Coach Shanda, NASM, CPT, BCS, PES, FNS
Shanda Yakich is a wife and mother of two young boys. She fell in love with health and fitness after her own transformation 20 years ago when she revamped her sedentary lifestyle to lose 30 pounds and cut her body fat in half. She knows the struggle of balancing family, career, and heath. She is triple certified in fitness, nutrition, and behavior change. Shanda is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified trainer and a certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.

10 Plank Variations To Build A Strong Core

Plank formThe plank is one of the best overall exercises that help build your muscles and strengthen your core. Building your core muscles helps protect your spine and prevent lower back pain. 

When performed properly, the plank not only utilizes the deep abdominal musculature (engaging over 20 deep internal muscles), it also recruits the hip, shoulders, legs, arms and upper back muscles

By performing planks and consistently engaging these core muscles in your workouts, you are building total-body strength

When you perform a plank you recruit different muscle groups in a functional pattern that mimics real-life movement. Best of all, you can do the plank anywhere and you don’t need any equipment.

Here are some of the many benefits of incorporating planks into your weekly fitness routine:

  • Tighten your stomach 
  • Help improve your flexibility 
  • Strengthen your lower back 
  • Improve balance 
  • Improve posture
  • Target the most important muscles in your body 

We all like the plank, right? But, doing the same old plank gets boring. 

We need to spice it up after a while. The plank exercise is one of the most versatile exercises. There are seriously hundreds of plank variations out there. Here are my favorites. 

Alternating Plank Knee Taps

Plank variation: the childThis targets core, leg, and shoulder strength.

Place your elbows directly below your shoulders and position your feet shoulder-distance apart. Lift your entire body up and stabilize.  

Keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back. Engage your ab muscles. Tap right knee on the floor, then gently bring up to starting position and repeat on the other side. Don’t let your hips shift. Perform 12-15 reps on each side and repeat for 2-3 sets.

Full Plank Hip Extension

Plank variation: hip extensionThis targets core and glute strength and stretches hip flexors.

Fully extend your arms and position your hands underneath your shoulders. Keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back. Place your feet shoulder-distance apart. 

Stabilize your position, then engage your abs. Lift one leg straight up as high as you can. Make sure not to let your hips shift. Hold this position for 1-3 seconds then repeat on the other side. Perform 10-15 reps on each side for 2-3 sets.

Reverse Plank 

Plank variation: reverseThis targets core and shoulder strength.

Fully extend your arms out behind you and position your hands underneath your shoulders. Keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back. 

Place your feet out in front of you, hip-distance apart. Lift your glutes up. 

Make sure your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles are aligned in a straight line. Stabilize your plank, then engage your abs. Hold this position for 45 seconds to 1 minute and perform 2-3 sets.

Forearm Plank Reach 

Plank variation: forearm reachThis targets core and shoulder strength and promotes flexibility.

Place your elbows directly below your shoulders and position your feet shoulder-distance apart. Lift your entire body up and stabilize.  

Keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back. Engage your ab muscles. Extend one arm completely in front of you, hold for 1-3 seconds then repeat on the other side. Make sure not to let your hips shift when extending your arm out. 

Perform 10-12 reps on each and repeat for 2-3 sets.

Side Plank Crunch 

Plank variation: side plankThis targets core, oblique and shoulder strength, and promotes flexibility.

Lie on your side, bring your bottom leg behind you in a 90-degree angle and place your elbow underneath your shoulder. Engage your ab muscles and lift your hips off the ground. Once you are in a strong, stable position, extend your arm and leg, then bring your elbow to the knee in a crunch position. Repeat or 10-15 reps on each side for 2-3 sets. 

Side Plank Rotation

Plank variations: side rotationsThis targets core and shoulder strength and promotes flexibility.

Lie on your side, extend your legs, then bring your bottom foot behind you at a 90-degree angle and place your elbow underneath your shoulder. 

Engage your ab muscles and lift your hips off the ground. Once you are in a strong, stable position, extend your arm and leg, then bring your elbow to the knee in a crunch position. Repeat for 10-15 reps on each side for 2-3 sets. 

Plank Jacks

Plank variation: jacksThis targets core, leg and shoulder strength, and promotes endurance.

Place your hands directly below your shoulders and position your feet shoulder-distance apart. 

Lift your entire body up and stabilize. Keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back. Engage your ab muscles

Jump both your feet out wide, then jump together again. Perform 15-20 reps and repeat for 2-3 sets.

Side Plank Dumbbell Press

Plank variation: side dumbbell pressThis targets core and shoulder strength.

Lie on your side with your legs extended out and feet on top of each other. Position your elbow underneath your shoulder. 

Use a light dumbbell and place at your side with the palm of the hand facing out. Engage your ab muscles and lift your hips off the ground. 

Once you are in a strong, stable position press dumbbell up, then bring down slowly to starting position. Repeat for 10-12 reps on each side for 2-3 sets. 

Plank Arm Press-Ups

Plank variation: arm press upsThis targets core and shoulder strength.

Place your hands directly below your shoulders and position your feet together. Lift your entire body up and stabilize. Keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back. Engage your ab muscles

Lower right elbow on the floor, then lower left elbow on the floor. Next place your right hand underneath your shoulder and press up, then place your left hand under your shoulder and press up. Perform 8-12 reps on each side and repeat for 2-3 sets.

Plank Row with Dumbbells

Plank variation: dumbbell rowThis targets the core, back, and shoulder strength.

Holding dumbbells, place hands directly below your shoulders and position your feet shoulder-distance apart.

Lift your entire body up and stabilize.  Keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back. Engage your ab muscles

Lift right arm up to your side with elbow tucked in. Slowly bring down and repeat on the left side. Don’t let your hips shift when bringing your arm up. 

Perform 12-15 reps on each side and repeat for 2-3 sets.

The plank is a great core workout for your fitness routine. 

Go beyond squats and sit-ups

Using these 10 plank variations will help improve your core, arms, and glutes. 

There are endless plank variations. Be creative and have fun! Remember, always practice good form. Perform planks two or three times per week.

One of my biggest tips is to space your core workouts a day or two apart. Doing so gives your core muscles adequate time to recover and repair. I like to use LadyBoss® Recover after every workout to enhance muscle recovery.

Coach Shanda, NASM, CPT, BCS, PES, FNS

Shanda Yakich is a wife and mother of two young boys. She fell in love with health and fitness after her own transformation 20 years ago when she revamped her sedentary lifestyle to lose 30 pounds and cut her body fat in half. She knows the struggle of balancing family, career, and heath. She is triple certified in fitness, nutrition, and behavior change. Shanda is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified trainer and a certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.
Coach Shanda, NASM, CPT, BCS, PES, FNS

Latest posts by Coach Shanda, NASM, CPT, BCS, PES, FNS (see all)