Do you ever put off working out because a gym membership or workout equipment seems to expensive? Or maybe you have tried to work out at home, but the exercises become monotonous and boring.
The truth is using your body weight for exercise is continuing to gain popularity among athletes because it is both simple and practical.
One of my favorite ways to challenge my muscles at home is doing planks. You may not know that there are many variations of this core strengthening exercise that can work more than just your abs.
Planks are among the most efficient exercises you can do, as they can be done in a short amount of time, while still offering you the opportunity to achieve noticeable results.
In this article, we will look at 8 variations of these exercises that you can do on your time in the comfort of your own home.
1. Bird Dog Plank
Start in a basic plank position. Lift your left leg off the floor so it is even in height with your hips.
Then raise your right arm up so it is straight in front of you, creating a line from your right fingertips to your left toes.
Hold this pose for 30 seconds before repeating it on the other side.
Do this exercise slowly and steadily to improve your balance, increase your coordination, build shoulder strength, and engage your core muscles.
2. Reverse Plank
When doing a reverse plank, your body is in the same position as a regular plank, you’re just facing up.
This means your heels are on the floor instead of your toes and your arms are still supporting your body.
Sit on the ground so your body is in the shape of an “L” with your legs out in front of you and your hands flat on the floor, making sure your fingers are pointing forward.
Raise your hips until your body is in a straight line from your chin to your toes. Not only will this work your arm muscles but also give your shoulders a stretch that you may not have realized how much they needed.
While you are holding your reverse plank, try to keep your hips and pelvis as stable as you can, which will help strengthen your gluteal muscles, obliques, lower back, and hamstrings.
3. Side Plank
Beginning in a standard plank position, step your feet together so your heels are touching. Lift your left arm straight up in the air while leaning your body to the right. Stay balanced on your right hand.
The side plank works a muscle that is often weak, called the quadratus lumborum, which is located in the back of your abdominal wall.
The strengthening of this muscle plays a large role in preventing back pain. In fact, research has shown that people who have poor lower back muscle endurance are up to four times more like to develop chronic back pain
Hold a side plank for 30 seconds – one minute on each side to complete one set, and do at least three sets.
4. Walking Plank
This variation of the plank will work your upper body very well. Start in your regular plank position and then slowly lower your left arm down so you are resting on your forearm.
Then, do the same with your right arm. Put your left hand on the ground to push yourself back up and follow with your right hand.
To make this plank exercise more challenging, hold your plank and press-up positions for up to 30 seconds each. To make it a bit simpler, drop down to your knees.
Instead of counting your reps with this plank alternative, try to just continue to repeat it for one minute straight. Keep your motions slow and controlled.
5. Single Arm Plank
As an athlete, your shoulder joints likely endure a lot of stress. They help you perform heavy lifting, throwing, and any other explosive arm movement.
Your shoulders rely on the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons for support. If these are not strong, you are putting yourself at risk of becoming injured.
The more stability you have around your shoulder blades, the better your shoulder muscles can work.
From a regular plank position, slowly extend your left arm straight out in front of you. Make sure that you maintain a flat back–even though you may feel the urge to allow your hips to tilt.
Hold this pose for 30 seconds before repeating the move with your right arm.
This plank variation will strengthen your shoulder blades, which is an important factor in a lot of different activities such as lifting, rowing, and swimming.
The single arm plank will help you protect your shoulders and build your strength.
Do this plank variation 2-3 times each week while you’re warming up for your regular exercise.
6. Knee to Elbow Plank
From your standard plank position, slowly lift your left knee under your body toward your right elbow.
Bring your knee as close to your elbow as you can without dropping your left shoulder and hip–try to maintain a straight line with your body. Repeat this same movement on the other side.
This plank variation is an effective way to exercise your core muscles, especially your obliques.
Make sure to use your abdominal muscles to draw your knee toward your elbow and to return your leg back to its original position.
Exhale while you are bringing your knee in contract your abs as deep as possible.
Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
7. Reverse Plank With Hip Lift
This exercise is a variation of the reverse plank that will give the muscles in your arms more of a challenge.
Sit down with your legs straight in front of you and your hands flat on the floor, just as you would for the reverse plank.
Elevate your hips as much as you can and hold that pose for about 10 seconds. Then, slowly return your hips toward the ground without actually touching it.
Repeat this move up to 10 times.
This exercise engages your glutes and hamstrings, as well as all of the muscles in your core.
This is an ideal exercise to do for rehabilitation if you want to improve your core and spinal stabilization.
8. Plank Jacks
From your normal plank position, jump your feet apart and land softly on the balls of your feet. Then hop back to your original position. That’s one rep.
Keep your back straight and don’t let your hips drop while doing this exercise. Also, make sure to engage your core while you’re doing the jump.
Maintain a steady breathing pattern while doing plank jacks. This is a great exercise to reduce lower back pain and strengthen your core.
Because you can turn this into a cardio workout, you can burn more calories while increasing your endurance and metabolism.
Try to spend a minute and a half doing this exercise.
As long as you incorporate some variety into your planks, not only will you engage more muscles, you will also prevent yourself from getting bored with this exercise.
All of the variations above will help strengthen your core, improve your balance, and help improve your overall wellbeing. Try one or two variations and you will start to feel the difference from your normal, everyday plank.