How to Do Plank Exercises at Home

healthy happy african american man doing exercise planks at home for abs and core strength

For decades, it was believed that the way to get a rock-hard midsection was to perform thousands upon thousands of crunches and sit ups.

After a lack of results (and a lot of sore necks and achy backs), individuals began searching for more effective abdominal and core exercises that also carried with it less risk of injury to the individual performing the exercise.

This gave rise to the emergence of the plank (and all its variations) as a superior alternative to help build a stronger, more functional six-pack.

And, did you know planks engage more than 20 muscles other than your core?!

Today, we cover planks of all kinds from beginner to advanced and everything in between with this at home guide to planks.

Planks for Beginners

Forearm Plank

This is the plank that most individuals begin with due to it being the most “stable” plank variation.

To perform the forearm plank:

  • Lie face down on the ground with your legs extended with your feet hip-width apart
  • Your elbows are bent, directly beneath your shoulders and your palms flat on the floor.
  • Brace your abs and tuck your toes to lift your body off of the ground (your forearms remain on the ground).
  • Actively press your body away from the ground digging your forearms and feet into the ground
  • You should form a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds while actively bracing your abs as if you were about to get punched in the gut.
  • If placing your palms flat on the ground bothers your wrists, you may clasp your hands together.

High Plank (Standard Push-Up Position)

Increasing the difficulty of the forearm plank one notch brings us to the high plank, which resembles the starting position of a standard push up.

This plank increases the challenge on your core and places greater demands on shoulder strength and stability.

To perform the standard plank:

  • Begin on the ground on all fours with your wrists directly under shoulders, knees under hips, and toes on the floor.
  • Step one foot back and then the other so that your feet are hip width apart
  • Tighten your abs as your press away from the floor with your hands.
  • Again, you should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Hold the plank as long as you can while maintaining good form.

Single Leg Forearm Plank

Continuing to up the ante on the common plank brings us to the single leg forearm plank.

To perform the forearm plank, you’ll assume the standard forearm plank position and then lift one foot off of the ground for a predetermined amount of time.

By removing one foot off of the ground, you increase the demand on your core.

Here’s how we like to perform the single-leg forearm plank:

  • Raise your right foot off the floor to about hip height and hold for one to three seconds
  • Place your right foot on the ground and then raise your left leg to around hip height.
  • Continue to alternate back and forth until time expires or you can no longer maintain good form

Instead of alternating back and forth during the set, you can also raise one leg and keep it elevated for the entire time, then raise the opposite leg on the following set.

Intermediate Level Planks

Side Plank

This variation challenges your obliques (the side muscles of the core) to a greater degree than the standard plank.

To perform the side plank:

  • Lie on your right side with your left leg stacked on top of the right leg,
  • Prop your body up on your forearm while keeping feet stacked (your elbow should be directly beneath your shoulder).
  • Drive your forearm and side of your right foot into the ground while bracing your core to create a straight line from head to toe.
  • Make sure to contract the glutes as well so that you don’t start to collapse backwards

The side plank can be made more difficult by balancing on your hand and foot, rather than your forearm and foot. You can also try raising the arm or leg that is not in contact with the ground in the air.

Arm Raise Plank

The arm raise plank is yet another plank variation where you’re removing one point of contact from the ground, in order to increase the challenge on your core.

Individuals who struggle with shoulder mobility and rear delt strength will find this significantly more challenging than the single-leg raise forearm plank.

To perform the arm raise plank:

  • Begin in plank position on your forearms (easier) or hands (harder)
  • Brace your abs and squeeze your glutes
  • Raise your right hand off of the floor and extend your arm forward to about shoulder height and hold for one to three seconds
  • Place your right hand back on the ground, and then raise your left hand and extend your arm in front of you to around shoulder height (again holding for one to three seconds).
  • Continue to alternate back and forth until time expires or you can no longer maintain good form

As we mentioned with the single-leg forearm plank, you can alternate back and forth between raising the left and right arms, or keep one arm elevated the entire time and then raise the other arm on the following set.

Dolphin Plank

If you thought the arm raise plank challenged your shoulder mobility and strength, then wait until you give the dolphin plank a shot!

This plank variation is slightly easier to perform than a traditional high plank because you are on your forearms, but it hammers the front and rear delts while also working on scapular strength — something many individuals are lacking.

Advanced Level Planks

Leg and Arm Raise Plank

Now, we’re getting serious!

It’s time to take the strength, balance, and coordination you’ve developed from the beginner and intermediate plank variation and really challenge your body.

This brings us to the arm and leg raise plank.

By removing two points of contact from the floor, you’re forced to to resist rotation while maintaining a straight body (which presents a tremendous challenge for your core!).

To perform the arm and leg raise plank:

  • Begin in plank position on your forearms (easier) or hands (harder)
  • Brace your abs and squeeze your glutes
  • Raise your right hand off the floor and extend your arm forward to about shoulder height, and at the same time, lift your left leg straight up to hip height
  • Hold this position for between one to three seconds and then lower your hand and foot to the ground
  • Now, raise your left hand and extend your arm in front of you to around shoulder height, and at the same time, lift your right leg straight up to hip height
  • Continue to alternate back and forth until time expires, or you can no longer maintain good form

Star Plank

The star plank may seem like nothing more than an elongated high plank, but the slight adjustment in hand position really ramps up the challenge on your shoulders, core, and abs.

To perform the star plank:

  • Begin in a high plank position, hands directly under shoulders, abs braced, straight line from head to toes
  • Move your left hand forward a few inches out in front of your left shoulder
  • Move your right hand out in front of your right shoulder to match the left hand
  • Hold this tensed position for as long as you can until form starts to break down

Reverse (Chinese Plank)

The reverse, or Chinese, plank is one of the best exercises an athlete can do, regardless of their sport.

The reason for this is that the reverse plank excels at strengthening the posterior chain while also promoting proper thoracic extension.

More importantly, the reverse plank helps strengthen your lower back and core, improve your posture, and support overall spine health.

Collectively, this helps reduce your risk of injury and strengthen your backside, which allows you to perform better in all of your upper body lifts — bench press, barbell rows, etc.

To perform the reverse plank:

  • You’ll need two objects of the same height that will be used to support your body — two benches, two chairs, plyometric boxes, stack of 45s, etc.
  • Rest shoulders at one end and prop your feet/ankles on the opposing object.
  • Squeeze your glutes and tighten your core to lift your body up into a straight line.
  • You can choose to either place your arms behind your head or rest them on your stomach.
  • Do not allow the hips to drop or raise above parallel
  • Maintain this straight body position for 60 seconds (if possible)

Takeaway

The plank is a phenomenal exercise for developing core strength, shoulder stability, and total body coordination.

There are an endless number of plank variations to suit your particular strength and skill level.Try some of these plank exercises at home the next time you’re looking to shake up your ab routine, and if you’re looking for supplements that promote core strengthening, SteelFit® provides a comprehensive line of products to help you meet your goals.

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