How to Plank the Right Way Plus 4 Plank Variations

Sabrina Tillman
by Sabrina Tillman
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How to Plank the Right Way Plus 4 Plank Variations

Planks have been all the rage in the fitness field the past few years—they’ve trumped the crunch (and many other moves, for that matter) as the go-to exercise for strengthening the core muscles, the group of trunk muscles that surround the spine and include the abs, hips and glutes. And for good reasons:

  1. Planks and plank variations require constant abdominal stabilization and, in some variations, body rotation, which an American Council of Exercise-commissioned study ranked as the top two criteria for determining the most effective abdominal exercises.
  2. Planks encourage core stability. A study published in the American College of Sports Medicine Journal emphasizes the importance of core stability not only for normal movement patterns for everyday activities and sports, but also for injury prevention. The study also notes the efficacy of core stability and strengthening in the treatment of low back pain.

To reap all of these benefits, planks and plank variations need to be completed with correct form. We asked NASM-certified trainer and functional movement expert Erik Taylor to walk us through how to execute a plank—as well as four plank variations—the right way.

how to plank revised

 

Plank
1. Lie on your stomach, flat on the floor. Push up onto your forearms.
2. Bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms.
3. Keep your elbows under your shoulders.
4. Pull your belly button towards your spine.
5. Your body should form a flat line. Don’t let your hips sag, and don’t push your butt up—keep your body in a straight line.
6. You can do this plank on your hands instead of your elbows if you prefer (if you feel any pain or stiffness in your wrists, balance your weight on your elbows instead).

Side Plank
1. Lie on your side with your legs straight and your body in a straight line (shoulders and hips stacked one on top of the other; don’t lean forward or backwards).
2. Prop your body up so your hips are off the floor. Rest your weight on the elbow on that’s touching the floor.
3. Only your forearm and feet should touch the floor.
4. Do not let the hips sag—this is the challenging part of this move. As you get tired, you’ll want to drop the hips, but focus on keeping them stationary.

Walking Plank
1. Get into a push-up position with your arms extended.
2. Keep your feet in a fixed position.
3. Walk on your hands for 1-3 feet towards the right, then switch and walk towards your left.
4. Keep your belly pulled in throughout the movement.

Spiderman Plank
1. Get into a plank position.
2. Bring your right knee towards your right elbow.
3. Switch and bring your left knee towards your left elbow.

Alternating Hand Plank
1. Get into a plank position; rest your weight on your forearms.
2. Push up onto your right hand until your right arm is straight. Push up onto your left hand until your left arm is straight.
3. Lower back down onto your right forearm, then your left forearm. That’s one rep.
4. Do not allow your hips to move as you lift and lower.

About the Author

Sabrina Tillman
Sabrina Tillman

Sabrina Tillman is the managing editor for MyFitnessPal. She’s a dedicated runner, Pilates enthusiast and homecook whose knack for creating dishes on the fly (as well as food her son will actually eat) with whatever ingredients are in the house earned her the nickname “Kitchen MacGyver” by her husband. If she can find any spare time, she enjoys chasing her son, reading, attempting to bake, and napping.

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23 responses to “How to Plank the Right Way Plus 4 Plank Variations”

  1. Avatar Mushtaq says:

    Hi my name is Mushtaq male 39 years old 5.10 feet height and weight 93 kg.How can I reduce to 80 kg.

    • Avatar Beetrot says:

      Eat less and exercise more.

    • Avatar Alawiye says:

      My stats were just like yours. 39, 5.10, 93 kg. But in January, I decided to watch what I eat for a start and cutting out my early large ‘double double’ coffee and morning bagels have helped to shed 6 kg. I am now starting to work out so I can convert the flab to lean muscles. But like someone already advised, first step is to eat less or more importantly, watch what does in/

  2. Avatar Val says:

    Okay I did my first day of Planks, 1 minute.

  3. Avatar Kelly Vermeren Madsen says:

    The graphic for the alternating hand plank doesn’t match the description-the graphic is alternate arm, alternate leg…

  4. Avatar Solange Richard says:

    Hi, I don’t undertand the walking plank and the aternating hand
    plank… I think a small video of the 4 planks being excecuted would
    have been amazing.

    • Avatar love2coachvolleyball says:

      I agree, the descriptions and pictures aren’t very helpful. A short video of each would be great!

    • Avatar Carly Hudson says:

      I am so glad I am not the only one who was so confused when they got to the Walking Planks! I had to go to YouTube and then my fitness friends to make sure I was doing it correctly.

  5. Avatar QueenSS says:

    The pictures and descriptions for the walking and alternate hand plank are confusing. The full article link does not help. Look up videos to get the correct form. Other than that, I’m starting the challenge tomorrow.

  6. Avatar RED says:

    What is better the forearm plank or the hand plank? Does it make a difference the type of plank?

  7. Avatar Isabella dibeasi says:

    It’s so hard to do because I struggle with one

  8. Avatar txbjones says:

    did I miss the length of time to do the plank once in the correct position?

    • Avatar Greg Walker says:

      As long as you can hold good form!

    • Avatar josephz2va says:

      Use a stopwatch and hold your position for as long as you can hang on and as many reps as you can take per day. Use a bosu ball for added challenge.

      Most I’ve done was one minute 30 seconds to begin and 1 minute reps for 13 minutes total.

  9. Avatar Greg Walker says:

    I love planking and need to get into it again. When I started my exercise regimen I managed a 1 minute plank. 3 months later I planked for 7 and a half minutes in a competition and won! Unfortunately I have fallen of the wagon and stacked the weight on again, but I am once again turning my fitness around! Bye bye fat!!

    • Avatar John Laursen says:

      Good for you, I had to do the same, I was doing well until I broke my wrist and that put me out of action for a while, so naturally the weight went up, but now I’m back at it again, and with diet and exercise have almost gotten back where I was before, this time however I’m going to try to surpass my previous goals, good luck my friend it can be done if you put your mind to it.

  10. Avatar Ruth says:

    What is the right length of time to hold these plank positions once in the right position?

    • Avatar josephz2va says:

      Hold it as long as you can keep up. And as many repetitions you can per day. Bosu ball for added challenge. If you want to see your progression, use your smartphone’s stopwatch feature for laps and start/stop.

      Most can do 1 minute repetitions for 5 reps. I worked up to 12 reps today for 1 minute 30 seconds maximum on the first rep and 1 minute to 1 minute 10 seconds each next rep for 13 minutes total.

  11. Avatar Carly Hudson says:

    LOVING this challenge. I started it because it looked simple enough for a beginner, fitness dummy like me and I have really enjoyed it. I feel like I am working really hard and I can feel my body responding big time. Planking may be a part of my day from now on!

  12. Avatar Boris Tchakalov says:

    I thought the spiderman plank was called a mountain climber.

  13. Avatar Connie White McNeill says:

    Re the side planks: in Weeks 1 and 2 the directions say “per side”. In later weeks they just say repeat nX, e.g. 5x on Day 15. Does this mean 5x per side, or 5x in all (e.g. 3 on one side and 2 on the other)

  14. Avatar cfc says:

    this is not a plank…. omg.

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