Upgrade Your Boring Plank With These Variations

STACK Expert Andrew Meyers offers 10 plank variations to help you build core strength, balance and stability.

The Plank is a great core exercise that is beneficial for all athletes. Your core is your center of gravity, allowing you to produce force and power during activity. The Plank can help you achieve these things, but it can get boring. However, the classic Plank has many variations that can challenge you in different ways and increase your core strength. Here are 10 Plank variations to incorporate into your workouts.

Plank Step-Ups are essentially Step-Ups for the upper body. They not only target your core, they also increases strength in your shoulders and triceps. The motion simulates actions in football and wrestling, where you have to move on your hands and legs.

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The Plank is a great core exercise that is beneficial for all athletes. Your core is your center of gravity, allowing you to produce force and power during activity. The Plank can help you achieve these things, but it can get boring. However, the classic Plank has many variations that can challenge you in different ways and increase your core strength. Here are 10 Plank variations to incorporate into your workouts.

1. Plank Step-Ups

Plank Step-Ups are essentially Step-Ups for the upper body. They not only target your core, they also increases strength in your shoulders and triceps. The motion simulates actions in football and wrestling, where you have to move on your hands and legs.

How to Perform:

  1. Set up a step-up board and adjust the height based on your ability.
  2. Get into a standard push-up position with your hands flat on the ground in front of the board.
  3. Without hiking your hips or letting them sag, bring one hand off the ground and place it on the board, followed by your other hand.
  4. Lower the first hand back to the ground followed by the other hand. That's one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x30; 15 stepping up with one hand first, 15 stepping up with the other hand first

RELATED: The Plank Workout That Helps You Get Faster

2. Plank to Push-Up

The Plank to Push-Up has all the benefits of a Plank and a Push-Up. This variation also targets your shoulders and triceps in addition to your core.

How to Perform:

  1. Get into a standard plank position on your forearms with your back straight and your navel pulled in.
  2. Without hiking your hips or letting them sag, bring one arm off the ground and place it on the floor, followed by your other hand.
  3. Lower your first hand back to the floor, followed by your other hand. That's one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x30; 15 pushing up with one hand first, 15 pushing up with the other hand first

Watch the LSU women's soccer team doing Plank Push-Ups.

3. Alternating Shoulder Tap Plank

This variation requires balance and stability in your core and shoulders. When you add movement while stabilizing yourself on one hand, your core has to work harder to maintain your center of gravity.

How to Perform:

  1. Get into a standard push-up position.
  2. While maintaining a strong core and resisting the tendency to rotate your body, lift one hand off the ground and tap your opposite shoulder.
  3. Place that hand back on the ground and repeat with the other hand. That's one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x30

4. Bird Dog Plank

Most of us have done a classic Bird Dog exercise, but this plank variation takes it to another level. Requiring a great deal of balance, the Bird Dog Plank is an excellent exercise for athletes in sports requiring single-leg and arm movements.

How to Perform:

  1. Get into a standard push-up position with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Without hiking your hips or letting them sag, lift one arm off the floor straight out in front of you while simultaneously lifting the opposite leg off the floor straight out behind you.
  3. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat with your other hand and leg.

Sets/Reps: 3x30, both sides

5. Stability Ball Rollout Plank

This exercise is essentially the same as an Ab Wheel Rollout, but it requires more core balance and stabilization. It does not require you to go down as far as the ab wheel, but because your arms are closer together on the stability ball and you are on your feet, your core has to work harder to stabilize yourself.

How to Perform:

  1. Get into a standard plank position, but place your forearms on a stability ball and your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Start with your arms bent and the ball close to your body.
  3. Keeping your core tight and your back straight, extend your arms, rolling the ball away from your body in a slow and controlled motion.
  4. Once you reach full extension, retract your arms and shoulders until the ball rolls back to the starting position. That's one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

6. Stability Ball Stir the Pot Plank

These are similar to Rollouts except you roll the ball in a circle instead of straight out in front of you. When you add rotation, your oblique muscles are more heavily recruited to help stabilize you.

How to Perform:

  1. Get into a standard plank position with your forearms on a stability ball and your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keeping your core tight and your back straight, rotate the ball clockwise in a circular motion in a slow and controlled manner. One full circle is one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x10; 5 reps clockwise, 5 counterclockwise

7. Dumbbell Alternating Renegade Row Plank

This variation adds weight via dumbbells, incorporating extra resistance to increase strength. It will not only build core strength, but biceps and rhomboid strength as well.

How to Perform:

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells that are challenging but not too heavy.
  2. Get into a standard push-up position with your hands grasping the dumbbells in a neutral grip on the floor and your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Resisting the tendency to rotate your body, lift one dumbbell off the floor, perform a Single-Arm Row and place it back on the floor.
  4. Repeat with the other arm. That's one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x15

8. Plank Drag with Feet on Towel

The Plank Drag strengthens your shoulders and triceps in addition to your core by requiring you to drag your entire body without using your legs. This requires a great deal of upper-body strength.

How to Perform:

  1. Grab a towel and place it on a slick surface such as wood, tile or grass.
  2. Get into a standard push-up position with both feet on the towel.
  3. Without pushing off with your feet, walk forward with your hands, making sure not to hike your hips or let them sag.

Sets/Reps: 4x20 yards

9. Bosu Ball Wobbly Planks

This plank variation will activate the fast-twitch muscles in your arms and core, which are essential for in-game movements. Your muscles are constantly vibrating as they contract, and this exercise will help simulate and prepare them for that.

How to Perform:

  1. Get into a standard push-up position with your hands grasping the side handles of a BOSU ball.
  2. Keeping your core tight and resisting the tendency to rotate your body, push one side of the ball down toward the ground with one hand.
  3. As quickly as possible transition to the same motion on the other side.

Sets/Duration: 3x30 seconds

10. Side Plank Reach-Through

Once again, adding rotation to your Plank will increase your oblique strength and stabilization.

How to Perform:

  1. Get into a standard side plank position.
  2. Lift one hand off the floor straight out to your side.
  3. Without hiking your hips or letting them sag, bend your elbow and bring it underneath your body as you slightly rotate your body inward.
  4. Perform the motion in reverse back to the starting point. That's one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x15 with both hands

Learn why you should stop wasting time doing basic Ab Planks.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: CORE | PLANK | EXERCISE | HIKING | STABILITY BALL