hamstrings, lower back and glutes are really going to get a workout.

Plank row


Plank row is a hard-core resistance and dynamic plank exercise that works mid and upper back muscles. It improves stability by activating ab, biceps, deltoids, and spine muscles. Assume a pushup position while holding dumbbells in your hands, which should be directly under your shoulders. Your arms must be completely straight. As you keep your elbows close to the body, pull one as high as you can, and return. Don’t move your back or rotate your torso.

Resistance band plank

Do any form of plank you can but add a resistance band. Wrap it around your feet or hands as you move. Always keep the torso still. Athletes often do dynamic plank extensions. You have to move your feet and legs in unison in a sideways walking plank motion. Another exercise includes looping the resistance band around your lower back area. You are in a pushup position and lift one leg off the floor.

Scorpion plank

This is an advanced form of planks. You will feel sore after just a few reps. Start in a standard plank position, on your elbows, as the body is parallel to the floor. Then raise one leg as you bend the knee. Lower your arms as you reach the same leg over your back, as you turn your hips. Touch the ground with your toes on the opposite side. Push back and repeat as many times as you can.

Plank plate drag

This exercise is exactly what its name suggests. Your starting position should be on your hands and toes. Put a plate under your feet. Bend your knees and literally drag the plate towards your chest. You should be in a crouched position. Drag the plates back. Repeat at least 8 times. 

Bird-dog plank

It may not look like much but this exercise will really work out your core. Start by getting in the position for a standard plank. Your back should always be straight. Reach out with one hand and extend the opposite leg. Engage your abs to maintain balance. Hold for a few seconds and switch. Repeat each side about 15 times.

Plank hip dips

This exercise is working towards making your obliques strong. The key is to move slowly. Assume a standard position and slowly dip your hips to one side. Try to go as low as possible but don’t touch the floor. Lift your hips back. This is one rep. Repeat at least 8-10 times.