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10 Best Plank Variations To Try For Total Core Strength

Kristine Thomason
mbg Health & Fitness Director
By Kristine Thomason
mbg Health & Fitness Director
Kristine Thomason is the health and fitness director at mindbodygreen.
Image by mbg Creative
Last updated on November 1, 2021

When it comes to truly thorough core exercises, there are few moves more quintessential than the plank. It's a classic for good reason: This seemingly simple exercise works so many areas of your body, from your abdominals to your pelvic floor.

"Forearm planks activate your 360 core, firing up your transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and your obliques, along with your glutes and arms," Amanda Quadrini, mbg staffer and certified yoga and Pilates instructor, previously shared.

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Quadrini also notes that she loves a good plank, "because it's a functional, full-body exercise that doesn't require a ton of time or equipment to be super effective."

Another great thing about planks: There are so many different versions to choose from. We've pulled together 10 of the best plank variations—from classic to unique—demonstrated by our mbg moves spotlight trainers. Add any of these types to your fitness lineup, and get ready to reap all the muscle-engaging benefits.

1.

High Plank

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  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.
2.

Forearm Plank

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  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.
3.

Plank Pulse

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  1. Start in a high plank position, with your hands stacked directly under your shoulders and your core engaged.
  2. Slowly shift your body forward an inch, then back an inch, keeping the core engaged.
4.

Reverse Plank

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  1. From downward-facing dog, walk your feet to meet your hands. Stay in forward fold for a couple of breaths, then come into a seated position on your mat.
  2. Extend your legs in front of you. Plant your hands behind you.
  3. Press through your hands and heels, lifting your legs, hips, and chest off of the ground. Allow your head to drape back.
  4. Hold for a couple of breaths, then allow your seat to come back down to the mat. Hinge at the hips, and reach for the feet with your hands.
5.

Plank Hip Dip To Side Plank

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  1. Come into a forearm plank position, engaging your core while pressing your forearms and hands into the mat.
  2. With control, dip your hips to one side, then use your obliques to bring you back to the starting position. Complete this movement on the other side. Then repeat once more on each side (four dips total).
  3. On the fourth hip dip, press into one forearm, then peel the opposite arm toward the sky, coming into a side plank. Hold for a breath, then repeat on the other side.
6.

Side Plank Crunch

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  1. Start in a side plank position, with your right hand on the mat and right shoulder stacked over your wrist. Stagger your feet so your left foot is in front of your right on the mat.
  2. Bend your left arm and place your left hand behind your head.
  3. Twisting at your torso, bring your left elbow and right knee together in front of your body. Return to start.
7.

Mountain Climber

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  1. Start in a plank pose, with shoulders over wrists. Pull waist in, drag shoulder blades down the back, and engage the core.
  2. Fire up the belly by pulling one knee in, then the other. That's one rep.
8.

Plank Jack

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  1. Come into a high-plank position, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists.
  2. Jump your feet out so they're wider than your mat. Then quickly jump them back to start.
9.

Plank With Shoulder Retraction

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  1. Get into a high plank position, with your hands stacked right under your shoulders. Engage your core to stabilize your plank.
  2. Inhale, as you allow your chest to lower and your shoulder blades to press together.
  3. Exhale as you lift your body back to a plank position, spreading your shoulder blades apart. 
10.

Moving Plank

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  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.
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Kristine Thomason
Kristine Thomason
mbg Health & Fitness Director

Kristine Thomason is the health and fitness director at mindbodygreen. Kristine is a New York University graduate with a degree in journalism and psychology, and also a NASM-certified personal trainer. She has spent her editorial career focused on health and well-being, and formerly worked for Women’s Health and Health. Her byline has also appeared in Men’s Health, Greatist, Refinery29, HGTV, and more. In her current role she oversees, edits, and writes for the health, food, and movement sections of mindbodygreen.