The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Plank Variations

Posted in
Fit Tips

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2017

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The traditional plank exercise focuses on muscular endurance of the core musculature. A common misconception about the core is that it only consists of abdominal muscles. However, the core includes all muscles within the trunk. With that being said, the plank exercise requires an isometric (static) contraction of the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, internal/external obliques, transverse abdominis, etc.) as well as stabilizing activity from the rest of the trunk (i.e. erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, etc.).

A strong core is necessary for spine stabilization, which is critical for not only sports performance, but also activities of daily living. In fact, during most of the day, the core musculature is contracting in an isometric manner to support all movements, even sitting. This makes the plank one of the most functional exercises one can do.

While most exercisers perform the plank in the traditional static position, this video highlights plank variations that can provide additional benefits listed below:

  • Involve more muscles
  • Increase agility, coordination, speed and power
  • Add amplification (more difficult) options
  • Involve movement in all three planes of the body (sagittal, frontal, and transverse)
  • Make the exercise more fun
The video highlights two phases of the plank variations exercise:
  1. The slow/controlled movements
  2. The quick/power movements.
The exerciser can utilize either option depending on his/her core strength. The recommended progression of this exercise is as follows:
  1. Traditional static plank (not shown in the video)
  2. Slow/controlled variations
  3. Quick/power variations

The plank is one of the best exercises for eliciting improvements in overall core strength. However, maintaining the proper plank position (straight spine with the elbows/hands aligned directly under the shoulders) for a prolonged period of time can be quite challenging.

Therefore, it is recommended that beginners start in the modified plank position with their knees on the floor. As with all exercises, preventing injury is key, and as such, gradual progression and correct form are of utmost importance.