People are always looking for the most effective exercises they can do to tone their body, trim inches, get stronger, and lose weight. I’m a personal trainer, and through the years, I’ve found time and time again that planks help people accomplish all of these goals, as long as they’re performed correctly and using a variety of hand and foot positions. The good news about planks is you don’t need any equipment, but if you do wish to use some simple tools, you can really step it up, challenge yourself, and achieve even more variety. Keep reading to see my favorite plank variations, how to prevent injury, and the best equipment you can use for advanced positions.
I’m a Trainer, and This Is My Favorite Exercise For Strength Training and Weight Loss
A plank can be completed on your hands, elbows, knees, or toes. You can also complete a side plank on your forearm or outstretched arm. Center and side planks work on balance, strength, and endurance, and help you trim inches off your waist. It’s common for beginners to start in the half-plank position on their knees and build up to a full plank position on your toes. Keeping your core muscles tight, body in a straight line, and continuing slow and controlled breathing is important during planks, as it’s very easy to hold your breath during isometric and difficult exercises.
To make a plank more challenging, you can try a variety of foot and hand positions. Balancing on one leg is the first variation I recommend to clients, and then you can move on to more advanced plank positions like alternating shoulder taps, alternating leg lifts, alternating knee to chest, walking plank, Superman plank, and hip dips. Each plank hits a variety of muscle groups and works on balance and coordination.
Wrist, shoulder, and foot injuries are fairly common and one of the reasons people may avoid planks when they exercise. There are modifications you can make so you don’t risk further pain or damage to your joints, and one of them requires a stability ball. By placing your elbows on a ball, you’re in a modified plank position, with limited strain on your upper body, focusing mostly on strengthening your core. If you have a foot or toe issue, you can modify the plank by staying on your knees, using a yoga wedge block, or placing your legs on a stability ball to take some of the pressure off your foot.
Adding in Equipment
As mentioned above, a stability ball is a great way to add in some plank variations for your lower or upper body. Resistance bands, Bosu balls, and dumbbells are other options to take your planks up a notch. Bosu Ball Plank Twists, Push-up Plank Jacks, and Plank Kickbacks are just some examples of how you can add equipment and tone your body.