Core fitness exercises involve more than just planks. If you want to get better or stronger at anything, you need to find a way to challenge yourself. The best way to challenge yourself for workouts is to apply levels of intensity to the exercise that makes the exercise more difficult.
The same philosophy should be applied to any other exercise. For example, if you were single leg squatting with a pair of 20-pound dumbbells, but you could actually be squatting with 50-pound dumbbells instead, then you are lacking the intensity you need in your training. If you didn’t do super slow-motion reps or reps pause or one and half reps… you didn’t do anything different to those dumbbells within that set... then you aren’t creating the necessary overload you need when you are training.
For core training, most of us can handle far more than what the traditional plank exercise does. I have for you here more options that will help skew a little bit more to the intermediate and advance level so you have different things that you can do to help ensure you continue to make progress.
The first exercise you will notice is a standing exercise. This is really cool because you can actually do a plank from a standing position. All planks aren’t done from on the ground. It all has to do with what we are trying to accomplish. The purpose of the plank is to create an anti-extension or anti-movement challenge for the core. The goal is stay in ONE solid position despite what the forces around you are doing. Every time you step out, the resistance of the band is creating a lateral force, trying to bend to the side and not just sag down to floor like you would with a traditional floor plank. This is a more versatile plank because it’s giving us a different challenge than the standard plank would.
Hold a pair of dumbbells up in the same plank position. Do the grapevine (crossover steps) with the feet as you walk side to side. You’ll feel it when you’re on one leg and crossing over and getting that hip rotation from down below. It becomes really challenging to maintain a stable core. A more advanced version would be to place the dumbbells way up high overhead. This becomes really challenging to maintain an upright torso as you do the grapevine walk crossing over from front to back. Both of these exercises are the same version of a plank that are a lot more challenging than just lying on the ground doing a movement that you are easily capable of doing.
If you want to get back on the ground to do some planks, this time lets do something different.
The Band Press Out Plank is done by loading up a band for as much resistance as we can handle. We get in the plank position and now we can try to drive the hand out against the resistance of the band. We’ve added an anti-lateral element here where the band is trying to pull us to the side.
We can take this further by using a barbell. Maintain a tight core while you challenge the rotation from the bottom and the top. Position the hands on top of the bar and try to twist the bar. Just allow the arms to be twisted by the shoulders and basically resist everything from the chest down. The abs stay tight while the transverse abdominis stays engaged. The feet and hips stay stable as the barbell begins to roll. This becomes very challenging because you must stop the movement of the barbell and change the direction.
We can take this to an even further level by doing a Wall Jack Plank. We are planking while positioning the feet against the wall. You must push the feet hard into the wall and tighten up the core to prevent the feet from sliding down from the wall.
Next, we again make this more difficult by performing Wall Jacks. This is essentially a horizontal jumping jack. Every time we do the jumping jack, we must reposition the feet on the wall and this requires a very high level of force and stability.
Here, we push down with one hand into the ground while lifting and rowing the elbow up on the other side. We end up turning this into a 3-dimensional plank. This is basically a combination of a regular plank and side plank where we are kind of stuck half way in between. The goal is to drive up into that side position, stick it, and maintain that position for about 2 seconds or longer if you can.
Most of the time people think of Planks as getting into one position and holding for a specific time. I would rather you get into a position that’s more challenging and do it 10 times for a shorter period of time. You can treat Planks like reps. The point is, you are challenging your core a lot more than if you were just lying on the ground and doing the same boring plank that isn’t challenging to you. We know that if you are looking to make changes, you need to continue to be challenged. Use these advanced variations of the plank discussed here to help you progress further with your training.