Plank variation workout

Learn how to plank the right way so you can reap all its core strengthening benefits. Nail the basic plank, then try our variations.
Published 7 December 2015

Plank variation workout

The plan

A plank is a great exercise to incorporate into your fitness routine. It strengthens your core muscles and can also strengthen your neck, chest, glutes, thighs, calves, biceps, shoulders and lower back. Hold the plank position for 15-60 seconds, depending on your ability, and aim to do three repetitions.

As you improve you can move through the exercise options. Stay on exercise 1 until you can do it pain-free and with strong form for 60 seconds, then progress to the next option. The aim is to work up to option 3 and 4.

Before you start

Wear trainers to prevent your feet from slipping. A yoga mat can cushion your elbows and provide some extra grip.

Common mistakes

Keep your back straight – it shouldn’t hunch over or dip down – and don’t lift your bottom high into the air.

1. Kneeling plank

For an easier option, lie face-down on a mat and keep your forearms and knees on the ground. Lift your chest and stomach, and lower your bottom to help keep your back straight. Exhale and bring your belly button up towards your spine. Still too difficult? Start by lying on the mat and lifting just your stomach off the floor. Once this becomes too easy, start practising the kneeling version of the plank regularly before moving on to the standard plank.

Kneeling plank

2. Standard plank

Lie face-down on a mat and keep your forearms on the floor. Curl your toes under and lift your chest, stomach and legs off the floor, keeping your back straight and bottom flat. As you exhale, engage your core so your belly button draws in towards your spine. Keep your breathing regular as you hold the position. If you start to feel pain in your lower back you need to rest before trying again.

Standard plank

3. Heel lift plank

For an advanced option, start in a plank position but with your arms straight and your hands flat on the ground. Engage your core and slowly lift your right leg up until your right heel is level with your pelvis. Keep both your legs straight and your pelvis square to the floor. Keep your abs tight and hold. Lower your right leg, then raise your left leg to repeat the move on the opposite side.

Heel lift plank

4. The side plank

To spice it up, get into a plank position on your left side, leaving your left foot and forearm on the mat for balance. Keep your left elbow in line with your left shoulder and your hips stacked. Engage your core and hold the position. Want more of a challenge? Raise your right arm up, then bring it down and wrap it around your stomach towards your back, twisting your upper body as you reach behind you. Hold for a count, then bring your arm back up. Repeat on right side.

The side plank