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6 Essential Plank Variations That Suit Any Workout Routine — Also, the Correct Way to Perform a Plank.

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  • Post last modified:September 25, 2023

Welcome to Revise This Movement

The ongoing series where you’ll discover everything you require to alter a typical workout to meet your objectives, your physique, and your state of mind. Each narrative dissects the procedure of executing a foundational fitness movement and subsequently provides numerous revisions based on your current fitness or energy level, prior or existing injuries, or the muscles you aim to target the most. So leave your ego at the entrance and ensure that every workout adapts to your current state.

Anyone who has attempted to maintain a plank for a minute knows that those 60 seconds can feel more like an hour. But the brief discomfort involved is completely comprehensible: Despite the straightforward appearance of the movement, a high plank activates all of your core muscles but is also a completely comprehensive exercise. The high plank not only challenges your rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis muscles, but it also requires the involvement of your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

However, just because planks can be arduous does not imply that they are exclusively intended for fitness experts. In reality, practicing high planks assists in developing the core strength necessary to simply stand upright, maintain spinal support during everyday motions (such as bending to pick something up from the ground, like your dog or a kettlebell), and prevent injuries, particularly back pain. In other words, planks can be advantageous for individuals at any fitness level and at any stage in their fitness journey.

While the high plank is typically considered the traditional version of the exercise, there are countless ways to modify the movement pattern with plank variations, as explained by Phyllicia Bonanno, a SWEAT yoga instructor. Depending on how you feel, both mentally and physically, on any given day, you should feel at ease adjusting the plank to suit your current condition.

To be even more precise, opting for a slightly less demanding plank variation is not an indication of weakness, but rather a demonstration of your ability to listen to your body and cater to its needs. Additionally, if you are reintegrating a regular fitness routine or experiencing shoulder or wrist pain, trying a plank variation instead of the original exercise can provide all the benefits of a high plank without overwhelming you, leaving you dissatisfied, or causing discomfort.

Are you ready to attempt the exercise for strengthening your core? Follow the instructions below to perfect the high plank, and then observe Bonanno as she demonstrates six different plank variations that are suitable for all skill levels and fitness objectives.

How to Perform a High Plank

A. Commence in a quadruped position on the ground with hands positioned directly beneath the shoulders, knees bent, and positioned directly beneath the hips, and feet spaced apart at the width of the hips.

B. Lift both knees off the ground and extend the legs to assume a high plank position on the palms, squeezing the gluteal muscles together and activating the core. Actively push away from the ground and maintain a straight alignment from the head to the heels.

6 Variations of the Plank

Mastered the technique of the traditional high plank? While the fundamental exercise should generally be a regular part of your workouts, there may be days when you desire something different — and fortunately, there are numerous plank variations to choose from. Whether the basic high plank feels a bit too challenging or you aim to intensify the exercise even further, there exists a modification for the plank that will suit you and your physique.

Here, you will encounter plank variations that adjust the difficulty level, including modifications for wrist discomfort and shoulder pain, variations designed to enhance your stability, and alternatives that target the shoulder muscles to aid in injury prevention. Whichever option you select, ensure that you listen to your body and feel free to attempt a different exercise if it doesn’t feel suitable for you.

Plank Variation for Decreased Intensity: Raised Plank

If you intend to decrease the strain on your upper body, give this variation of the plank a try. Placing your hands on a chair or bench lessens the amount of weight that your shoulders and wrists need to support, making it slightly less demanding, as stated by Bonanno. Once you have mastered this movement, you can progress to a raised plank by using an object closer to the ground (for example, a stool), before eventually attempting a high plank. “The closer you are to the ground, the more your body weight becomes a factor,” she adds.

A. Position both hands on a chair or bench, spaced shoulder-width apart.

B. Step one foot back at a time to assume a raised plank position, with your feet spaced at the width of the hips and your weight resting on your toes. Squeeze the glutes together, engage the core, actively push away from the chair or bench, and maintain a straight alignment from the head to the heels.

Plank Variation for Increased Intensity: Side Plank

By keeping only one foot and arm in contact with the ground, this variation of the plank challenges your balance and activates your oblique muscles, according to Bonanno.

Additionally, “you are engaging your core even further than in a high plank and you will experience an increased sensation of your arm power exertion to maintain your position,” she suggests.

B. Lift both knees off the floor and straighten legs to come into a high plank position on palms, squeezing glutes together and engaging core. Extend right arm forward and left leg backward, keeping hips level and square to the floor. Actively push away from the floor and maintain a straight line from head to heels. Focus on your stability and body movement.

B. Elevate both knees from the ground and extend legs to assume a elevated plank position on palms, contracting the glutes simultaneously and activating the core. Vigorously push away from the ground and uphold a straight alignment from the head to the feet.

C. While keeping the core engaged, raise the left leg to the height of the hip, then lift the right arm to the height of the shoulder, or until it is parallel to the ground.

Plank Variation to Enhance Shoulder Strength: Inverted Plank

This particular variation of the plank is essentially a reversed high plank, therefore, it targets the same muscle groups, including the core and glutes, states Bonanno. Nonetheless, the shoulders are in for a significant challenge with this exercise. “It aids in improving shoulder mobility and strength since you are retracting your arms and relying on your strength to support your body,” she adds.

A. Be seated with legs extended in front of the body, feet united and toes directed towards the ceiling. Position the hands on the floor behind the buttocks, with the fingers facing the body, and maintain a forward gaze.

B. Activate the core, elevate the hips towards the ceiling, while keeping the legs together, and extend the toes towards the wall that is in front of the body. Continue to lift the chest higher, gazing towards the ceiling. Sustain a straight alignment from the head to the feet.

Photography and artwork: Jenna Brillhart

Model and fitness expert: Phyllicia Bonanno

Hair and makeup: Tee Chavez

Wardrobe: Aerie