Plank Variations for Strong Core

Plank Variations for Strong Core

Plank variations are core exercises that help develop strong abdominal muscles and build stability. A strong core helps with movement in everyday life and will help you perform other exercises more effectively.

The standard plank targets the abdominal muscles, namely the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, and external oblique muscles. The variations of the plank target further isolate these muscles.

The plank is a classic workout that can be used at any fitness level to develop more core strength and stability. Variations like the kettlebell plank variation and trap bar plank variations focus on the abdominal muscles with great concentration.

All plank variations are useful for developing your core muscles. Adding weight to a plank variation, also referred to as a plank weight variation, can intensify the workout and further develop the abdominal muscles.

1. High Plank

The high plank is a plank variation that focuses on core muscles, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves for exercise enthusiasts of all skill levels. The high plank specifically targets the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique muscles, and the rhomboid and trapezius muscles in the back. 

To perform the high plank, get on all fours, placing your hands directly under your shoulders. Then, straighten your legs to perform a pushup position. The high plank is similar to the pushup in regards to positioning, but rather than bending your elbows, and you maintain the position for a selected amount of time.

While the high plank is easy to perform, there are some common mistakes that people make. One mistake is letting the shoulder blades retract in this position. While this occurs during a push-up, it should not occur during the high plank which may lead to joint pain. Keep the back flexed to avoid this from occurring.

Using the high plank can increase core strength and improve your posture. Keep your quads and glutes tight and engage your core through the workout. Try to avoid sinking your back when performing the plank. 

If you are looking to variate this movement further, then the forearm plank is an effective high plank variation. Overall, the high plank is an easy core exercise to perform.

2. Forearm Plank

The forearm plank is a plank variation that focuses on core muscles, hamstrings, and calves for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. The forearm plank targets the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique muscles, and the rhomboid and trapezius muscles in the back and the forearms.

Using the forearm plank can increase core strength and improve stability. Keep your core engaged throughout and your body steady. Try to avoid arching your back when performing the plank. 

While the forearm plank is easy to master, there are a few common mistakes that people make. One of the most common mistakes of the forearm plank is that people do not engage their core during the entire exercise and let their stomach arch. While this won’t lead to injury, it will make the exercise less effective.

The reverse plank is a difficult variation of the forearm plank if you are looking for additional variations to perform. Overall, the forearm plank is a beginner-friendly core exercise to perform.

3. Plank Pulse

The plank pulse is a plank variation that focuses on core muscles, arm muscles, and leg muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The plank pulse targets the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique muscles, and the rhomboid and trapezius muscles in the back and the biceps.

Using the plank pulse can improve stability. It also creates a compound movement for more musculature isolation. 

Try to avoid swinging when you perform the plank pulse as it may lead to muscle tears and joint pain. Keep your core engaged throughout and your arms steady to perform this moderately difficult exercise properly. 

The plank pulse is a moderately difficult variation of the plank. However, if you are looking for an alternative variation of the plank pulse, a side plank can be substituted.

4. Reverse Plank

The reverse plank is a plank variation that focuses on core muscles, arm muscles, leg muscles, and back for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. The reverse plank targets the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique muscles, and the rhomboid and trapezius muscles in the back and posterior muscles. 

Using the reverse plank can improve stability and back strength. It is an isolated movement that is moderately difficult to perform, but if you wish to make it more challenging, raising one leg will increase the difficulty.

A common mistake to avoid in the reverse plank is slouching or retracting your shoulders inwards, which may lead to shoulder joint pain. Keep your torso straight and your glutes and quads engaged throughout the movement.

The forearm plank is an easy variation of the reverse plank if you are looking to change it up.

5. Plank Hip Dip To Side Plank

The plank hip dip to side plank is a plank variation that focuses on core muscles, arm muscles, leg muscles, and back for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The plank hip dip to side plank targets the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique muscles, and the rhomboid and trapezius muscles in the rhomboid and trapezius muscles, the back, and the biceps and triceps in the arms. 

Using the plank hip dip to the side plank can improve stability and overall core control. It is a compound movement that is moderately difficult to perform.

A common mistake to avoid in the plank hip dip to side plank is resting on the ground at the bottom of the movement. Keep your torso straight and your glutes and quads engaged throughout the movement.

The side plank is an easy variation of the plank hip dip to the side plank. 

6. Side Plank

The side plank is a plank variation that focuses primarily on core and back muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The side plank mostly targets internal oblique and external oblique muscles and the rhomboid and trapezius muscles in the back, and the biceps and triceps in the arms. 

The side plank can improve stability, overall core control, and balance. It is an isolated movement that is moderately difficult.

A common mistake to avoid in the side plank is letting your hips drop to the ground. Keep your torso straight and your glutes and quads engaged throughout the movement.

The side plank crunch is a moderately difficult variation of the side plank. 

7. Side Plank Crunch

The side plank crunch is a plank variation that focuses primarily on core muscles, back muscles, and upper leg muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The side plank crunch mostly targets internal oblique and external oblique muscles, the rhomboid and trapezius muscles in the back, the biceps and triceps in the arms, and the glutes and quads in the legs. 

The side plank crunch can improve stability, overall core control, and balance. It is a compound movement that is moderately difficult.

A common mistake to avoid in the side plank crunch is letting your hips drop. Keep your torso straight and your glutes and quads engaged throughout the movement.

The side plank is a moderate variation of the side plank crunch. 

8. Mountain Climber

The mountain climber is a plank variation that focuses primarily on core muscles, arms, and upper leg muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The mountain climber mostly targets internal oblique and external oblique muscles, the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, the biceps and triceps in the arms, and the glutes and quads in the legs. 

The mountain climber can improve stability, core control, and cardiovascular health. It is a compound movement that is moderately difficult with proper form.

A common mistake to avoid in the mountain climber is moving halfway. Bring your knees to your chest and keep your abs engaged to perform the movement.

The plank jack is a moderate variation of the mountain climber.

9. Plank Jack

The plank jack is a plank variation that focuses primarily on core muscles, arms, upper leg, and hip muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The plank jack mostly targets internal oblique and external oblique muscles, the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, the biceps and triceps in the arms, and the glutes and quads in the legs. 

Using the plank can improve stability, core control, and cardiovascular health. It is a compound movement that is moderately easy with proper form.

A common mistake to avoid in the plank jack is dropping your torso. Keep your core tight and engaged throughout the movement to perform it properly.

The mountain climber is a moderate variation of the plank jack.

10. Plank with Shoulder Retraction

The plank with shoulder retraction is a plank variation that focuses primarily on core muscles, arms, and upper leg and shoulder muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The plank with shoulder retraction mostly targets internal oblique and external oblique muscles and the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, and the biceps and triceps in the arms.

Using the plank with shoulder retraction can improve stability, core control, and shoulder stability. It is an isolated movement that is moderately difficult with proper form.

A lazy scapula is a common mistake to avoid in the plank with shoulder retraction. Keep your core tight and engaged throughout the movement to perform it properly and avoid injury in the shoulders.

The high plank is a moderate variation of the plank with shoulder retraction.

11. Moving Plank

The moving plank is a plank variation that focuses primarily on core muscles, arms, upper leg, and shoulder muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The moving plank mostly targets internal oblique and external oblique muscles, the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, the biceps and triceps in the arms, and the quads and glutes.

The moving plank can improve stability, core control, and cardiovascular health. It is a compound movement that is moderately difficult with proper form.

A common mistake to avoid in the moving plank is dropping the hips. Keep your core tight and engaged throughout the movement to perform it properly.

The plank jack is a moderate variation of the moving plank.

12. Knee Plank

The knee plank is a plank variation that focuses primarily on core muscles, arms, upper leg, and shoulder muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The knee plank mostly targets internal oblique and external oblique muscles and the transversus abdominis and rectus abdominis. 

Using the knee plank can improve stability and core control. It is a modified version of other plank variations. 

A common mistake to avoid in the knee plank is sticking your butt in the air. Keep your core tight and your torso straight throughout the movement to perform it properly.

The forearm jack is a harder variation of the knee plank.

13. TRX Plank

The TRX plank is a plank variation that focuses primarily on core muscles, arms, upper leg, and shoulder muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The TRX plank mostly targets internal oblique and external oblique muscles and the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, and leg muscles.

The TRX plank can improve stability, core control, and leg strength. It is a modified version of other plank variations with added equipment. 

A common mistake to avoid in the TRX plank is sticking your butt in the air. Keep your core tight and your torso straight throughout the movement to perform it properly.

The knee jack is an easier variation of the TRX plank.

14. Chaturanga Plank

The chaturanga plank is a plank variation from yoga that focuses on core muscles and arm muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The chaturanga plank targets the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique muscles, and the rhomboid and trapezius muscles in the back the forearms.

Using the chaturanga plank can increase core strength and improve stability. Keep your core engaged throughout and your body steady. Try to avoid rolling your shoulders over your hands. 

The high plank is an easier variation of the chaturanga plank.

15. Single-arm Plank

The single-arm plank is a plank variation that focuses on core muscles, hamstrings, calves, arms, and shoulder muscles for athletes and weightlifters of all skill levels. 

The single-arm plank targets the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique muscles, and the rhomboid and trapezius muscles in the back the forearms.

Using the single-arm plank can increase core strength arm strength and improve stability. Keep your core engaged throughout and your body steady. Try to avoid buckling your elbow during the move. 

The side plank is a variation of the single-arm plank.

What to Know About Plank Variations?

Facts about Plank alternatives are listed below.

  1. Muscle Growth: Plank Alternatives can benefit certain muscle groups better than a plank, such as the oblique and back muscles.
  2. Stability: Variety in plank movements increase stability due to the compound effect.
  3. Core Strength: Using different movements engages the core muscles in fresh ways. 

While performing plank is useful, plank variations help engage new muscles and increase overall core strength and stability. 

What are Common Mistakes in Doing the Plank Variations?

Common mistakes in plank variations include disengaging the shoulders, dropping the hips, buckling at the knees, and letting your abdomen sag. 

  1. Disengaging the shoulders: Disengaging the shoulders is when the shoulder blades retract inwards to take the stress off of the shoulder muscles. While this can be done momentarily to regain strength, many people keep the shoulders retracted to make the exercise easier, which actually can cause joint damage and prevent muscle growth.
  2. Dropping the hips: Dropping the hips occurs during muscle fatigue. It is critical to maintain a tight core and to ensure your hips do not drop.
  3. Buckling at the knees: Although less common, buckling of the knees occurs when the knees begin to weaken and too much pressure is placed upon them. To avoid this, ensure that your abdominal muscles, shoulders, back, and legs are fully engaged.
  4. Letting your abdomen sag: When you do not keep your abs engaged, your abdomen starts to sag, which may be a sign of muscle fatigue or laziness. This is bad form and you should avoid doing this if you cannot maintain a tight core.

What are the Alternatives of Plank Exercises?

The alternatives to plank exercises are side crunches, oblique v-ups, v-ups, kayak twists, and standing crunches.

  1. Side crunches
  2. Oblique v-ups
  3. V-ups
  4. Kayak twist
  5. Standing crunches
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