The following set of exercises is ideal for those who are always too busy to do a workout for more than 10-20 minutes a day. Planks are not only very good for abs, but also help to exercise the muscles in your shoulders and buttocks. To help you develop the perfect but short fitness regime, thought we’d share with you the most effective variations of this classic exercise.
Remember: you’ll get the best results if you do these exercises every day at a set time, gradually increasing the amount you do. Pay special attention to performing each exercise correctly to avoid injury.
1. The straight-arm plank
This is the classic variant of the plank exercise. With your arms shoulder-length apart, lift your body upwards, placing your body weight on your arms and feet. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Your legs should be straight – don’t bend them at knees – and your hips lowered (not sticking up). Your abdominal muscles should be tenses and pulled upwards towards your ribs as much as possible. Your mid-section should be flat, and your legs placed close together to increase the load on the abdominal muscles. Ideally, you should try to hold this position for as long as possible, but if you’re a beginner, start by holding it for at least 10-20 seconds. Then you can begin to increase the time by 10 seconds at a pace suitable for you. This variant of the plank is great for exercising your abdominal muscles.
2. Elbow plank
Lie facedown with legs extended and elbows bent and directly under shoulders; clasp your hands. Feet should be hip-width apart, and elbows should be shoulder-width apart. Contract your abs, then tuck your toes to lift your body (forearms remain on the ground); you should be in a straight line from head to heels. Hold for 60 seconds or as long as you can. This advanced variant of the classic plank will develop not only your abdominals but also the pectoralis major, the deltoid muscle and the lumbar quadrate muscle.
3. Plank with opposite limb extension
Adopt the starting position used for the standard plank, and then lift up your arm and leg on opposite sides of your body. You should do it in a such way that both your shoulders and hips do not break the straight line of your body. The complexity of this variant is found in the need to not only increase the load on your arms, but also in the need to maintain your balance and ensure that your whole body remains in a straight line.
4. Elbow plank with arm/leg lift
Challenge your balance. From an elbow plank, lift your right leg up and hold. Lower down. Repeat with left leg. Do the same for your arms with both legs on the ground.
5. Elbow side plank
During this plank exercise, your body should form a straight line and your abs should be tensed, with your upper arm placed either on your waist or pointing upwards. Be careful to make sure your hips do not sag down. Your legs should either be placed one on top of the other or with one in front.
6. Standard side plank
From plank position, press your right hand into a mat and turn your body so your weight is on the outer edge of your right foot; stack your left foot on top. Imagine you have a big beach ball under your right side; press your torso up and away from the ball, extending your left arm with fingers pointed toward the sky. Tighten your lower-ab muscles and brace your entire core. Hold for 60 seconds, then return to plank position and repeat on the left side; that’s one rep. Do three reps. This variant helps develop the external and internal muscles of the abdomen, the external vastus and gluteus medius muscle.
7. Side plank with twist
Lie on your right side with forearm directly under shoulder, hand perpendicular to your body, and legs stacked. Engage your abs and the right side of your waist, lifting your hips so your body forms a straight line from head to feet. Extend your left arm toward the sky, staying engaged through your core. Now scoop your left arm in front of your body and reach under the space between your chest and the ground, twisting only from the waist up. Come back up; repeat four times, then lower body to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
8. Back plank
Place your hands under your shoulders, with the back of your hands directed towards your heels. Point your toes and push out your pelvis. At the same time you should look upwards and be careful to keep your back straight.
9. Straight-arm back plank with bent legs
Take care to keep your shoulders, hips and back in a straight line. The only difference with the previous variant is that now you need to bend your legs at the knee. Do not lower your hips or throw back your head.
10. The dolphin plank
Begin on your hands and knees. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Lower your elbows to the floor directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your forearms parallel to each other and to the side edges of your mat. Tuck your toes and step back with your feet, bringing your body and head into one straight line. Align your heels over your toes. Keep your thighs lifted and take care not to let your hips sink too low. If your butt sticks up in the air, realign your body so your shoulders are directly above your elbows. Contract your abdominals and draw your pelvic floor muscles toward your spine. Keep your head in line with your spine. Broaden across your shoulder blades and collarbone. Gaze between your hands, or toward the top edge of your mat. Press the front of your thighs (quadriceps) up toward the ceiling while lengthening your tailbone toward your heels. Hold the pose while breathing smoothly for five breaths. Advanced practitioners and those using the pose to build stamina can hold for up to five minutes. To release the pose, slowly lower onto your knees. This variant of exercise works your back muscles and shoulders.
11. Pull-up knee plank
Adopt the classic straight-armed plank as your starting position. Pull up your left knee towards your left elbow then lower it, then pull up your right knee to your right elbow. Strive to keep your back in a straight line, whilst tensing your abs and looking straight ahead.
12. Push-up side plank
Get in low push-up position with hands under your chest and a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your body straight and core tight, press up, extending your arms without locking your elbows. Transfer your weight onto your left hand, lifting your right arm toward the ceiling. Lower down, and repeat on the opposite side; that’s one rep. Do 12 reps.
13. Jumping plank
Adopt the classic straight-armed plank as your starting position. From this position, and whilst keeping a straight line, you should jump up using your legs slightly with your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart. Make sure your knees don’t sag down.
4. Lowered hips side plank
Start in the standard side plank position. Slowly lower your right thigh to the floor, then return it to the starting position. Do not forget to keep the straight line of your body.
Adopt the classic straight-arm plank position, then achieve a squatting position by jumping up with your legs.
16. Caterpillar plank
Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, bend forward at the waist and place your hands on the floor; crawl forward to plank position with shoulders directly over wrists. Bend elbows to lower your body toward the floor, then push back up. Next, bend your left knee, bring it up and in toward your chest, then rotate your waist as you raise your bent left leg out until it’s parallel to the floor. Return to plank and repeat on the opposite side. Return to standing.
17. Raised elbow plank
Adopt the classic straight-arm plank position. Lift up your right arm bent at the elbow, hold this position for a few seconds, then lower it. Now repeat the same move with the other arm.
18. Stir-the-pot plank
Kneel in front of a stability ball with your forearms and elbows on the ball, hands clasped. Roll ball forward until your legs are extended and your body is in plank position, toes tucked. Your shoulders should be stacked directly above your elbows, chest lifted off the ball, and neck in line with your spine. Brace your abs and make small circles to the right with your forearms, as if stirring a pot. Do 15 reps, then repeat, making circles to the left.
19. On-the-ball plank
Place your shins and tops of your feet on a stability ball with your hands on the ground in plank position. Engage your core, squeeze your butt muscles, and hold for one minute.
20. Plank with side snatch
Adding a dumbbell movement works your back, too. Come to plank position with body straight, feet wider than shoulder-width, hands gripping 8- to 10-lb dumbbells. Engage core muscles; in a single movement (keeping arms straight), twist at the waist (allowing toes to pivot) and lift dumbbell in left hand out to left and up overhead Return to plank position; continue for 60 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.