Bodyweight Plank Variations

It’s no secret that planks are one of my favorite exercises.

I love planksI honestly think the majority of my workouts involve a plank in some way, shape, or form.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in my opinion the plank is THE best abdominal exercise.  Many people associate “nice abs” with having a six-pack and doing endless crunches, but let me tell you that you it’s much more important to establish a strong CORE deep down.  Why?  Because having a strong core helps us stabilize our bodies.  It helps us keep balance.  Having a strong core (more than just our abs, people!) helps us use our strength in other parts of the body more effectively and efficiently.  Once you improve your stabilization, you may just notice other improvements as well, whether it be decreased injury, improved posture, or just a more toned stomach in general.  You can crunch away all day, but if you are looking for the most bang for your buck… plank away!

plankin

Don’t be hatin.  I seriously just love planks.

That being said, I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my favorite types of planks.  But I realized as I was having poor Tim take picture after picture that I have too many favorites there are just so many different kinds out there.  So in order to a) keep this post to a decent length and b) have Tim remain willing to snap so many random pictures of me, I’ve decided to restrict this post to my favorite BODYWEIGHT planks – no equipment necessary!  I’ll save my plank variations with equipment for another time. 😉

Bodyweight Plank Variations

Elbow Plank
This is just your regular ole plank — keep butts down, but abs tight so you don’t drop your hips.  The wider your feet are, the wider your base, and the easier the plank will be.

Elbow Plank

If you are new to planks, don’t fret!  Here’s a modified version, just drop your knees to the ground:

Modified elbow plank

Straight arm plank
Same rules apply, just keep the hands right beneath the shoulders.

Straight arm plank

Plank with alternating leg lifts
These can be done in either the elbow or straight arm version.  Just alternate lifting one leg at a time, keeping proper form.  You don’t need to lift the legs very high to be effective!

Elbow plank with alternating leg lifts

Plank with hip dips
These can be done in either the elbow or straight arm version, but I prefer elbow.  Drop the hips down a couple of inches, then lift back up to starting position.

Elbow plank with hip dips

Plank with knee hover
These can be done in either the elbow or straight arm version, but I prefer straight to get more “hover.”  Just drop the knees so they hover over the ground, then lift back up to starting position.

Straight arm plank with knee hover

Rocking planks
These can be done in either the elbow or straight arm version.  Rock forward (over the toes), then return to starting position.

Rolling planks

Uneven plank
I recommend straight arms for this one because it is better for form.  Reach one arm forward and the opposite leg back.  This one is tough for balance, try not to twist!

Uneven plank

Plank knee to chest
I recommend straight arms for this one, as you’ll have more room to pull in the knee.  Alternate driving one knee at a time toward your chest.

Plank knee to chest

Plank cross knees
I recommend straight arms for this one again.  Alternate driving one knee at a time toward your opposite shoulder.

Plank cross knee to chest

Spiderman planks
This can be done in either the elbow or straight arm versions.  This time, drive the knee toward the elbow on the same side of your body.  Keep alternating in this pattern.

Spiderman planks

Walking planks
Walk the plank!  Walk your arms first to the right (2 o’clock) then back to the center and continue to the left (10 o’clock).  Continue like this.  I recommend straight arms for this one.

Walking planks

Up down planks
Start in an elbow plank.  Alternate “walking” your hands up and down from elbow to straight.  Up left, up right, down left, down right.  Reverse sides.

Up Up Down Down

Plank jacks
This is a good one to get the heart rate up.  Jumping jacks, in plank form — hop your feet out and in.

Plank jacks

Side planks
Side planks can be done in elbow or straight arm version.  No matter which you choose, try to keep your hip lifted as you hold your balance.

Side Planks

To modify, just place the knee on the ground or drop the top leg:

Modified side plank

Side planks with hip dips
Same as above, just drop the hips down and up.  Lower and lift!

Side planks with hip dips

Reverse planks
These are important to do to make sure you aren’t overworking the front of the body.  I recommend straight arms, and make sure not to drop the neck and let your head hang back.

Reverse planks

Reverse planks with alternating leg lifts
Same as above, just alternate lifting one leg at a time.

Reverse plank with alternating leg lifts

A common question I get from clients is whether straight arm planks or elbow planks are more effective.  My answer is always that both are effective for core stability, but the elbow variations tend to work the core slightly more, while the straight arm variations tend to put more weight into the shoulders and therefore work the arms a little more with the core.  For those with shoulder issues stick with elbow versions.  Otherwise, I’d say a nice variety of both types is your best bet!

Another common question I get is how to increase plank time.  While I am ALL about trying to increase your plank time, I would advise against doing the same elbow or straight arm plank every single day for a long length of time.  “Plank a days” are okay, but I think it’s more beneficial to change up the type of planks you are doing daily so that you challenge different muscles and avoid any imbalance issues.  Maybe test your time once a week!

What are YOUR favorite bodyweight plank variations?  What did I miss?

A couple of favorites I remembered after taking the pictures for this post were side to side hip dips, side planks with rotations, and plank kick to tucks!

One closing thought for today:

doing-a-plank

Plank away, friends!