7 Types of Plank Exercise Variations & Their Benefits

plank exercise

Are you looking to transform your fitness routine and take your core strength to new heights?

Plank exercises are an incredibly effective way to achieve a stronger core, improved posture, and overall enhanced physical fitness. But did you know that there is a wide array of plank exercise variations that can keep your workouts engaging and maximize your results?

In this guide, we’ll explore the diverse world of plank exercise variations and delve into their remarkable benefits. Whether you are a fitness buff, an athlete seeking to up your game, or someone simply looking to strengthen your core, you are about to discover a treasure trove of techniques that will leave you excited to hit the mat.

So, if you’re ready to uncover the secrets to a more powerful core and a healthier, fitter you, let’s dive into the world of plank exercises and their incredible benefits. It’s time to take your fitness journey to the next level!

What is Plank Exercise?

The plank exercise is a versatile fitness routine influenced by elements from Pilates, yoga, and stretching. It boasts the advantage of being a low-impact exercise that requires minimal space, making it accessible to virtually anyone.

What’s more, the plank is not only a time-efficient whole-body exercise but also a calorie-burning powerhouse, enabling you to build lean muscle and improve your overall fitness in a relatively short timeframe.

Furthermore, research has unveiled the myriad benefits of plank-type exercises, which include enhancing strength and endurance, alleviating lower back discomfort, and reducing the risk of falls.

Science-Backed Plank Exercises Benefits

Let’s know the benefits one can expect from incorporating plank exercises into a workout routine.

Strong Core

Performing planks can help strengthen the core muscles, which include the abdominals, obliques, and lower back.

A strong core is vital for keeping proper posture, stability, and balance. This, in turn, can help prevent back pain and enhance everyday movements.

A recent study conducted on 30 individuals found plank exercises help reduce lower back pain and improve overall quality of life 1.

Improve Posture

Good posture is essential for reducing the risk of developing musculoskeletal issues, such as neck and back pain. Strengthening the core through planks can help you maintain better posture throughout the day.

Planks encourage you to maintain a neutral spine during the exercise. This aligns the vertebrae and can help you become more aware of your spine’s natural position. Improved spinal alignment contributes to better posture both during and after plank exercises.

Performing planks helps you pull your shoulders back and down, reducing the tendency to round forward or hunch, which is common in poor posture.

Boost Calorie Burn

While not a high-intensity exercise, planks can still help burn calories when held for extended periods. Over time, this calorie expenditure can contribute to weight management and body composition improvement.

Planks can help decrease body fat percentage and improve overall body composition 2.

Better Flexibility

Planks require stretching and lengthening of several muscle groups, promoting improved flexibility and joint mobility.

Planks can help stabilize and protect the spine, hips, and shoulders by promoting stability in the core and shoulder girdle. This increased stability can make it safer and more comfortable to perform flexibility exercises and stretches.

Low Impact Exercise

Planks are a low-impact exercise, which means they place minimal stress on the joints. This makes them suitable for people of all fitness levels and ages.

Planks are performed by supporting your body weight on your forearms (or hands) and toes while maintaining a straight body alignment. This position minimizes the impact on the joints, making it a gentle exercise that doesn’t subject them to excessive stress. Unlike high-impact exercises like running or jumping, planks are easier on the joints, particularly in the knees and hips.

Improve Balance

Plank exercises require balance and stability as you maintain a static position.

Plank exercises target not only the front but also the side and deep core muscles. These muscles help control the position of the pelvis and provide support to the spine. Improved core stability leads to better balance, particularly when you need to adjust your body’s position or resist external forces.

Reduce Injury Risk

A strong core helps safeguard the spine and minimizes the risk of injuries, especially in the lower back. This is why plank exercises are often recommended as part of rehabilitation and injury prevention programs.

Athletes often use planks as part of their training to build the core strength needed for better performance and injury prevention. A strong core can help absorb and distribute forces more effectively, reducing the risk of injuries like sprains and strains.

Types of Plank Exercises

Plank exercises can be performed in various forms and can be modified to suit different fitness levels and goals. Let’s understand the plank position of each type.

Forearm Plank

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A forearm plank involves supporting your body weight on your forearms and toes while maintaining a straight line from head to heels.

It is important to be mindful of your body position. You should avoid arching your back, letting your hips drop, or hiking your hips too high and aim for a straight line from head to heels.

High Plank

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The high plank is also known as the straight-arm plank. It is similar to the forearm plank but is performed with your arms fully extended. Your fingers should be pointing forward, and your palms should be flat on the ground.

Knee Plank

Image Source: Hinge Health

If you are a beginner, you can start on your knees, which reduces the intensity while allowing you to focus on building core strength.

Knee plank is a great option for beginners, individuals with wrist or shoulder issues, or those looking for a less demanding plank variation. While performing it, you need to position your knees on the ground, about hip-width apart, and your toes touching the floor behind you.

Side Plank

Image Source: Freepik

This core-strengthening side plank exercise targets the muscles on the sides of your abdomen, known as the obliques. It also engages the muscles responsible for stabilizing your spine.

It is advisable to be mindful of your body position and avoid letting hips sag or hiking them too high to maintain a straight line from head to feet.

Reverse Plank

Image Source: Freepik

Reverse plank targets your core, shoulders, and the muscles in your posterior chain, including your hips and lower back. It is a great exercise for improving core strength and flexibility.

The reverse plank is an effective exercise for strengthening your core, shoulders, and posterior chain while increasing flexibility in your shoulders and hip flexors. It can be incorporated into your fitness routine to enhance overall core strength and improve your posture.

Single-Arm Plank

Image Source: Focus Fitness

It is a challenging variation of the standard plank exercise that requires you to support your body weight with just one arm while maintaining a straight body alignment. This exercise not only works your core but also engages your shoulder, chest, and arm muscles.

Plank with Shoulder Taps

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A plank with shoulder taps is another variation of the standard plank exercise that adds an element of instability and challenges your core, shoulder stability, and balance.

While in the high plank position, it is performed by lifting your right hand off the ground and tapping your left shoulder with your right hand. The same is repeated using the left hand after returning the right hand to the starting position.

Conclusion

To sum up, if you are interested in achieving a stronger core, improved posture, better stability, and enhanced overall fitness, these plank variations are the answer. Their versatility allows you to tailor your workout to your fitness level and goals, making it accessible for everyone.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced fitness enthusiast, there’s a plank variation that suits your needs.

So, the action step is simple: Choose a plank exercise variation that resonates with you, and start incorporating it into your daily or weekly workouts. You’ll be on your way to a stronger, more stable, and healthier you in no time.

Does plank reduce belly fat?

While planking can help strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles, it is not a direct solution for reducing belly fat. To reduce belly fat, you need to focus on a combination of factors, including diet and overall exercise.

Can I do the plank for weight loss?

While planks can strengthen your core and improve your posture, they should be part of a comprehensive fitness plan that includes cardio and strength training exercises, along with dietary adjustments, to support your weight loss goals

How many calories are burned in 1 minute plank?

The number of calories burned during a 1-minute plank can vary depending on several factors, including your weight, muscle mass, and the intensity of the exercise. A 1-minute plank might burn around 2-5 calories for an average-sized person.

What are the benefits of doing plank everyday?

Performing planks on a daily basis can help strengthen core muscles, and improve metabolism, posture, balance and overall strength.

What are the benefits of plank exercise for female?

Planks can help females improve core strength and body composition, reduce the risk of back pain, tone muscles, enhance balance and stability.

How many planks should I do a day?

When starting, aim for a total plank duration of 1 to 2 minutes per session. You can break this time into shorter intervals, such as 30-second planks. As you get stronger, you can increase the duration. The number of planks you should do in a day can vary depending on your fitness level and goal.

References
  1. Alok, M. (2020). Effectiveness of plank exercise in low back pain. www.academia.edu. https://www.academia.edu/92739265/Effectiveness_of_Plank_Exercise_in_Low_Back_Pain[]
  2. Park, S., Lee, K., Heo, S., & Jee, Y. (2021). Effects of high intensity plank exercise on physical fitness and immunocyte function in a Middle-Aged man: a case report. Medicina-lithuania, 57(8), 845. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina57080845[]
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