Core strength: mix up your plank

Activate your core, tone your tummy and build the foundations for a healthy gut with these fun and challenging plank variations

(Image credit: Pok Rie, Pexels).

It’s an activity many of us shudder at the thought of, yet it’s an exercise, when practised regularly, renowned for encouraging the rock-hard abs and a strong core we all long for — the good old plank. 

The muscles surrounding our tummies are the abdominals; strengthening them through exercise is an essential part of achieving a healthy gut. An advocate of simple healthy living, Livestrong claim the plank trains your core in a functional way while also assisting with stability, posture and spinal alignment.

“Unlike crunches and sit-ups, which put stress on the vertebrae as you push your back toward the mat to curl up, planks keep the back in its intended alignment,” they add. 

“You’ll also be less likely to cause stress on the neck by pulling on it to curl up as can occur with crunches.”

However, you don’t have to literally stay still like a plank of wood — boring!

“While the classic plank is a great go-to exercise, planks can also be modified to suit what your body needs,” say health and wellness expert Healthline.

Plus, if you really want to strengthen your core, then variety is key. Change up your plank with these variations and find one that works for you. All you need is yourself and an exercise mat.

Up and down plank
  • Hold for: 30-50 seconds
  • Why it works: It engages your midsection and strengthens your back muscles while targeting arms and building upper body strength also.
  • How to do it: Starting in high plank, bend one arm to bring the elbow and forearm to the floor. Then do the same with the other arm until you are in forearm plank. Using the arm you began with, push back up to a high plank. Continue, alternating which arm you place down each time.
Plank with hip twist
  • Hold for: 30-50 seconds
  • Why it works: Primarily targeting your obliques and lower abdominals, this can also tone your waist and strengthen your hips.
  • How to do it: Begin in forearm plank with your hands clasped. Keeping your back straight and feet together, tilt your left hip towards the floor until it almost touches and then twist back to forearm plank. Repeat with your right hip and continue alternating.
Spider plank
  • Hold for: 5-10 reps each side
  • Why it works: The spider plank is great for activating and toning your obliques — the muscles which run along the sides of your waist. This will contribute to working your core from every angle.
  • How to do it: Begin in a high plank position. As you exhale, pull your right knee toward the outside of your right elbow, ensuring your bottom doesn’t raise upwards and your knee is open so your inner thigh hovers over the floor. Then, inhale and push your leg back to high plank. Keep alternating with each leg.
Forearm side plank with twist (thread the needle)
  • Hold for: 5-10 reps each side
  • Why it works: It may burn, but this is another good one for your obliques. Squeezing your inner thighs and glutes throughout is key to building improved strength, stability and posture.
  • How to do it: Position yourself in side plank with your forearm on the ground and your elbow stacked below your shoulder. You can either stack your feet or stagger them one in front of the other. Reach your opposite arm upwards, pointing your finger tips towards the ceiling. Rotate your torso down and scoop your extended arm underneath the opposite armpit, then rotate back to side plank again extending your arm. Repeat on the other side.
Plank with shoulder taps
  • Hold for: 30-50 seconds
  • Why it works: Ready for a challenge? This one requires focus and balance too. A great overall body exercise, this strengthens your core, glutes, arms, wrists and shoulders while also improving posture, flexibility and tightening your midsection.
  • How to do it: Begin in high plank. Engage your core, lift one hand off the ground and slowly touch the opposite shoulder. Slowly place it back on the ground and repeat with the other hand. Keep your hips square to the mat and move at a controlled pace. Keep alternating.

What plank variations have you tried? Let me know.

5 thoughts on “Core strength: mix up your plank

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