The Plank Exercise is by far the most efficient and under utilized core exercise. Go to any gym and we guarantee that you'll see people sprawled out all over the floor doing crunches and very few people doing the plank exercise (if any).
It's also likely that you won't see anyone doing core work, but that is a completely different topic.
Everyone wants a six pack, but ain't nobody want to train abs...know what we're saying?
If you want to build a truly solid core and full body stability, you really need to be doing the plank exercise.
The plank exercise is great because it not only provides a ridiculous core workout, it also forces you to engage almost every muscle in the body including the glutes, hamstrings, triceps, shoulders, pecs, and lats.
Tip: Start with the basic plank exercise variations and then try the other versions of the exercise. Also, start by holding the exercise for 30 seconds a set and then add 15 seconds a week until you can hold each variation for at least 2 minutes. The longer, the better.
Keep your glutes tight and don't let your ass sag or hike up in the air. You want to be stiff like a board...or...a plank if you will.
10 Plank Exercise Variations You Need to Be Doing
#1: Standard High Plank
This version of the plank exercise is the most common and the best version for beginners to try and master. In the standard plank you essentially hold the top position of a push-up for as long as you can.
When doing this version of the plank exercise, try not push your shoulders forward. Keep your shoulders back. To add a little back work to the exercise, try squeezing your shoulder blades together while you squeeze your core.
#2: Forearm Plank (Low Plank)
This is the more advanced version of the high plank exercise. The form is essentially the same, except that you lower your body down to your elbows and forearms.
Tip: Try to keep your forearms at a 90 degree angle; though you can rock back and forth to change the difficulty of the exercise.
#3: Plank with a Shoulder Touches
For this version of the plank exercise, hold the standard top plank position. Then, pick up one arm and touch the opposite shoulder. Rotate arms until you have completed as many reps as possible over your desired time frame.
To make this version of the plank exercise more difficult, try holding each shoulder touch for up to 10 seconds. This will give the arm and shoulder supporting the body extra work.
#4: High Side Plank
The side plank is the best version of the plank exercise for targeting the obliques. To perform this version, tighten your abs and glutes then lift your hips off the floor, supporting yourself with your arm extending, palm on the floor.
Your feet should be together, directly in line with your shoulder. Keep abs tight and head in proper alignment. Repeat the exercise on each side of the body.
#5: Forearm Side Plank (Low Side Plank)
The forearm side plank is the advance version of the side plank and is performed in the same position as the high plank, except you lower yourself down to your forearm. Again, like the standard forearm plank, your arm should always be at a 90 degree angle.
#6: Bent-Arm Plank (Low Isometric Push-up)
This variation is great for working the triceps and chest; as well as the core and glutes. Start in the top plank or starting push-up position, and then lower your body down until your upper arms are perpendicular to the floor.
Hold that position as long as you can, before returning to the starting position.
#7: Forearm Plank on an Exercise Ball
This version of the plank exercise is similar to the normal forearm plank; however, instead of doing the exercise on the floor, you rest your forearms on an exercise ball.
The instability of the exercise ball forces you to really work your obliques and stabilizing muscles to avoiding rotating.
#8: Extended Plank
The extended plank is one of the most challenging plank exercise variations. This version of the plank has the added benefit of working the lats and shoulders.
To perform this version of the plank exercise, start in the standard high plank position and then walk your hands out in front of your head. Walk your hands out as far as you feel comfortable and then hold the plank from that position.
#9: Wide Arm Plank
The wide Arm Plank is similar to the extended arm plank, except that instead of walking your hands out front, you walk them out to the sides, as if you are in the "fly" or "iron-cross" position.
This variation of the plank works the chest and is a great finisher for the end of an upper body workout.
Conclusion: Again, the plank exercise is one of the best, if not the best, core exercise you should be doing regularly. If you get creative there are almost an endless number of ways to modify the way it stimulates the body.
Few core movements offer the full body contraction offered by the plank exercise, which is what makes it the pound for pound king of core exercises.