Plank 101: Proper Form, Benefits, Variations, Alternatives, Muscles Worked & More

The plank is a popular exercise among fitness enthusiasts, and for a good reason.

Planking is a simple yet highly effective exercise that works the entire body – and you can do them practically anywhere!

This article will provide you with everything you need to know about the classic plank exercise: proper form, benefits, variations, alternatives, which muscles are worked, and LOADS more!

How to do the Plank Correctly

What You’ll Need:

  • A floor and your body weight: To do the plank, you do not need any equipment at all!

Alternative Equipment:

  • A Plank board: A plank board will bring that extra oomph to your planking, and can also bring an element of fun!
  • An exercise mat: An exercise mat will provide your elbows with a soft and comfortable surface to lay on.
  • A Stability ball: Take the plank to the next level by balancing your legs on a stability ball instead of the floor. Doing so will add an extra element of balance to the exercise – making it even more challenging.

Step1: The Starting Position

Get into the correct starting position by lying face down on the floor with your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms flat on the ground. Your legs should be extended behind you with your toes touching the ground.

Step2: Entering the Plank

Engage your abs as you lift up, balancing your body on your toes and elbows – and hold yourself in a straight line for 10-30 seconds (or however long you can manage).

Step3: Keep Your Form

Your head should remain neutral throughout the exercise; don’t look up or down but keep it aligned with your spine. Your core should be engaged, keeping your body in a straight line from your heels to your head.

Step4: Pause

Pause, and relax – before entering the plank once again.

Important! To avoid injuries, you should maintain perfect form throughout every set. That means that your behind and back should keep straight and never start sagging towards the surface.

Plank Benefits

Get a Stronger Core!

Planking is an effective way to strengthen your core muscles.

The plank engages almost every major muscle in the abdomen, back, shoulders, and hips – all at once. Strong core muscles will make it easier for you to perform many everyday activities with better balance and efficiency!

Dynamic Balance & Coordination

Plank is an excellent way to enhance your balance and coordination.

Through isometric core exercises, it strengthens the muscles of your pelvis, lower back, shoulders, abdomen, and chest while improving your muscular endurance. Additionally, planking helps increase shoulder stability, which can benefit recreational athletes looking to improve their performance!

Stand Taller

Plank is the perfect way to improve your posture.

Doing planks regularly strengthens the core muscles that support the back and improves body alignment – making it easier to stand up straight all day long. Additionally, having a better posture can help prevent aches and pains in the neck and shoulders over time.

A Plank for All

Planking can be the perfect addition to any workout, no matter your fitness level or goals.

With various plank variations and modifications, this exercise can accommodate exercisers of all levels. Whether you are a beginner just starting your fitness journey or an experienced professional athlete looking for new workouts, planking can help strengthen your core muscles and support any training regimen.

Safe & Effective Workout

Plank exercises provide an effective total body workout with low impact, reducing your risk of injury while providing the same benefits as more intense exercise regimes.

By focusing on proper form and alignment, you’ll be able to reap the rewards without risking overexertion. It’s a great way to get fit without compromising safety!

Common Plank Mistakes to Avoid

Sagging

Avoid sagging your hips or shoulders toward the ground.

Doing so reduces the tension in your core muscles and defeats the purpose of planking! Instead, focus on maintaining a straight line with your body and keeping your back flat while squeezing your glutes at the same time.

Keep your back straight for proper posture; arching or hunching can cause unnecessary strain on your neck and spine.

Don’t Stop Breathing!

Don’t hold your breath while planking – this can cause you to lose stability and decrease core engagement as well.

Pay attention to breathing deeply throughout each plank rep so you can stay focused on proper form and maximize results.

Holding the plank for too Long

One common mistake people make when doing a plank is holding the position for too long.

Holding a plank for too long can cause strain on your shoulders, elbows, and wrists, as well as your lower back. To prevent injury, practicing good form and keeping each repetition at about 30 seconds or less when starting out is important. To increase the challenge of this exercise over time, you should focus on improving your form instead of increasing how long you hold it.

Make sure that throughout the movement, your body is in one straight line from head to toe with no sagging in the middle or arching in the lower back.

The Plank Muscles Worked

Rectus Abdominis

The primary muscle worked during a plank is the rectus abdominis – often referred to as the “six-pack” muscle or abdominal wall.

The rectus abdominis is composed of two parallel muscles running from the top of your sternum toward your pubic bone. Properly engaging this muscle can help protect your lower back from injury and improve overall posture by strengthening core stability. To fully engage the rectus abdominis when performing a plank exercise, focus on drawing your belly button towards your spine and keeping a straight line from shoulders to feet.

Transversus Abdominis

Not only does planking help improve overall strength and stability, but it also strengthens the transversus abdominis — one of the most important muscles in the body.

The transversus abdominis is located deep within the abdominal wall and wraps around from the front to the back of your body like a corset. Its main purpose is to actively compress the abdomen and support healthy posture, making it an essential component of any strong core. When engaging in plank exercises, this muscle will become engaged as you strive to maintain good form throughout the exercise.

Internal Oblique

Located on either side of the oblique muscles are vital for stabilizing and twisting movements.

The internal oblique muscles originate from the lower ribs and go down to the pelvis, connecting with other core musculatures like the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and external obliques. When you plank correctly, these muscles are engaged to help keep your body in position while preventing any unwanted movement or swaying in your hips or torso.

They also play an essential role in rotation within your spine and trunk area.

External Oblique Muscles

The external oblique are large bands of muscles located on either side of the abdomen extending from near the rib cage down to just above the hip joint.

They play an important role in maintaining posture, assisting with trunk rotation, and stabilizing movement during activities like running or performing squats. When planking correctly, external obliques will be engaged to help support your body weight evenly across your entire body while remaining rigid and still on top of your feet and forearms. Furthermore, they will help you maintain form during plank movements such as side planks or mountain climbers, which involve lateral shifting or dynamic exercises.

Plank Vs Sit-Ups

When evaluating plank vs sit-ups‘ efficacy, it is important to consider various factors such as your goals, aerobic capacity, and muscular strength.

Plank exercises primarily target core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques. In contrast, sit-ups focus more on the rectus abdominis.

Consequently, planks are often recommended if you seek to improve core strength and stability.

Hometraininghero’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs

Whether you are looking to build strength, muscle mass, or better your endurance – the way to go is the same. Incorporate planks into your workout program, and do four to five sets, staying in the plank for as long as possible – keeping perfect form. Stop the set before you start losing form and your back and buttocks begin to sag.

11 Effective Plank Variations

Side Plank

The side plank is an excellent isometric exercise for strengthening the core and improving balance.

To perform a side plank:

  1. Begin in a prone position on your right side, with the feet stacked and the left arm extended above your head, perpendicular to the midline of the body. The right elbow should be placed directly beneath the shoulder.
  2. Creating a straight line from shoulder to ankle, lift your hips and flex your core.
  3. Stay in this position for as long as possible without losing your form.
  4. Switch sides and repeat.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers are a full-body exercise that can be done anywhere and anytime. They not only help to strengthen your core but also work to improve cardiovascular endurance. Here’s how to do them:

  1. To begin, start in a straight-arm plank position with your hands directly below your shoulders and your legs extended behind you.
  2. Make sure that your feet and hands remain firmly planted on the ground as you gradually alternate between driving each knee towards the chest while keeping the back straight and hips in line with the shoulders.
  3. When completed properly, it should look like an alternating running motion while in a stationary position.

Make sure to keep breathing throughout the exercise; if possible, take deep breaths through both your nose and mouth.

Reverse Plank

Not only will the reverse plank help strengthen your abs and back, but it also helps build shoulder stability and improve posture. Here’s how to do them:

  1. To begin, start in a seated position with your legs extended out in front of you and hands behind your hips.
  2. Your palms should be facing down toward the ground, and your fingers should be pointing toward your heels.
  3. Then lift up off the ground so that only your heels and hands touch the floor.
  4. Make sure to keep a straight line from shoulders to toes while engaging through the core muscles.

Plank Pulse

To do plank pulse:

  1. Start in a plank position with your arms straight and feet together. Your body should be in one straight line from head to toe. Make sure to keep your neck in alignment with the rest of your spine and look down at the ground.
  2. From here, lean forward while still keeping good form. Then, slowly, while still flexing your core, return to the plank position.
  3. Continue doing this movement for 30-60 seconds or as many reps as you can while maintaining proper form throughout the entire set.

Knee Plank

Knee plank is a great beginner variation of the plank exercise. Here’s how you can do this simple – yet effective move:

  1. Begin by resting on your knees and forearms with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Place a mat or towel down if needed for comfort.
  2. Make sure to keep your spine in a neutral position – meaning it should be in a straight line from head to hips without arching or sagging too much.
  3. Draw your belly button toward the spine to engage the abdominal muscles throughout the movement for maximum benefit.
  4. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds before releasing slowly and repeating 3-4 times (depending on fitness level).

To make it more challenging, you can lift one leg at a time into the air while maintaining solid form throughout the exercise.

Straight Arm Plank

  1. Begin by lying face down on the floor or on an exercise mat with your legs extended behind you and your toes pointed downward.
  2. Place your hands shoulder-width apart so that your elbows are directly under your shoulders.
  3. Engage the abs by drawing them up towards the spine to create tension throughout the torso. Push through the palms of both hands until arms are straightened, then lift up onto toes while maintaining alignment in the body from head to toe.
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds while keeping abdominal muscles engaged, then slowly lower back down onto the floor or mat.

Walking Plank

This exercise combines two types of plank moves – making it less static and even more challenging.

To do the walking plank:

  1. Start in a push-up position with your hands directly below your shoulders.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles while keeping your body straight from head to toe.
  3. Try not to let any part of your body sag or arch up, keep it nice and tight!
  4. From this position, move from hand-stand to elbow-stand, one arm at a time. Keep moving from straight arm plank to elbow plank for as long as you are able to keep your form and technique right.

Spider-Man Plank

To do the Spider-Man Plank, simply get into a plank position on your hands or forearms with your back straight and abs engaged. Next, bring one knee up towards your elbow on one side, then back to its original position. Repeat this action on the opposite side for 1 set of 10 repetitions on each side.

Exercise Ball Plank

This plank variation brings an extra element of stability and balance to the table. Get into a straight arm plank position, but instead of resting your feet on the ground, place them on a stability ball.

As simple as that.

Plank Jack

  1. Begin in a regular plank position with your arms extended and palms face down on the ground. Make sure that both feet are together and that your core is engaged throughout the entire motion.
  2. Then, jump your feet out wide while keeping both hands planted firmly on the ground.
  3. Next, jump your legs back in towards each other, so they meet at shoulder width before jumping them back out again.

Repeat this pattern for 10-15 reps before taking a break and repeating two more times for sets of 20-30 reps each time.

Plank with Shoulder Tap

  1. To begin, start in the plank position with your hands directly below your shoulders and your feet together. Make sure your back is flat, and you’re engaging all the muscles in your core.
  2. Then slowly bring one hand off the ground towards your opposite shoulder while keeping the other hand firmly rooted to the ground – this will be known as the “shoulder tap.”
  3. Return to the starting position and switch sides, tapping each shoulder before returning to the center.

Plank Alternatives

Russian Twists

Russian Twists are an effective core exercise that can help to improve strength, stability, and balance in the abdominal muscles. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts often use this exercise to strengthen the core muscles, as it works several different body parts at once. It’s a great way to target the deeper layers of your abdominal muscles as well as sculpting your obliques.

Ab Wheel Rollout Variations

Ab rollouts activate multiple muscle groups, including the abdominals, hip flexors, and shoulders, allowing for an effective full-body workout. By stabilizing the ab wheel against the ground and simultaneously controlling your body movement, you move through a range of motion that challenges your strength, stability, and flexibility.

Crunch Variations

Ab crunches are a classic exercise that can help to strengthen and tone your core. But if you’re looking for more variety in your ab routine, there are plenty of variations to choose from – like the bicycle crunch, reverse Crunches, or decline crunches.

Sit-Ups

Sit-ups help strengthen core musculature, primarily targeting rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis as well as other stabilizing muscles such as obliques and erector spinae.

Captains Chair

The Captain’s Chair exercise is a classic bodyweight exercise designed to target the core musculature – primarily the rectus abdominis and obliques. It is a biomechanically efficient movement that facilitates a full range of motion in the spine and torso while engaging multiple muscle groups simultaneously. By incorporating upper-body and lower-body coordination along with weight-bearing components, the Captain’s Chair aids in developing dynamic stability within the lumbar-thoracic region.

Leg Raises

Leg Raises are a form of exercise often used to strengthen the anterior muscles of the abdomen and hip flexors. The exercise is performed by lying supine on the floor and then raising both legs simultaneously through a full range of motion while keeping the lower back flat against the floor. This motion can be further targeted by adding resistance with an exercise band or ankle weights – or by elevating the feet off a sit-up bench.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What Are Planks Good For?

Planks are great for core strengthening and improving posture. They also help build abdominal muscles, back muscles, glutes, and shoulders. Planking can also help improve balance, coordination, and flexibility. Additionally, planks can be used as a form of low-impact cardio exercise to help burn calories and fat.

Q: How Long Should a Beginner Hold a Plank?

Beginners should start with a 10-second plank and gradually increase the time as their core strength improves. Aim for three sets of 10 seconds, then progress to 20 seconds, and eventually up to 1 minute. Make sure to rest for 15-30 seconds between each set.

Q: What Does 1 Minute Plank a Day do?

Planking for one minute a day can help strengthen your core muscles and improve your posture. It also helps tone and tighten the abdominal area and build strength in the back and shoulders. While it is not enough to provide significant results on its own, planking for one minute each day can be a great starting point for a more comprehensive fitness routine.

Q: Do Planks Burn Belly Fat?

Planks are a great way to strengthen your core muscles and improve your posture, but they won’t directly burn belly fat. To lose belly fat, you need to create an overall calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than you burn. Incorporating regular cardio exercise and strength training into your routine can help you reach your goals.

Q: Is 1 Minute Plank a Day Enough?

No, one minute of plank a day is not enough to get the full benefits of this exercise. The plank should be done for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute each session and repeated 3-4 times throughout the day. Doing more than one minute per session can help improve your core strength, endurance, and posture.

Q: Is it OK to do Planks Everyday?

Doing planks daily can lead to muscle fatigue, so it’s best to do them 2-3 times per week with rest days in between. Additionally, ensure you’re using proper form when doing planks to get the most out of the exercise.

Final Words

Planks are a great way to build core strength and stability. However, it is important to remember proper form and safety when doing planks – as well as knowing when to modify or switch up the exercise.

With variations and alternatives, you can find a routine to feel comfortable with while reaping the many benefits of plank exercises.

With these tips in mind, you can safely use planks to work your abdominal muscles, glutes, back muscles, and more for a complete full-body workout.

If you want to learn more about strength training, visit the hometraininghero strength training archive – stacked with workout routines, fitness tips, and exercise guides.

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