The Perfect Plank for Every Fitness Level

couple doing plankWhen you’re looking to rock your core (all the muscles that surround your spine) plus extra work for shoulders, legs and more, look no further than the plank exercise.

Planks are a tough yet basic exercise. With dozens of varieties that can be used to advance or modify planks, you can include them at every fitness level for total body results.

Using standard plank positions as a base, it’s best that you develop good form before you start adding on more advanced variations. You want to be sure you maintain strong alignment with well-engaged abs to get the most from these exercises.

Plank Foundations
Basics for Beginners Getting Stronger Advanced Planks Super Strong

Beginners Plank: Same position as either the forearm or straight arm plank, but balanced on knees instead of toes. The shorter line modifies the plank to make it easier – it’s a good position for beginners to develop proper form, protect their backs and work their way up to the fully extended legs.

Straight Arm Plank: You may know this position as the beginning of a push-up. Position your body facing the floor with your hands underneath your shoulders and legs close together extended behind you, toes tucked under. Your arms should be parallel—not too far from your body. Avoid sagging in the middle or raising the hips – be in a straight line from your heels up to your head.

One-legged: When you’re ready to progress your basic plank, start with this one. It’s just what it sounds like—lift one foot a few inches off the floor behind you, keeping your leg straight. Count to 10 or more, then switch legs.

One-armed: Again, it’s what you imagine—try lifting one arm a few inches off the floor when you’re in your forearm plank. The less you tilt, the better. The one-armed plank adds extra work for your upper body.

Side arm: Downward-facing planks aren’t the only way to go. This plank, balanced on first one arm (stack the legs and feet on top of each other, facing forward, then the other, will fire up your obliques along the sides of your body. You can do side planks with straight arms or on your forearms. You can also perform side planks with knees bent until you get stronger—make sure you keep those hips in line with the torso!

Forearm Plank: Assume the same position as the straight arm plank, except bend at the elbows and balance on your forearms. Your elbows should be in line with your shoulders again, directly under the body. The forearm plank is even tougher on your core than the straight arm version. A good first goal is to work up to a full minute holding good form in this basic position.

Mermaid: Balance in your straight arm side plank. Taking a cue from a Pilates move, slowly lower your hips a few inches toward the floor, then smoothly rise them back up. Repeat 5 – 10 times per side.

Spiderman: In your standard plank position facing down, lift one leg a few inches off the floor and then out to the side. Bend the knee toward your arm and then straighten it, before placing it back to your starting plank position. Repeat on other side, alternating back and forth 3 – 5 times per leg.

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