Once you’ve mastered the art of the perfect plank (abs tight, ass down, hands or forearms locked directly underneath your shoulders) there are approximately infinity different variations that amp up the full-body burn. Plank jacks! Hip dips! Knee taps! These are a few of my least favorite—but indisputably effective—versions of the move, all of which I do multiple times a week. This morning though, during a HIIT class at NYC’s Fithouse, trainer Mark Ribeiro put me through the hardest two-minute series of planks I have ever experienced.
Seriously: When I looked at the droplets of water on my mat, I wasn’t sure if they were beads of sweat or tears. That’s how hard these planks were. And as much as I hated every single second of it, I’ve gotta admit that they definitely had me feeling the burn in the best possible way.
You see, these weren’t like regular planks, they were
cool planks weighted planks, which involved holding a dumbbell in one hand and going through various motions while holding yourself up with the other. “Adding a dumbbell to your plank routine creates instability,” explains Ribeiro. “This will force you to engage alternate muscle groups to keep you in a good plank form.”
To try it on your own, start with a set of light weights and place one hand flat on the floor slightly inside your shoulder line for stability. Hold the dumbbell in the opposite hand, and while keeping your core tight and hips and shoulders as straight as possible, cycle through the following moves one arm at a time:
- Hold the dumbbell arm straight out—like a superhero—and create small, controlled circles rotating left for 10 seconds, then rotating right for 10 seconds.
- Hold the dumbbell arm bent like a “T” and create small, controlled circles rotating left for 10 seconds, then rotating right for 10 seconds.
- For the last 20 seconds, bring the dumbbell up and close to your body in a row position and hold.
“These moves are shoulder and core dominant,” says Ribeiro. “They’re full arm toning and really work both the biceps and the triceps. The chest, back, and butt are secondary as stabilizing muscle groups, so it’s really full-body work.” Full body work is right—it’s been eight hours, and I’m still sore.
To turn this into a total full-body workout, Ribeiro suggests combining the planks with the below. Do one minute on with no rest between exercises, and break for 30 to 45 seconds between rounds. If you do three rounds, you’ll get a solid 20-minute(ish) workout in:
- One minute interval of speed, like running in place.
- One minute interval of leg strength, like alternating reverse lunges.
- One minute interval of upper body strength, like push-ups.
- Plank series.
- One minute of ab exercises.
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