Fitness Certifications »
Continuing Education »
Professional Resources »
About ACE »
ACE Store »
Sales and Promotions »
ACE Partner Account »
Need Help? Call Us » (888) 825‑3636
Follow ACE on

5 Plank Variations That Will Challenge Your Core

5 Plank Variations That Will Challenge Your Core | Stephanie Thielen | Expert Articles | 4/14/2015

STAY INFORMED

Sign up to receive relevant, science-based health and fitness news from ACE each month.

Front, side, reverse, hands or forearms, knees or toes—whichever way you choose to plank, this simple, stationary position is an essential exercise in your weekly fitness routine. When performed correctly, planking strengthens all the muscles that run up and down your spine, which helps you to stand, rotate, bend and lift with ease. And let’s not forget the bonus benefits of strengthening your arms, shoulders, glutes and legs. There’s no better way to multitask than to perform plank exercises. 

Planks have endless variations. Subtle changes such as lifting an arm or adding movement can change the degree of difficulty of the exercise, keeping your body challenged and your workouts fun. Ready to fire up your core? These five plank variations focus on lifting the legs and adding rotation to intensify the work. 

Plank Set-up

All exercises, except for the last one, should begin in one of the positions described below. Setting the foundation ensures that your alignment is correct and your entire body is connected and engaged so you’ll be ready to tackle these fun and highly effective plank exercises. 

High Plank

Position the body face down with hands underneath the shoulders and inner arms close to the body. Tuck the toes and contract the quadriceps and glutes so the knees come slightly off the floor. Engage the abdominals, inhale, and on the exhale press the body up in one unit to high-plank position. You should be in a straight line from head to heels. 

Forearm Plank

Position the body face down with the elbows bent underneath the shoulders and the forearms and palms firmly planted into the ground. Tuck the toes and contract the quadriceps and glutes so the knees come slightly off the floor. Engage the abdominals, inhale, and on the exhale press the body up onto the forearms. You should be in a straight line from head to heels. 

Forearm Plank With Repeater 3 Taps

Plank

plank

  • Begin with forearm plank set-up (see above).
  • Raise the right leg off the ground and tap the right toes onto the left ankle.
  • Raise the right leg again and tap the floor to the outside of the left foot.
  • Raise the right leg again and tap the left ankle.
  • Return back to center and repeat the sequence with the left leg.
  • Repeat this repeater 3-tap pattern for eight to 10 reps. Perform two sets.

 

Side Riser Plank

plank

side plank

This plank variation is a hybrid of a side forearm plank and a high plank.

  • Begin with the high-plank set-up (see above). Lower down onto the right forearm and spin the legs so they are stacked with weight on the outer edge of the right foot. Reach the left arm up toward the ceiling.
  • Place the left hand down and push the body back up to high-plank position.
  • Lower down onto the left forearm and spin the legs so they are stacked with weight on the outer edge of the left foot. Reach the right arm up toward the ceiling.
  • Place the right hand down and push the body back up to high-plank position.
  • Repeat this alternating pattern for 10 reps. Perform two sets.

 

Marching Side Plank

side plank

marching side plank

Keeping a rhythmic marching pattern is the challenge in this side-plank variation.

  • Begin with the high-plank set-up (see above). Roll to the right arm and position the legs in a scissors stance, with the left leg to the front with weight on the bottom of the foot, and the right leg to the back with weight on the outer edge of the foot.
  • Lift the right knee toward the chest and release back down. Lift the left knee toward the chest and release back down. Repeat this pattern in a rhythmic fashion for 10 reps.
  • Roll back to high plank and then release to the ground to rest. Repeat on the other side, rolling to the left arm, with the right leg to the front with weight on the bottom of the foot, and the left leg to the back with weight on the outer edge of the foot.
  • Performing 10 reps on each side is one set. Perform one to two sets.

 

Fallen Triangle Switch

plank

plank

plank

Inspired by yoga, this plank variation challenges stability and engages the abdominals, arms, and inner and outer legs.

  • Begin with the high-plank set-up (see above). Roll to the right arm and stack the legs with weight on the outer edge of the right foot. Reach the left arm up toward the ceiling.
  • Kick the left leg forward and hold.
  • Draw the left knee in toward the chest and spin the knee underneath the body, rolling to the left side plank, kicking the left leg forward. Reach the right arm up toward the ceiling.
  • Draw the left knee in toward the chest and spin the knee underneath the body, rolling back to the right side plank and kicking the left leg forward. Reach the left arm up toward the ceiling.
  • Return back to side plank and repeat the sequence.
  • Perform one to three reps on the right side and then one to three reps on the left.

 

Quadruped Hover With Leg Kickbacks

plank

This quadruped plank variation looks easy, but it is very intense for the core.

  • Begin in quadruped position, aligning the hips over the knees and shoulders over the wrists.
  • Tuck the toes under, engage the core and lift both knees about 2 inches off the floor.
  • Extend the right leg back, pointing the toes and hips toward the ground. Return to center and repeat with the left leg.
  • Repeat this alternating pattern for 10 reps. Perform two sets.