Regardless of whether you’re a runner, biker, swimmer, body builder, or just simply trying to stay in shape, core strength plays a crucial role in your success. Our core is the center of our body, and without it, we would be unable to function in nearly all of our activities – making building core strength essential for any athlete.
Plank exercises are a great way to strengthen the core.
Planks are a powerful isometric exercise that engage almost all of your muscles, with a large focus on the core and back. While classic planks themselves are already packed with strengthening benefits, mixing things up with a few plank variations is a great way to enhance your core strength even further.
Related: The Ultimate 30 Day Plank Challenge Printable
These simple plank variations provide a variety of options for your core routine. Whether you complete a plank each day or dedicate one workout a week to your core, throwing in a few of the best plank variations will help keep your muscles as strong and active as possible.
Try a few isometric plank variations or some of the active plank exercises to really feel the burn. These plank variations are perfect for everyone, from beginners to advanced athletes alike.
Check out some of the best plank variations!
The Best 15 Plank Variations to Strengthen Your Core
Straight Arm Plank
When you perform a classic plank exercise, you’re likely completing either a straight arm or elbow plank. Both of these plank variations engage your core through isometric strengthening.
To complete a straight arm plank, begin by lying face down on the floor. Bend at the elbows to bring both hands underneath your chest, while curling your toes towards the floor. Push you body up off the floor, and balance your weight evenly between your hands and feet. Be sure to maintain a flat back position, and avoid arching your shoulders or letting your hips dip.
An elbow plank is the second variation of a classic plank exercise. The only difference between an elbow plank and a straight arm plank is whether you place your elbows or palms on the floor.
In an elbow plank, you’ll want to place your elbows on the floor about shoulder width distance apart. Extend your forearms and hands forward, planting your palms in front of you on the floor. Continue to distribute your weight evenly and ensure your body remains flat as a board, just like the straight arm plank.
Aside from the elbow and straight arm planks, the next most common plank variation you will find is a side plank. Side planks involve just that: a regular plank completed on your side.
To begin, lie flat on one side of your body. Bring your bottom elbow in towards your body, resting it underneath your shoulder. Stack both feet, one on top of the other, and push your body upwards off the floor. Balance your weight between your bottom foot and lower elbow, and be careful to avoid letting your hips sag.
You can choose to extend your upper arm above your body, as if reaching for the ceiling, or simply rest your hand against your hip.
Side Plank with Taps
This plank exercise is a variation of the classic side plank. Position your body in side plank position, and extend your upper arm straight into the air, as if reaching for the ceiling.
Next, bring your upper hand down in front of your body to touch the floor underneath your shoulder. Tap the floor just below your elbow, twisting your upper body as necessary. Lift your arm back up into the air and repeat.
Superman planks involve a slight variation of the classic, center plank. To begin, position your body in a classic plank, either on your elbows or in a straight arm position. From this plank position, walk both feet out wider than hip width, creating a Y shape with your body from your feet to head.
This plank jack variation combines a classic plank with a superman plank by adding a jump in between. Position your body in a classic plank position, either on your elbows or with arms straight. In a single movement, lift both feet off the floor, jumping so that they land on the floor wider than hip width distance – in a superman plank. Next, jump both feet back towards one another to return to their original position. Continue to repeat.
Plank with Taps
This plank exercise enhances the core strengthening benefits of a classic plank with the addition of a single movement. Begin in an elbow plank position, checking to make sure your elbows are planted on the floor shoulder width distance apart. Lifting one arm from the floor, reach forward and extend your arm fully to tap the floor with your fingers in front of you. Return your arm back to the floor and repeat on the opposite side.
Side Plank Rotations
Side plank rotations enhance the typical side plank by incorporating movement to focus on balance throughout the exercise. Position your body in a straight arm side plank variation, with your upper arm extended straight above your body into the air.
Reach down to the floor with your upper arm, and plant your palm firmly on the floor. Twist your body around to face the opposite direction, repositioning your feet so the opposite foot rests on the floor. Next, reach your upper arm up towards the ceiling and repeat the rotation to return to your original side.
Related: 6 Full Body Balance Exercises for Runners
Side Plank Dips
This plank variation incorporates a bit of movement with the classic side plank. Begin in a side plank position on your elbow. From this position, lower your bottom hip down towards the floor, bending at the waist to do so. Hover your bottom hip a few inches above the floor, and then lift back up to return to plank position.
Bird/Dog Balance Plank
A bird/dog plank involves quite a bit of balance and strength. Begin in your choice of either an elbow or straight arm plank position. Next, in a single motion, lift your right arm and left leg simultaneously into the air. Extend your arm directly in front of you and kick your leg straight back behind you, raising both until they are about parallel to the floor. Return back to a classic plank position and repeat with the opposite sides.
Plank with Forward/Backward Rocks
This rocking plank variation utilizes a bit of forward and backward movement to further engage your core and provide strengthening benefits. Position yourself in an elbow plank to begin, and ensure your weight is distributed evenly.
Next, shift your weight forwards, rocking up towards your head. Push your heels forward to balance on your toes and bend at the elbows to shift your shoulders and upper arms forward. Once you have shifted your weight forward, rock backwards to return to plank position.
This plank variation helps engage your shoulders and upper arms to create a powerful plank exercise that works your entire upper body. Begin in an elbow plank position, and then slowly rise to a straight arm plank by planting one hand on the floor at a time. Once you are in a straight arm plank, lower back down to an elbow plank by lowering one elbow to the floor at a time. Continue to repeat.
Related: Powerful Bodyweight Arm Workout
Side Plank with Leg Extension
Side plank leg extensions are a great way to strengthen the sides of your core while promoting full body balance. Begin in a side plank position, either on your elbow or with a straight arm. Lift your upper leg into the air, keeping it straight while doing so. Continue to lift as high as possible while maintaining balance, and then lower back to your original position.
Plank Body Twists
This body twist plank variation engages your entire core in a single exercise, including your back as well as your sides, upper and lower core muscles. Position your body in a straight arm plank position, and bring one knee up towards your hips, keeping it elevated above the floor. Next, move your knee from side to side, twisting slightly at the hips as needed. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Plank hops are a great exercise to strengthen not only your core, but your entire body. Begin in straight arm plank position, checking to make sure your weight is distributed evenly throughout your body. Next, jump both feet up towards your shoulders, bending at the knees to land underneath your hips. In a single motion, jump both feet back out behind you to return to their original position.
These 15 plank variations are perfect for everyone – from beginners to advanced. Try incorporating a few different plank exercises each week to strengthen all areas of your core and build muscle in no time.
Challenge yourself to complete a plank a day, or spend one day each week focused on the core. No matter how you incorporate them, your entire body will benefit from regular plank exercises.
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