Short on time? Don't skip the strength-training session — get playful with the plank! By doing multitasking variations of this basic move, you can target your arms, back, core, legs, and booty to chisel out a stronger, more toned you.
Plank is one of the most effective exercises to target your core and upper body. Here's a 20-minute circuit workout combining six different dynamic variations of the basic plank — remember to stretch your back and arms for a couple of minutes after you've completed all those planks.
If you're unsure how to do each one, check out the explanations after the break.
Holding a static plank is great for you core, but adding a jumping jack motion with your feet pushes this move to a whole new level. The plank jack is a great cardio move; it raises the heart rate while working both your lower and upper body.
- Begin in plank position, with your shoulders over your wrists, your body in one straight line, and your feet together.
- Like the motion of a jumping jack, jump your legs wide and then back together. Jump as quickly as you want, but keep your pelvis steady and don't let your booty rise toward the ceiling.
- Do a total of 30 jumping jacks, which counts as one set. Then complete two more sets.
Check out the move in action! Kelly Ripa's trainer, Anna Kaiser, uses plank jack to warm up the arms in her 10-minute upper body workout. Anna adds a saucy little double bounce to the jumping motion, which makes the move feel more like a dance move than calisthenics.
Bored with the usual planks? Take your plank for a sideways walk with this move that'll target the core as well as the upper body. If shapely deltoids are your passion, this move will make them happen.
- Begin in plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders, body in one straight line.
- Simultaneously cross your right hand over your left, as you step your left foot to the left. Then simultaneously step your left hand and right foot to the left, so you're back in plank position. Your hands move together as your feet step apart.
- Repeat this for five steps to the left, and five steps to the right. Be sure to keep the hips low as you move, drawing the navel toward the spine.
- Repeat twice more for a total of three sets.
Teddy Bass makes a living keeping people in shape, including Cameron Diaz. Always a presence on the red carpet, Cameron has mastered the art of posing — confident, tall, and never without a smile. No doubt, this is in large part thanks to doing one of Teddy's favorite exercises for posture (and core strength), the ever-so-basic plank. "It's an incredible exercise," Teddy told us at a recent Asics event. "It forces you to use all the muscles in your back that keep you upright and erect — instant posture lift!" That is, of course, if you're doing it correctly, he says.
While there's nothing wrong with doing a modified version of traditional plank, Teddy sees too many women clasping their hands into a fist, or "prayer mode," while balancing on their forearms, which isn't good for achieving great posture. Locking your hands into a fist causes the upper back to round and the shoulders to hunch in, when ideally, you want to stay open and flat with the shoulders stacked directly over the elbows, says the celeb trainer.
When in the modified version of this move, start in traditional plank, then lower each forearm to the floor with your palms facing down. Place your elbows where your hands were, and spread your fingers wide. Doing so will keep all of the muscles in your back fired and engaged — especially your erector muscles, which run along the length of the spine. Teddy suggests challenging yourself even further by moving in between a forearm plank and traditional plank for an up-down plank. How many can you do in one minute?
The next time you go to do an elbow plank, kick it into high gear — literally — with this elbow plank variation. Adding a donkey kick to a basic plank requires extra strength, as it will challenge your core while toning your booty and hamstring. Here's how:
- Begin in an elbow plank with elbows directly under shoulders, abs engaged toward the spine. Don't let the pelvis sag down or pop up.
- Lift right leg off the ground, bending your knee so the sole of your foot is toward the ceiling. Keep pelvis square to the floor. Don't let your pelvis twist.
- Press your right heel toward the ceiling as high as you can without moving your pelvis or lower back. The motion will not be huge but rather concentrated on the booty and hamstring.
- Lower the bent leg slightly, and repeat for a total of eight to 10 repetitions. Then switch sides.
- Do two sets on each leg.
Consider holding Downward Facing Dog for five long breaths between sets.
The closest thing to a quick fix at the gym is the plank. In one move, this exercise helps you tighten and tone the entire body, thanks to balance and mere body weight. If the standard plank isn't challenging enough, upgrade it with a stability ball. This full-body exercise will target the abs while helping to improve upper-body strength too!Here's how to do a plank using the Swiss ball:
- Start in plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and shins placed on the ball.
- Do not allow the lower back to arch. Keep your feet, pelvis, and shoulders in one long line; make sure the core is engaged.
- Hold for as long as you can or until you break form. To mix it up, alternate between planks and crunches on the ball.
Tip: Make sure the ball is sized to your body. You should be able to sit on it with a 90-degree angle at both your hips and knees.
If you want to work your core, plank position (top of a push-up) is a great move. You'll not only feel it in your abs, but it works your back, arms, shoulders, and legs. Here are seven variations to make it even more challenging.
- Get low: Instead of balancing on your hands in a straight-arm position, bend your elbows and lower onto your forearms into dolphin plank. This plank variation targets your core and arms even more. Be sure to engage your abdominals to prevent straining your lower back, and if it's too intense, lower one or both knees to the floor.
- Get up, get down: Instead of holding in a straight-arm position or an elbow plank position, alternate between the two. To do the up-down plank exercise, begin in the basic plank position with arms and legs straight. Lower your right forearm to the floor, and then your left (now you're in elbow plank), then come back onto your right hand, and then onto your left. Repeat this for 10 reps, and then reverse directions, lowering the left forearm first and then the right and so on for 10 more reps. To effectively work your arms and core, keep your torso as still as possible and avoid rocking too much from side to side.
Keep reading for five more ways to challenge your plank.
Muffin top. Spare tire. Love handles. That extra jiggle around the waist may have a lot of endearing nicknames, but that doesn't mean we actually love it. Unfortunately you cannot pick and choose where you lose weight, but you can tone troublesome areas.
To lose weight at your waist, you must commit to cardio workouts to help you lose fat all over, and you also need eat a clean diet. Toning up the muscles under those love handles will both strengthen your core and give you a firmer look through your torso. Here are three of our favorite variations of the side plank that will help create a shapely waist.
Even with this mild Winter, we've still seen our fair share of snow in the mountains. And while Spring is just around the corner, late-season storms around the country have given us the gift of fresh powder. If you're planning a snowy mountain weekend anytime soon, here's a circuit workout that works your core, lower body, and balance — courtesy of Erick Northrup, a district fitness manager at Crunch and avid skier — to keep in your workout rotation before you head to the slopes.
Get the workout after the break!