Plank Your Way to a Strong Core

The Plank is one of the most versatile full-body exercises you can do. As I tell my Pilates classes, the beauty of the Plank is that it never gets easy, just easier … and when it does, there are plenty of ways to make it harder.

Basic Plank: Get into a push-up position, with arms directly in line with the shoulders. Tuck your abs in tight, and maintain a straight line from your head down to your toes. The key here is to focus on maintaining a flat plane – as I like to say, no butts and no bellies (this takes the tension away from the abs, instead putting pressure on the low back or the shoulders).

Depending on your fitness level, there are a number of variations:

  • To make it easier, you can change your position to hands and knees, forearms and toes, or forearms and knees.
  • To make it harder, you can lift one foot, one arm, or one arm and the opposite foot at the same time.
  • If you have a Swiss ball, you have a few more options. To position the ball at the upper body, you can keep both feet (or knees) down on the ground, with forearms or straight arms on the ball. To position the ball on the lower body, you can roll out so that the ball rests anywhere below the knees (out to the toes), with straight arms (top of a push-up position).
  • If you have a medicine ball of any weight, you can do several variations to the Swiss ball Plank. One option includes placing both hands on the medicine ball, with the weight either in your toes or knees. For another, you can place the toes on the ball, upper body balanced by the hands or the forearms.
    • Feeling adventurous? Place the medicine ball under one foot, and extend the other foot back and off the ground. It may take a few tries to get the footing down, but you can get adjusted easier if you start with the ball against a wall. To switch feet, bring both feet onto the ball, and roll to the other side so your body is still in proper alignment. It’s TOUGH!

Happy Planking!

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9 thoughts on “Plank Your Way to a Strong Core

    • The standard quoted time is at least 60 seconds – but it’s something to build up to. I have my classes do either 4 sets of 15 counts (15 seconds with both legs down, 15 with one leg up, 15 with the other leg up,then back to both down for the last 15) or 6 sets of 10 counts (10 both feet down, 10 one leg up, 10 with the same leg to the side, 10 with the other leg up, 10 to the side with that same leg, then back down to 10 on both feet). As you work up though, really think about keeping it held as long as you can while still maintaining good form. Have fun!

  1. so many planks, someone should spoof that Forrest Gump scene for youtube or something, “there are all kinds of plank, basic plank, extended plank, side plank, extended side plank, walking plank, one legged plank, one arm plank, medicine ball plank, twisting side planks, star side planks, tree pose side planks, front planks…”
    did you see the video for the guy who beat the world record for longest plank? the guy (George Hood) is in his 50’s, and held it for about an hour and 20 minutes!!! insane! oh yeah, a few years ago he “spun” for over 212 hours… man has a problem, lol!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w-uD-uPCBQ PLANK RECORD

  2. Planks…not my friend. Ha ha. My trainer has me doing an easier version of these and it is still an amazing full body workout as you tighten everything to stay in position.

  3. ohhh! Love this! I also do plank during yoga, but just recently I started using a 5lb medicine ball at my feet and my elbows on the floor (instead of straight arms). I will have to try all these!

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