Ten Plank Variations for Perfect Toning

Planking Workouts

Planks are one of the cheapest, easiest and quickest ways to tone your body anywhere you go. They work your abs all over, and if you get creative you can also add glutes, and thighs, triceps, shoulders, upper back and pecs to the list! Here are some of my favorite plank variations (From my Fit Travel Workout) for your next sweat session.

Note: When I mention a regular plank position, I mean balancing on your elbows (forearms) or hands (the top of a push-​​up) and toes, facing the floor, with hips in line with the shoulders and knees and hands or elbows directly under shoulders. Look in front of our hands to keep neck in line with spine. You’ll look like a perfect straight plank — parallel to the floor, lifting the belly button towards the spine. In a side plank you will balance on one arm and face the side of the room instead of the floor.

1. Forearm plank hold:

Balance on your forearms and toes, hold this for 30 seconds and work up to 3 minutes!

2. Push-​​up plank (pictured):

Do a push-​​up, then turn to the right, balancing the weight on your left hand, opening right hand to the sky and staggering or stacking the right foot on top of the inside of the left as you balance on the outside of the left foot. Come back to a full plank, do a push-​​up, and then repeat on the other side.

Plank Pushup on Bench 1

Plank Pushup on Bench 2

3. Plank knee cross:

Hold a regular plank and then balance on your left foot and bring your right knee under you towards your left elbow. Keep your hips low to the ground. Return to full plank and repeat on other side. Make it harder by taping the opposite hand to the foot or by “can caning” the leg — after you bring the knee toward the opposite elbow, straighten the knee and kick the leg out toward the left. Bend it again and return to start.

4. Outer thigh side plank (pictured):

Plank on your right hand or forearm and lift your left straight leg off the right leg and toward the sky. Lower leg and repeat 10 times. Move into a plank on the other side and repeat. Make it harder by bending your lower leg and holding a weight in your top hand. Straighten the arm to the sky as you lift the top leg. As you lower the leg lower the hand and weight behind your neck, keeping the elbow pointing to the sky the whole time to work the triceps in a half french press!

Thigh Tricep Plank

5. Glute plank:

Balance on our hands or forearms and lift your left straight leg off the floor, move it over the right foot and then return to start. Repeat on that side 10 times and then switch to the right leg lift and cross. Make it harder by bending the left leg at 90 degrees, with the sole of your foot facing the sky. Lift and lower in pulsing motion for 10 reps. Repeat on the other side.

6. Hip Taps:

Get into a side plank on your left forearm. Lift hips off the floor and then lower them to tap the left hip to the floor and lift again. This works your obliques in an extreme way if you do 20 or more! Repeat on the other side

7. Thread the needle (pictured):

Get into a side forearm or full side plank on your right arm. Lift left arm to the sky and stagger the feet so the top (left) leg is in front. Sweep your left (top) arm toward the mat and “thread” it under your right armpit, reaching for the back of the mat, while rotating your hips to face the ground and balancing on your toes. Rotate your body back to a side plank and repeat 15 times then do the same on the other side.

Thread Needle Plank 1 Abs

Thread Needle Plank 2 Abs

8. Plank crunch:

Hit the obliques again by getting into a full plank on your left hand and stagger your feet with the bottom (left) foot in front this time. Bend your right elbow and put your hand behind your head. By balancing on your right (top) foot, bring your left knee across to your right elbow to “crunch” then return to start. Repeat 15 times and then switch sides.

9. Spiderman plank:

Get into a full plank on your forearms or hands. Balance on your right toes as you bend your left knee out to the left and towards your left elbow. Return to start and repeat 20 times, then do the other side.

10. Upper Back Plank Rows (pictured):

Get into a full plank position with medium weights under your hands. Lift the right elbow to the sky and return to the ground. Repeat on the other side. Do 20 reps switching arms each time. Wrists hurt? Instead of balancing on weights, you can also work the upper back by doing down dog planks or dolphin planks. Start in a plank on your forearms or hands and then push hips to the sky and push hands into the mat like you are trying to rip it in half between your feet and hands, Your biceps should be next to your ears. Return to start and repeat 20 times.

Plank Row 1

Plank Row 2

BONUS Reverse Plank stretch:

Get some relief from your hard work and sit on the floor with your hands on the floor next to your hips, fingers pointing towards feet. Your knees should be bent and feet flat on the floor. Push into your hands and lift your hips off the floor, letting your neck be an extension of your spine and looking at the ceiling. This stretched the chest and shoulders while toning the core, glutes and quads.

So next time crunches make you crazy, fight the plateau with this plank series!

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  1. NEW YORK says:

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NikkiFitness

Crunch Manhattan Group Fitness Instructor/Personal Trainer

NikkiFitness is a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, writer and publicist living in New York City. She started as a cheerleader at Syracuse University, but became certified in fitness before her beach wedding so that she could get back in shape. Laura, a graduate student, working mom, and military wife, inspired Nikki's Military Wife Workout (MWW) for all military wives. Find more articles by Nikki at her Military Fitness Center archive. Learn more at www.nikkifitness.com.

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