Level Up Your Planks
Planks are a great core exercise. They challenge your stability, endurance, and will improve your strength. Not only your abs, but your lower back, butt, legs, shoulders, and arms.
No matter the goals of my clients, on at least one day, they’re guaranteed to be doing some sort of plank.
Most of us are sit too much during the day. This weakens our core and glutes. Planks can help reawaken those precious muscles and improve our posture for those grueling days of data entry, coding, or gaming marathons.
Holding a static plank can get more monotonous than the origin story plot line of Marvel films.
Plus after two minutes of holding a plank, you’re training endurance and not strength.
I for one don’t want to add another 30 seconds to my plank hold as I try and level up my core strength.
Let me show you three ways you can make your planks more challenging, plus below you’ll find a core routine you can give a shot today at the gym or at home.
How to Make Planks More Challenging
Traditional planks, the ones we all know and love, require that you hold yourself stiffer than Hayden Christensen’s acting in the prequels. As I said above, these are great for strengthening but can get really boring they longer you hold them.
Plus, think about your day and when are you ever “hanging” out in that position?
You’re not. You’re moving and grooving and getting shit done. Your core is stabilizing you as bend to pick up your phone that you dropped, reaching for the rice in your cabinet, or walking down the street.
Add small movements to your planks to challenge their stability even further.
The Klap Trap Plank, or Plank Jack for those uncool kids, starts like a typical plank but then adds a little jumping jack for your feet.
If you want to really feel the burn try Spiderman Planks.
Talk about adding a challenging movement, these planks force you to maintain hip stability while you bring your knees to your elbows. If the hips flare up, and you look more like a downward facing dog than a plank, you’re doing it wrong.
2. Add Weight
Adding weight will always challenge your body to adapt and grow to the new stimulus.
Having a gym buddy, or asking a nearby person, to throw a 10-45 pound plate on your back as you plank is an excellent way to level up your core strength.
You won’t need much here as you start. So don’t get cocky and add a 45 on your first rep. Add 10 pounds and then another 10 if you need it and see if you can maintain good form and reach your normal planking time.
One of my clients emailed me yesterday and told me this:
My daughter crawled on my back, in a full plank, and I held perfect form for 30-secs. I was white knuckled by the end, but I did it.
Obviously, I’d never suggest having your kid sit on you while you plank, but the mental image made me laugh. Still grab a plate, put it on your back, and hold that plank for as long as you can.
3. Change Your Angle
My dad would come home from work as a kid and tell me all he wanted to do was “put his feet up.”
Putting your feet up — changing the angle — will force your core to really engage to maintain your position.
Find a bench, a box, or stack 3-4 plates on top of each other for height. Place your feet on the elevated surface and assume your standard plank position.
Changing the height of your feet will increase the demand on your abs as well as your shoulders.
To make this even more challenging. Take the box, exercise step, or plates your feet were on and place your elbows/hands on this surface.
Make sure you’re near a wall, and from a kneeling position, extend one leg behind you, foot flat on the wall and leg straight. Push as hard as you can into the wall with that foot. Bracing your core, raise the knee left on the ground and press it into the wall.
With both feet pressing into the wall to keep you from sliding down, you’ll engage more of your glutes and hips, working the stabilizer muscles within them.
Take your time coming down from this movement, you don’t need or want to fall to the ground because you tried to hold it to the last tick of the clock.
Plank it Out
Planks are versatile because they can be done anywhere.
They’re safer on your spine than endless sets of crunches and there are so many tweaks you can make to continue challenging yourself with a standard plank.
If you’re really getting bored with your core training, I have a routine below you can give a shot today at the gym. FYI each exercise is performed back-to-back with no rest for three sets.
First Core Set
One-Arm Dumbbell Suitcase Carry – 3 sets of 30 steps per side
Side Plank Holds – 3 sets of 20-30 seconds holds
rest for 60 seconds after side planks
Second Core Set
Planks with Reach – 3 sets of 10 reaches each side
Klap Trap Planks – 3 sets of 15 jacks
rest for 60 seconds after Klap Trap Planks
Final Core Set
2-3 sets of Tetris Planks
rest for 90 seconds between sets