Planks are a great core exercise easily adapted for almost anyone, from beginner to advanced. With such a wide array of variations, you can keep your plank game strong and continue to challenge yourself.
Bored with planks? Need something to challenge both mind and body? Add some of these to your workouts! If you’re newer to exercise, start with the basics and gradually move on from there.
Try these challenging plank variations:
1- TALL PLANK
Key points: stack shoulders over wrists and push away from the ground. Keep neck neutral, no sagging or looking up. Keep hips in line with shoulders; don’t pike them up in the air or leg them sag! Engage abs, squeeze glutes, push back into the heels, and hold!
NOTE: if this position bothers your wrists, you can try coming up on your fists, or hold dumbbells with straight wrists, either of which should alleviate the problem. (I experienced this when I first started working out but it did get better within a couple of months as my wrist flexibility improved.)
2- SIDE PLANK
This one has a few options. I prefer the forearm version as shown but you can do with extended arm instead. I like to situate my feet one slightly in front of the other but you can also stack them. See what works best for you. Either way, don’t let your hips sag!
3- SIDE PLANK STAR
Start in an extended arm side plank; raise the top arm up high, then lift the top leg. Don’t let the hips drop! Start by trying to hold 10 seconds at a time on each side and work up from there.
4- HARDSTYLE FOREARM PLANK
Begin on forearms and up on balls of feet.
Key thought: activate everything! Make fists with your hands, stay tall in the shoulders, engage your abs, tuck your pelvis toward your face and squeeze the glutes. Engage the quads by thinking about pulling kneecaps up, then push back into your heels. If you’re doing it right, this is NOT a plank you’ll hold for long periods of time!
5- PUSH-UP (with MODIFICATIONS)
Push-ups are just planks in motion!
Standard push-up: start in a tall plank, with abs and glutes engaged, and hands beneath shoulders. Push back into your heels. As you lower, keep elbows somewhat close to the body, not pointing out to the sides. Stay strong in your plank, not allowing butt to pike up or drop.
Knee version: this one is easier BUT it’s also easy to do them incorrectly. Most people end up bending at the hips which makes it a far less effective push-up. So if you do this option, keep thinking “plank” even though you’re on your knees! (Also please do NOT call these “girl pushups” like they used to in PE class. Grrrrrrr.)
Incline push-up: use a box (mine has 3 height options!) or anything sturdy. I’ve used kitchen counters, coffee table, the trunk of a car… get creative for different heights. The benefit of this variation vs the knee version is that you can get a full range of motion AND practice maintaining the tension necessary in a strong plank/push-up, while making the move easier by increasing the height of the surface you’re using.
6- PLANK WITH REACH
Start in a strong forearm plank position. Once you feel good here, reach one arm out in front of you, return to starting position, then reach with the other arm. As you alternate reaches, try to maintain steady hips: no dropping or piking, and try not to sway or twist.
7- PLANK SHOULDER TAPS
Start in a tall plank position. Once you’re feeling stable and strong, tap one shoulder with the opposite hand, then the other. Do your best NOT to allow your hips to move.
8- PLANK WALK-UPS
Start in a tall plank position. When this feels balanced and strong, lower to the forearm on one side, then the other so you’re now in a forearm plank. Then “walk” it back it up a tall plank, and repeat.
9- SINGLE ARM PLANK
For this one, start in a tall plank with feet about shoulder width apart (or wider if needed for stability). Being one arm up close to the body and squeeze lats while trying not to allow the rest of the body to twist. Hold 10-30 seconds then return to starting position and do with the other arm.
10- SIDE PLANK THREAD-THRU
Start in a side plank; you can do this one with the arm extended but I prefer the forearm version in the second half of this demo. You’ll find the best stability with one foot slightly in front of the other. Now extend free arm up toward the sky. Without allowing hips to drop, bring free arm down and thread beneath you, the untwist and extend it back toward the sky.
11- STABILITY BALL PLANK
Start kneeling in front of the ball, place forearms on ball and roll out. Raise hips and knees up into a plank position, engaging core as you squeeze glutes and quads. You might want to place feet a little wider for more stability. Don’t sag into your shoulders! Hold here; remember not to pike your booty up or let it drop.
12- FEET-ELEVATED SIDE PLANK
This is a fun one! Depending on the height of the box/bench you’re using, you may want to do the extended arm version instead of this forearm side plank but I prefer this way. Try to get head, shoulders, hips, and feet all in line and hold steady and strong.
13- SPIDERMAN PLANK
Start in a strong forearm plank. Once you feel stable here, bring your right knee up toward your right elbow. This movement should be done with intent, not as speedily as possible. Return to starting position and do the same thing on the other side. This one is great for your whole core and particularly gets the obliques to join the party.
14- BALL PLANK WITH AB ROLL-IN
Get into a tall plank with shins on the ball. Holding this position might be all you’ll want to do at first because it takes some work to stabilize everything. Don’t sag! When you’re ready, bring knees up toward chest, rolling the ball with your legs/feet as you go, then return, making sure there’s no sagging anywhere along the way. –>See it in action here.
15- PLANK WITH PULL-ACROSS
Start in a tall plank with a dumbbell nearby. While keeping your lower body from moving or twisting, reach under to grasp the dumbbell at your opposite side. Pull across, replace hand on the floor, then reach with the opposite hand to pull the dumbbell across again. You can do this with a kettlebell if you have one handy. Either way, remember the main challenge here is to do this without any wiggling of your hips! Click here to see the pull-across in action.
16- PLANK WITH LATERAL TOE TAPS
Start in a forearm plank. Once you’re steady and situated, tap one foot out to the side, and return, then tap the other out to the side, and return. Don’t try to tap far out to your side; this is a small movement and the goal is not to move the rest of your body as you do it. If you prefer, you can also do this in a tall plank. (See it here.)
17- PLANK WALK-OUTS
I love this as a warm up exercise. Start standing, then bend to touch hands to the ground and walk hands out from there into a tall plank position. Hold, then wall hands back toward feet and return to standing position. Do 10 or so as a warmup. Or get fancy and add one of our other plank variations each time: try shoulder taps or plank walk-ups!
18- QUADRUPED HOVERS
Start on all fours, with shoulders stacked over wrists and hips stacked over knees. Come up on your toes, then raise knees off the ground just an inch or two. Now make sure your abs are engaged, pelvis slightly tucked toward your face, and arms pushing the floor away so you stay tall in your shoulders. Remember not to drop your head; keep a neutral neck. Now hold! Aim for 30 seconds; if you’re not there yet, no worries. Just keep at it.
19- SLIDER MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
Begin in an extended arm plank with glutes and abs engaged. With feet on sliders, slowly draw one knee toward your elbow and return, then repeat with the other knee. Keep it SLOW! As you do so, keep hips level: no twisting. Maintain a strong plank position the whole time: no letting your butt droop or piking it up, and stay tall and strong in the shoulders.
Don’t have sliders? No problem! Use paper plates if you’re on carpet, or wear socks if you’re on a hard surface.
If you give some of these a try, I’d love to hear about it!
See more on my YouTube channel.
Owner/Coach. Powered by tea, books, & sunshine. I help people build stronger, more resilient bodies — because fitness isn’t as much about what we do in the gym as what it helps us do beyond the gym.