Let’s admit it: Planks are boring. You assume the position, then wait for the seconds to tick by as the muscles in your chest, core, shoulders and glutes quake and quiver. But planks do not have to be a snooze-fest: These five plank variations are a testament to that fact, challenging additional muscles as well as your endurance, balance and coordination. So give this routine a try anywhere, anytime, and see how many times you yawn. (We bet it’s zero.)
Just Starting Out? Less advanced participants should do these moves on their forearms with their elbows underneath their shoulders.
Muscles Used: core, chest, shoulders, triceps, glutes, hip flexors, quads
Setup: Get into a plank position with your arms extended, your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels in line.
Action: Lower into a push-up, then bring one knee forward and to the outside of your elbow and place that foot down by your hand. Extend your arms and your forward leg and crawl forward with your hands until you’re again in a plank. Continue, alternating sides.
Tip: Keep your body as straight as possible as you crawl.
Muscles Used: core, chest, shoulders, triceps, glutes, hamstrings
Setup: Find a smooth floor surface like tile or hardwood and place a towel under both toes. (If you’re working on carpet, use a paper plate or Frisbee.) Walk your hands out into a plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels in line.
Action: Keep your abs tight and your hips square as you walk forward with your hands, pulling your legs behind you. At the end of your crawl, reverse direction and push yourself backward.
Tip: Don’t let your hips sag down; fight to keep them lifted by tightening your abs and squeezing your glutes.
Muscles Used: obliques, shoulders, glutes, back, outer thighs
Setup: Lie on your left side with your hips stacked and place your left hand flat on the floor underneath your shoulder. Lift your hips and straighten your arm so your body makes a straight line from head to heels.
Action: Reach your right hand up for the sky, then bring it down and under your body, reaching for the wall behind you. Complete all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: If this is too challenging, bend your bottom knee and put it on the ground to support your hips.
Muscles Used: core, chest, triceps, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, calves
Setup: Get on your hands and knees 4 to 5 feet in front of a wall with your heels facing the wall.
Action: One at a time, extend your legs and carefully walk them up the wall until they are slightly higher than they would be in a standard plank. Hold here and breathe.
Tip: The closer your body is to parallel the more challenging the move, so start high and walk your feet down slowly to increase the difficulty.
Muscles Used: core, glutes, abductors, adductors, shoulders, chest
Setup: Get into a plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels in line.
Action: Jump your feet apart while keeping your hips low, landing on your toes. Jump them back to the start to complete one rep. Continue, using an even pace.
Tip: Fight the urge to pop your hips up, and keep your head in a neutral position to protect your spine.
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