Most of us dream of having a strong core, tight abs, and a flat stomach. But how do we get there? With so many options, it can be hard to decide if we should be doing elbow-to-knee crunches, sit-ups, or wall plank exercises.
Plank workouts are a bodyweight exercise suitable for beginners and advanced fitness practitioners. They are free to do and you don’t need any extra equipment.
Different types of planks work out almost every muscle in the body.
Planks are great for improving overall strength, balance, stability and mobility.
Planks vs. crunches. Planks are a superior exercise to sit-ups and crunches.
From beginner's plank workouts to Spider-Man plank and plank shoulder taps, we’ll cover the different types of plank exercises to get you honed and toned in no time.
Why should you do plank workouts?
Almost every movement you make on a day-to-day basis comes from your core muscles. Bending down to pick something up, or twisting in your office chair to respond to a question—all core-driven actions. If your core is weak, then other areas of the body have to take the strain, which could explain the prevalence of lower back pain worldwide.
Your core is formed of several muscle groups covering your back, hips, pelvis, abdominal, and buttocks. Regular sit-ups and crunches only target a few of these groups and often put unnecessary strain on the back and neck.
Dynamic plank workouts are far superior. They engage all the core muscles at once without the risks of back and neck injury. If it were planks vs. crunches in a title fight—dynamic planks would take the crown every time.
Top 7 plank exercises for core strength
Take a look through this list of our favorite plank exercises. There are tips for beginners' plank workouts, and ways to increase the burn for those of you who are more advanced on your fitness journey. Remember to keep your body in one straight and strong line. Always engage the quad muscles in your thighs, and glute muscles in your buttocks to prevent your lower body from dipping.
- Rocking plank;
- Walking plank;
- Plank crunches;
- Spider-Man plank;
- Plank wall exercise;
- Plank shoulder taps;
- Plank twists;
1. Rocking plank
Rocking plank is a plank variation in which you rock your body back and forth while holding a strong plank position. It’s great for strengthening the core muscles, and also building both the anterior (front) and posterior (rear) muscles in the shoulders. You’ll be feeling the burn in your pectorals, trapezius, deltoids, and rotator cuff muscles.
Here's how to do the rocking plank exercise for core strength:
- Step 1. Lay on your front. Place your hands underneath your shoulders and push up into a regular plank position. Your arms should be straight, with your toes pressing firmly into the floor to lift the knees and thighs. Your body should be in one straight, strong line.
- Step 2. Gently move your body forwards by rising up higher on the toes, driving your head and shoulders over your wrists. Keep pushing until your shoulders are just past your fingertips.
- Step 3. Keeping the core engaged and the legs strong, push yourself back into the starting position by lowering the toes and pushing back through the arms. Your shoulders should be stacked over the wrists.
- Step 4. You’ve completed one round of rocking plank. Try this exercise for 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and go again for another 30.
2. Walking plank
Walking plank is a type of plank variation that involves moving from a high to low plank, one arm at a time. It’s incredible for targeting those all important stabilizing core muscles. You’ll target your shoulder, chest, and arm muscles too, which is great for strengthening your less dominant side — as it can’t rely on the strong arm to shoulder most of the weight.
Here are the guidelines explaining how to do a walking plank correctly:
- Step 1. Lay down on your front. Lift yourself up into a forearm plank with your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms facing forward. Press your toes firmly into the ground to raise the knees and thighs. Your body should be in one strong, straight line.
- Step 2. Move yourself into a high plank position by placing one hand underneath your shoulder and pushing up, followed by the other hand. Your hands should be stacked under the shoulders, with arms straight and your wrists, elbows, and shoulders in one line.
- Step 3. Lower yourself back down to the forearm plank, one arm at a time. You’ve completed one round of walking plank. Try this exercise at 30 second intervals with a 10-second rest in between.
3. Plank crunches
Plank crunches are a type of plank variation that targets your core muscles, with the added benefit of crunching your abdominal too. You’ll still get all the benefits of working out the side, back and front of the core muscles — but with extra emphasis on your abs.
Here's how to do the plank crunches to strengthen your core:
- Step 1. Get yourself into a high plank position with the hands, elbows, and shoulders stacked and straight.
- Step 2. Tighten your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button in and up. Push into the floor with your hands as if you are trying to push the ground away from you.
- Step 3. Bend one knee and raise it up, driving your knee towards your chest. Return to plank position and repeat using the other leg. Repeat this exercise continuously in 30 second repetitions, with a 10-second break in between reps. Try for at least 3 reps and build up from there.
4. Spider-Man plank
Spider-Man plank is a more advanced plank variation. As well as getting deep into those core muscles, you’ll also be targeting your obliques, triceps, and shoulders too. Spider-Man plank is great for increasing hip flexibility and knee health.
Follow these steps to take the Spider-Man plank the correct way:
- Step 1. Get into a forearm plank position with your elbows stacked under the shoulders and your forearms pressing into the ground.
- Step 2. Bending at the knee, raise your right leg to the outside of your right arm. Drive the knee towards your shoulder and hold for 2 seconds before returning to plank position.
- Step 3. Repeat on the left side. You’ve completed one rep. Repeat for a set amount of time or set amount of reps. Gradually increase the time and number of reps as you build strength.
5. Plank wall exercise
Plank wall exercise is a great beginners plank exercise. It’s also highly beneficial for seniors, as well as those recovering from injury. Performed standing up against a wall, you will still be targeting the core muscle group, but it’s a less dynamic plank variation.
Here's how to strengthen your core with a plank wall exercise:
- Step 1. Place your forearms against a wall, forming a right angle between your forearm and upper arm. Make sure your hands are pointing upwards towards the ceiling.
- Step 2. Walk your feet back approximately 40-60cms away from the wall. Ensuring that your body is in one straight line and not rounding the upper back. Hold this position for 15 seconds and then rest for 30.
- Step 3. Walk your feet back towards the wall and rest your arms. Gradually increase the time as you build strength. Make sure to go slowly and if you experience any pain, it’s your body giving you a signal to back off.
6. Plank shoulder taps
Plank shoulder taps are an advanced plank variation, with the added challenge of tapping your shoulders while holding a strong high plank position. This exercise strengthens the core and benefits the muscle tone of your glutes, arms, and legs. The main shoulder taps muscles worked are your triceps, deltoids, rotator cuffs, and pectorals.
Follow these steps to take the plank shoulder taps:
- Step 1. Get into a strong and stable high plank position. Your arms should be straight, with shoulders, elbows, and wrists stacked.
- Step 2. Draw in your abdominal and squeeze the glutes to stabilize the hips.
- Step 3. Put your weight into your right arm, lift your left hand and tap your right shoulder. Place the left hand down and repeat on the other side. You can do plank shoulder taps for a set time or number of reps, gradually increasing as you get stronger.
7. Plank twists
Plank twists are an advanced variation of dynamic plank. The twisting movements will target your obliques and abs, as well as challenging your arms as they work to stabilize the whole body.
Here are the steps showing how to do plank twists for core strength:
- Step 1. Get into a strong and stable high plank position. Your arms should be straight, with shoulders, elbows, and wrists stacked. Press your toes into the grounds and engage your legs and glutes.
- Step 2. Put the weight into your left arm as you twist your body and raise your right arm to the ceiling. Lift the gaze towards your right hand.
- Step 3. Place your right-hand back to the ground and lift your left arm to the ceiling, twisting your torso to the left and looking up towards your left hand. You’ve completed one rep. Try for 10 reps to begin with and increase as you build strength.
What are the benefits of plank exercises?
Dynamic plank exercises and beginners plank exercises are incredible for strengthening almost all the muscles in your body. Anyone can do them, and you don’t need expensive equipment or a gym membership to get started with planks.
With strong and stable abdominal, back muscles, shoulders and arms, you can expect improvements in posture, stability, balance, and mobility.
Different types of plank exercises also work to build strength in your skeletal system. And, because they help to correctly align the vertebrae in your spine, you may find relief from back pain as well as prevention from back injuries too.
Plank exercises burn calories and improve your metabolism, helping your digestive system work optimally. Medium intensity exercises also build your immunity, creating greater resilience against seasonal illnesses like colds and flu.
Should you do plank exercises every day?
With any kind of exercise regime, it’s always good to have one full rest day to allow your body time to recover and rebuild muscle. Having a 6-times week dynamic plank exercises plan will be fantastic for building strength and stability in your core. Try different plank variations to challenge different muscles.
When you are ready, you can add in plank leg lifts, and plank to push-ups to further increase your fitness levels, core strength and endurance.
Are all plank exercises beginner-friendly?
No, not all plank exercises are beginner-friendly. Start with something simple like plank wall exercises. Make sure you have enough strength and core stability to hold yourself in a strong, straight plank position before moving on to the more dynamic plank exercises. Remember to go slowly and if you experience pain, that’s a signal from your body to back off.
Planks vs sit-ups: which one is better?
Planks take the crown every time. With sit-ups you are only exercising your abdominals. Plank exercises target all the major muscle groups in the body as well as the abdominals, so you build muscular and skeletal strength. Regular sit-ups also come with the risk of straining your neck and back if your core isn’t strong enough.
Is 1 minute of plank a day enough?
1 minute of plank per day is an excellent place to start. However after a while you’ll have built up enough strength to do more reps and stay in different dynamic plank variations for longer. You’ll also want to incorporate different plank exercises into your regimen.
- Journal of Physical Education Health and Sport. Simple exercises at home during social distancing during Covid 19.
- Journal of Applied Physiology. Immune function in sport and exercise.