The plank hold is a staple core exercise that not only helps to tone your midsection, but also helps to improve posture, support a healthy back and enhance overall movement and stability. Performing the plank engages all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominis, the rectus abdominus and the external obliques, as well as the glutes, shoulders and arms.
Increasing the duration of a plank is one way to progress this exercise, however if you’re looking for some ways to mix up your plank and really challenge those core muscles, give these more complex and difficult movements a go:
The plank reach takes the regular plank exercise and adds in an arm movement, challenging the torso to remain steady throughout.
How to perform – starting in a regular plank position, reach your left arm forward, and then back to the starting position. Repeat with your right arm.
Elevated Feet Plank:
Elevating your foot position will make this exercise more challenging, and will bring in your chest, shoulders and triceps due to the incline angle.
How to perform – perform a plank, but place your feet on a box, bench, or step instead of on the floor. Your body should form a straight line from your neck to your ankles.
Adding movement to your plank will challenge you to keep your core braced and stable, and will also hit your shoulders, chest and arm muscles too.
How to perform – start in a prone plank position, resting on your forearms with your body forming a straight line from shoulders to feet. Then push up from the ground, one arm at a time, into the elevated press-up position. Lower each arm back to starting position and repeat.
The body saw adds some dynamic movement to a regular plank, making it a tough challenge for your core. The movement of the saw gets harder as you move the centre of your body further away from your elbows, and it becomes more challenging to maintain the rigid plank position.
How to perform – starting in a regular plank position, use your elbows to pull your body forward, and then back to the starting position. You can either rock back and forth on your toes, or use a towel or similar so your feet can slide back and forth. Be sure to engage your core and keep your back flat.
Stir the Pot:
The greater the challenge to maintain stability, the harder the exercise will be. The instability of the ball in this exercise makes your body, especially your abs work harder to prevent rotating, flexing, or extending too much.
How to perform – your starting position is similar to a regular plank, however instead of your elbows and forearms being on the floor, place them on a swiss ball. Brace your abs and make small circles to the right with your forearms, as if stirring a pot. Repeat both sides.
Adding external resistance is a simple way to progress your plank. You can add weight by either wearing a weighted vest, or by placing a plate on your mid-back.
How to perform – this exercise is performed in the same way as a regular plank, with added weight. The easiest way to add the weight is to get a friend or gym partner to place the weight on your back.
Ab Wheel Roll-Out:
Not for the faint-hearted, the ab wheel is an advanced tool that delivers a seriously intense, next-level core challenge. This exercise requires you to engage multiple core muscles at once, as well as much of your upper half. There are also a few progressions you can make within ab wheel rollouts.
How to perform – start by placing your knees on a mat on the floor and by gripping the ab wheel with your hands. Slowly lean your upper body forward as you roll the wheel out as far as you can while keeping your back in a straight line parallel to the floor. Pause for a moment at the end of the movement and then wheel back in. The goal is to extend as far as you can while keeping the abs engaged and the torso in a perfect plank.
Once you have mastered the exercise on your knees, try a standing ab wheel rollout. For further progressions, you can give a single-arm rollout or a one-leg rollout a go!