The quest for rock-solid abs can feel like an endless battle. But whether you see a six-pack or not, a strong core is essential for overall health and injury prevention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the importance of core strength for preventing back pain and improving stability. Enter the plank: your core’s best friend (and maybe not-so-secret enemy!).

Planks might not be everyone’s favorite exercise, but they offer a powerful way to tighten your core and sculpt your midsection. Unlike crunches or situps, planks put less stress on your spine and hips. Bonus? A single plank strengthens your back, glutes, hamstrings, arms, and shoulders – all in one go!

That’s a lot of bang for your buck (or, more accurately, your 30-60 seconds of effort). The good news? No matter your fitness level, there’s a plank variation out there for you.

This article dives into 3 plank variations, meticulously ordered from easiest to hardest, to help you build a core you can be proud of!

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3 Plank Variations

3 plank variations

High Plank Variation: Strengthen Your Core and Back

  1. Get down on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders, spaced slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Push your toes into the ground and squeeze your glutes to activate your core. Imagine your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Keep your neck neutral, with your head in line with your spine.
  3. Hold this position for 20-60 seconds. Breathe steadily and focus on maintaining good form. Once you can no longer hold the plank with proper form, return to the starting position.

Elbow Plank Variation: Build Shoulder Stability

  1. Lie face down on the mat with your legs extended behind you and your feet together. Bend your elbows and forearms flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
  2. Engage your core and glutes, then press your forearms into the ground to lift your body off the mat. Your weight should be distributed between your forearms and toes.
  3. Form a straight line from head to heels. Squeeze your core to keep your back straight and avoid arching in your lower back.
  4. Hold this position for as long as you can with good form. Aim for 20-45 seconds initially and gradually increase the hold time as you get stronger. Breathe steadily throughout the exercise.

Side Plank Variation: Improve Your Obliques

  1. Lie on your left side with your forearm on the floor, directly under your shoulder. Extend your legs straight back, stacked on top of each other.
  2. Tighten your core and lift your hips off the floor, forming a straight line from head to feet. You can rest your top hand on your hip or reach it towards the ceiling, whichever feels more comfortable.
  3. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, focusing on squeezing your obliques (side abdominal muscles) to maintain proper form. Breathe steadily throughout the hold.
  4. Repeat on the other side for the same amount of time.

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