Planks are the MacGyver of bodyweight movements: They’re super tough and great for almost any situation. The versatile move is best known for working your core. But if you did not already know, planks also engage more than 20 muscles in your body, including your shoulders, back, arms, legs, and glutes. Even better, planks allow you to work your core without the risks of back injury and overstressed hip flexors that come with traditional sit-ups.
If you’re really ready for a challenge, then you’ll love these advanced plank variations. They will test your balance, core strength, and tolerance for people staring at you while you work out. Don’t worry, they’re just in awe of your strength and ingenuity. That and the puddle of sweat beneath you.
1. Bird Dog Plank
Begin in a standard plank. Lift your right leg straight behind you, then lift your left arm straight in front of you. Keep your body in a straight line from fingertip to toe. You’ll soon discover that this works your core and your balance in a major way.
2. Fingertip Plank
This one is exactly what it sounds like, so don’t overthink it. Also, don’t break your fingers. Or our fingers, for suggesting you try this.
3. BOSU Wobbly Plank
Flip the BOSU so the bubble is on the floor and the flat side is facing up. Kneel facing the BOSU and place both hands on top of it, gripping the edges. Lift your knees up into plank position. Hold here for a workout! But for a real core challenge, slowly start to shift your bodyweight side-to-side and forward-and-back. Real pros do it with their eyes closed. On one leg. In a sea of sharks. Okay, maybe not the sharks.
4. Sphinx Plank Push-Up
Starting in a forearm plank, push up to your hands. Lower back down to your forearms, both arms at the same time. It sounds easier than it is so just keep practicing until you get the motion down. But once you do, feel free to ordain yourself the Oracle and start dispensing sage advice.
5. Plank Rollout
Start in a forearm plank with your arms on a stability ball. Push your arms forward to move the ball a few inches away from you. Hold there for several seconds then roll it back in. It’s a very small movement but you’ll feel it in a big way!
6. Side Plank With Bottom Leg Lifts
Start in a side plank and place your top foot on the ground just behind your bottom foot. Lift your bottom leg, using your top foot to stabilize you. You can stick with the leg lift or bring your knee up to your elbow for a crunch. Fun fact: If you lean too far backward you’ll feel a sharp pain in your groin, so be careful and go slowly! (Okay, that’s not so much fun as it is just fact.)
7. Plank Drag With Feet on Towel
Grab a towel (if you’re on a wood or cement floor) or two paper plates (if you’re on carpet). Get into standard plank position with your feet on the towel/plates. Walk your hands forward 10 paces, dragging your legs behind you. The towel/plates should allow your feet to slide over the floor.
8. Sea Witch Plank Crawl
Get into a forearm plank with both feet on a weight plate. Using your forearms, drag your body forward, pulling the plate behind you, just like Ursula dragging her tentacled booty out of the ocean. (Some people call this the “army plank crawl,” but sea witches are way more entertaining.)
9. Plank Plate Drag
This move can be a real drag (sorry) but you’ll appreciate how well it works your abs. Get into a standard plank with both feet on a weight plate (experiment a bit to find a weight that’s challenging for you). Contracting your core, drag the plate toward you until you are in a crouched position. Push the plate back out with your legs and repeat.
10. Scorpion Plank
Scorpions may sting but this plank definitely causes its own kind of pain! Start in a standard plank. Raise your left leg, bent at the knee. (That’s your stinger!) Lower yourself halfway to the ground by bending your arms and reach your left leg over your back, touching your left toe to the ground on your right side. Push back up and repeat on the other side.
11. 90-Degree Bird Dog Plank
Once you’ve mastered the bird dog plank (No. 32), try reaching your left arm and right leg out to the side, making a 90-degree angle with each limb.
12. Plank Crunches on Stability Ball
Lift one leg at a time, placing your feet on a stability ball. (If you want a fancy party trick, start with the ball in front of you and roll all the way over it, into a plank. You’re Superman!) From the plank position, pull your knees in toward your chest, crunching your abs and pulling the ball toward you. Push the ball back out with your legs.
13. Plank Pike-Ups on Stability Ball
This move is similar to plank crunches (No. 43), but requires more balance and core strength. From a plank position with your feet on the ball, jackknife your body (hips up!), bringing the ball in toward your hands. Keep your legs straight and try to get your hips as close to over your shoulders as you can. Your butt should be straight up in the air.
14. TRX Plank 3-Way Crunch
Three is the magic number! Start in a plank position with your toes in the TRX stirrups. Crunch your knees in toward your left elbow then back out, bring them in toward your chest then back out, and then crunch toward your right elbow and back out—these three crunches equal one rep!
15. Plank With Cross-Under Toe Touch
Start in a standard plank with your legs slightly wider than hip-width apart. Keeping your right leg as straight as possible, bring it under your body until you can tap your foot with your left hand. Repeat on the other side. You should also feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings! Caution: This move is not recommended for anyone with T-rex arms.
16. Plank Climber on Slides
Place both feet on paper plates and lift up into a standard plank. Maintaining plank position (you know, without sticking your butt up in the air), bring your right foot forward toward your hands. Quickly switch your left foot forward. Alternate quickly back and forth, like you’re running in place. On your hands. Because you’re a bear.