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:
- 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.
- 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.