Anyone who thinks planks are boring is wrong. If you stick to the standard forearm planks every workout, of course they’re going to start to feel stale. But there’s a whole world of plank variations out there, and a good portion of them are so hard they’ll leave puddles of sweat and tears on your mat.
The next time you’re up for a challenge, make your way down this list of planks, starting with the easiest variations then moving on to the ones that will fire up every muscle in your body. You might not feel the burn at first, but trust me—once you make it to the seal-walk plank and breathing plank, you won’t dare call planks boring ever again.
These are the 11 best plank variations, ranked from easiest to hardest
The forearm plank is slightly easier than when you’re doing a straight-arm plank. If you’re just beginning your plank journey, working on your form in this position is a great way to start.
One step above a forearm plank is the classic straight arm plank, where your hands are stacked under your shoulders as you hold your body in a straight line from your head to your feet.
3. Side plank
Instead of having the support of both of your arms, you add balance into the mix when you’re holding a side plank. This can make the exercise feel even harder—and ignite an even greater burn!—than the traditional plank.
One simple way to make traditional planks even harder is to add a windshield wiper motion in. To do it, you start in a straight-arm plank, then—with a hand towel or slider under your right foot—you sweep your right leg out to the right side and bring it back in, keeping your opposite leg straight and sturdy the entire time.
5. BEAR PLANK
Bear planks make your entire body roar—seriously. Unlike the bear crawl, where you’re on all fours with your knees hovering above the floor as you travel across the room, the bear plank is stationary. Even though it’s a tiny movement, the burn is immediate.
A step up from the side plank is the side plank march. The plank variation targets your entire body—specifically the obliques—as you add a marching motion while you’re balancing on your side.
This is a normal straight-arm plank, just reversed. While a traditional plank targets the front of your body, this version targets the back of your body too, making it even harder.
You get an extra challenge when doing side planks with the rolling plank, which has you switching between a left and right side plank with a very brief forearm plank in between.
Like reverse planks, floating planks work both the front and back of your body, blasting your core from a 360-degree angle. To do one, get into a straight-arm plank with your feet on a raised surface and raise your upper body with the help of the hard handles on a set of TRX straps. As you’re holding the plank, your body must stay in a straight line.
10. Seal-walk plank
The seal-walk plank sounds adorable, but it’s anything but. To do it, put sliders or hand towels under your feet and get into a straight-arm plank. Then, walk your arms forward as your legs slide behind you. You’ll be feeling it all over—not just your core.
11. BREATHING PLANK
Of all the plank variations, if you want your entire body to shake uncontrollably, no matter your skill level, you need to try the breathing plank. Adding a breathing routine during the holds is really hard, but it works your muscles on a much deeper level.
Try this trainer-approved plank series:
For other exercise challenges, try the ‘Pilates burpee’—the move that may go down in history as the hardest core exercise ever. Then do the super-intense plyometric move that combines the two hardest glute exercises into one killer butt workout.
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