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How To Do A High Plank To Activate Those Vital Core Muscles

Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor By Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career.
Want To Improve Your Core Strength? Try This Version Of A Classic Abs Move

Crunches, situps, and leg raises are all effective abs exercises—but planking is a core classic that certainly deserves a spot in your movement lineup. This tried-and-true move may seem simple, but that doesn't make it any less impactful—in fact, it's one of the best exercises you can try for full-body activation.

A traditional plank is generally on your forearms, but moving into a high-plank position on your hands will challenge your muscles in a slightly different way.

Building a strong core will benefit nearly every form of exercise (not to mention add comfort to your everyday life), so we followed fitness instructor Mindy Lai's lead for how to nail the proper form of a high plank. And for planking beginners, we've got you covered with some helpful modifications.

How to do a high plank.

high plank

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Mindy Lai.

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How to:

  1. Place your hands on the ground, stacking shoulders over wrists.
  2. Extend your legs outward, engage your core, and lift your body up into a high-plank position.

Form tips.

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When it comes to perfecting your plank form, it's key to engage your core (almost like sucking in). This will ensure all of the muscles you're aiming to work are activated as you hold the position. Because you're putting weight on your hands as well, you must remember to keep your shoulders pressed away from your ears, instead of sinking your body into the plank. Otherwise, you may wind up with a sore back or shoulders instead of the desired effect.

As for the position of your head, it may be tempting to look down at your feet while planking, but this will throw off the line of your body. Therefore, it's best to train your eyes on the floor directly between your hands to stay strong and steady, even as holding your plank becomes more difficult.

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Modifications & variations.

Forearm plank

forearm plank

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by BB Arrington.

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How to:

  1. Start on all fours, then bring your forearms to the mat.
  2. Extend your legs out, and lift your body up.
  3. Pull your belly button toward the spine, press your forearms into the ground, press your shoulders down to your hips, and squeeze the glutes. This helps engage the whole body.

Forearm plank on knees

woman doing forearm plank on knees

Image by mbg Creative / mbg Creative

Demonstrated by Janeil Mason.

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How to:

  1. Start by kneeling on your mat.
  2. Walk your hands forward, until your body is fully extended.
  3. Place your forearms on the ground, with your shoulders stacked over your elbows. Engage your core.
  4. Hold here for 30 seconds.
  5. Walk your hands back toward your knees and repeat 2 to 4 more times.

Moving plank

moving plank

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Jessica Aronoff.

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How to:

  1. Start in an incline plank position, with your hands on the elevated surface and toes on the ground. Keep your shoulders over your wrists, squeeze your glutes tight, and zip your belly button in and back.
  2. Slowly and with control, lower your right elbow and forearm down to the surface, then your left.
  3. Reverse the movement, come onto your left hand, then right hand.

Side plank

weighted side plank

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by BB Arrington.

How to:

  1. Come into plank pose, or a high pushup, with legs extended straight back and shoulders, elbows, and wrists in a straight line.
  2. Draw your belly up and in toward your spine. Engage the point where your hamstrings meet your glutes, keeping legs active.
  3. Begin shifting the weight into your right arm. Release the left arm and bring it up, as you tilt your body so hips and shoulders are stacked over each other and the arms form one straight line.
  4. From here, the left foot will rest on top of the right. Keep pushing the hips up, avoiding sinking into the bottom hip. Engage the obliques. Gaze up past your left fingertips.
  5. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
  6. Come back through center, and repeat on the opposite side.

Add it to your routine. 

You don't have to follow a dedicated core workout to fit high planks into your routine, and even just adding a minute or two to the end of each workout will gradually improve your strength over time. If you need a little guidance, this high-energy boxing workout from Lai is perfect for kicking your heart rate up a notch while still incorporating challenging core movements like high planks.

You can also enhance your high plank by adding shoulder taps to target your obliques and arm muscles—just remember to engage your core so you aren't rocking side to side! This 15-minute HIIT routine from Lai is perfect for when you're in a time crunch but still want to fire up your abs.

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