A Simple Step-by-Step Guide to Planking

Posted September 8, 2023 in Exercise Technique No Comments »

What Are Planks?

A simple plank is also called a front hold, hover, or abdomen bridge. This isometric exercise strengthens the core, abdominals, back, and shoulders muscles. While performing a plank your body should be straight, your back should not arch, and you should maintain balance with proper form. This is one of the best exercises for core, back, arms, shoulders, and glutes strength. It’s time to put on your best gritty core-training face and follow this simple guide to planking. Let’s begin!

guide to planking

The plank variations and how to perform them

Once you have changed into proper workout clothes that allow flexibility and range in all varieties and planes of movement, we can start by choosing the appropriate plank variation. Beginners should go with a basic plank, while advanced athletes should challenge themselves by adding dynamic movements and intense angles to the plank.

Standard plank

With forearms underneath your shoulders, extend your hands, and engage your glutes, triceps, and abs to keep the spine straight. Lift the knees forming a straight line. Forearm reach, forearm knee tap, and forearm dolphin are some variations.

Forearm to full plank

Start with the standard plank position, straighten one arm at a time, with hands lifting the body, get back to forearms, and repeat. Also called plank up-downs.

High plank

Put hands on the floor directly under shoulders, knees bent a little, and stacked under hips. Put one leg back to achieve a high plank position. Hold your body up and straight with your hands and feet. High plank and extended plank are the same. 

Side plank

Rotate the body to the left from the high plank balancing on one hand and feet. You can stack the feet or place them right next to each other. Lift the free hand, hold, and repeat on the other side. In the Side Plank Leg Lift variation, you also lift one leg at a time and repeat with alternating leg and arm.

Spider-Man planks

From the high plank position pull your knee forward and outside of your elbow. Your leg will be roughly parallel to the floor at the top. Push back into a high plank position and repeat with the other leg. You won’t be able to swing around on spiderweb from building to building like the real Spider-Man but you might be able to build rock-solid abs just like ole’ Petey.

Alternating knee to elbow

From the high plank position lift a leg reaching the opposite shoulder, bring it back, and repeat with the other leg.

Row plank 

From high plank position with dumbbells in hands row with one arm keeping balance and repeat with the other arm. Remember to wear proper workout clothes that don’t get tangled or restricted, I prefer wearing tank tops and shorts.

Plank jacks

From the forearm plank, jump both feet outward wider than hips and jump back to the forearm plank. No proper Guide to Planking or HIIT guide would be complete without plank jacks.

Shoulder tap

From a high plank position, lift one arm to tap the opposite shoulder don’t move the shoulders or hips, keep your back flat. Repeat on the other side.

Mountain climbers

From the high plank position lift one leg, knee towards the chest, without lifting or rolling your hips, bring the leg back to the floor, and repeat with the other leg. This exercise can be done slowly by squeezing the leg forward, or quickly at a runner’s pace, depending on your goals for the day.

mountain climbers, a guide to planking staple

Swiss ball jackknife

Start with your hands on the floor and your feet on elevated onto an exercise ball or bench. Pull your knees in towards your chest. You should roll the ball forward with your feet. Don’t drop your hips. 

One-arm one-leg plank

Start with a standard plank position and make a fist, lift the opposing leg and arm, and extend them in opposite directions (ie. extend your right arm and left leg together, then your left arm and right leg). Hold the position get back to the initial position and repeat with the other side. 

Plank with feet elevated

With toes on a bench and forearms on the floor, with elbows under your shoulders don’t arch the back. Lower the bench if it seems too much. Tap your toes in and out to make it harder.

One leg plank

Start with a standard plank position with forearms and fists on the ground. Keeping the body straight and balanced left one leg, hold it in position. Repeat this with the alternate leg. 

Reverse plank

Sitting on the floor with extended legs, lift the body as you place the palms on the floor behind you with your fingers pointing towards your feet. Squeeze the buttocks in, engage the abs, keep the torso stable, and hold. You can point the fingers where you feel comfortable. 

Extended plank

This movement adds substantial difficulty to the standard plank exercise. To perform the extended plank, a person begins in the push-up position and then extends the arms or hands as far forward as possible. If you have a workout partner, try alternating clapping opposite hands.

extended planks

Tips and Tricks for Executing the Perfect Plank

A guide to planking would not be complete with some tips and tricks to make the most out of each movement.

  • Plant your elbows or hands as if you were pushing the floor.
  • Perfect alignment, straight body like a plank of wood, it is all about form, not time or weight.
  • Don’t let the chest collapse, don’t loosen the buttocks.
  • Imagine pulling your hands towards your toes to achieve maximum core activation.

Adding weight to your planks

Bodyweight planks are just enough, don’t risk yourself. But you can add weight if you like starting light. For that stack plates on your middle back. This will increase your core strength and stability but maintaining a straight perfect form might be difficult. Remember planks are about the perfect form. 

Mistakes to look out for

Arching the back, not engaging the abdominal muscles, placing hands or forearm wider than shoulders, looking straight ahead or up, dropping the head, dropping the butt, rising the butt too much, placing feet wider than shoulder or hip-width, and forgetting to breathe properly are some common mistakes. 

The Bottom Line

Planks are great for so many reasons and you should not be avoiding them. This exercise is about maintaining a perfect form you should act like a plank of wood. Remember to breathe, don’t just focus on the clock, and use this guide to planking to add this amazing exercise to your workout routine.

Read more: The Top 10 Best Abdominal Exercises Part 1

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