I’ve always harbored a real affinity for planks. Number one, they’re (relatively) easy to do wherever you are — they require so little room that I’ve done them in New York hotel rooms. (I might’ve had my head at one wall and my feet near the other, but still, I could do it.)
Number two, you can knock out a plank workout in just a few minutes. It won’t take the place of going for a run or hitting the weight room for an hour, but it’s easy to do a minute or two of planks here and there to get a little extra core engagement going on. And that’s better than nothing.
Number three, planks are nearly infinitely malleable. You can adapt them easily for beginners or throw in some, uhh, excitement for more experienced exercisers. Hold (with good form, of course) for short periods and extend the time goal as you get stronger. Stick with a basic plank, which will give your whole body a bit of a workout, or try some plank variations to target different muscle groups.
Shoot, you can do a whole workout with just planks. And that’s exactly what I did after not just one but two people sent me a link to this slideshow with notes along the lines of “ZOMG let’s do it!!!”
Plank Variations Workout
Remember, the great thing about planks is that a plank workout can be modified in any number of ways. If you have any back, core, or shoulder pain or weakness, some (or all!) of these might not work for you. If needed, modify by shortening the time or number of times you do each exercise. If you do them all and are still wanting more, do it all again or extend the time for each. All together (and with no rest other than what’s suggested), this workout takes just over half an hour.
Basic Plank: Hold 1 minute, rest :30, repeat 3x. With this, as with all the planks, make sure your core is firm and you’re neither sagging your hips down nor popping your booty up into the air — your body should be in as straight a line as possible, with your head held at a neutral angle.
Basic Side Plank: Hold :30, rest :30, 1x on each side. Use straight arm if possible, but if that compromises form, go down to your forearms.
Side Plank With Hip Drop: Hold, repeating hip drops, for :30, rest :30, repeat 2x on each side. Don’t get sloppy!
Plank With Hip Extension and Flexion (Slide 1): Move through this for 1 minute, rest :30, repeat 3x. If your heart rate wasn’t up already, it will be after this!
Plank With Leg Flexion/Extension Plus Obliques: Bring your knee in to your chest while keeping your body as straight as possible, kick it back, then bring your knee out to the side, and back again, then switch feet. Hold (either straight arms or forearms) for 1 minute, rest 1 minute, repeat 3x. Think of this as a controlled variation of mountain climbers.
Plank With Leg Abduction/Adduction (Slide 5): Move your straight leg out to the side, then back across your grounded leg — slowly and with control — for :30, then switch legs for the next :30. Rest 1 minute. Repeat 3x.
Plank With Arm Rotation (Slide 9): This? This is my favorite, favorite, favorite. After just a few times through, the burn kicks in, and oh, I can just feel myself getting fitter with each repetition. You know? You know. Keep your feet shoulder-width but put your base hand a little toward the middle of your chest (for balance). With control, lift the other arm up to the sky, then bring it down, under your body, reaching toward the opposite side. Repeat for :30 (or for a minute, if your base arm will hold you), then rest :30 before repeating on the other side. Repeat 2 to 3x.
Do you love planks the way Jenn loves kale? Or do you have your own go-to move that works nearly any time or place? —Kristen