The plank is your standard popular core exercise that everyone does and has in their program. It’s “easy” to perform and can be adapted to all skill levels. However, at a certain point, it becomes less of a challenge and we need to add some tweaks so it remains beneficial.
There’s no sense in doing an exercise that has gotten past its point of being useful. As with any exercise, there needs to be a level of progression so that the exercise doesn't become stale and you no longer receive the benefits you once got.
It's one thing to add duration to the plank to make it more challenging, but it's an entirely different challenge to add resistance, increase levers, change the base of support or add movement.
Altering little things can have a huge impact in the long run.
Once we’ve gotten the hang of the basics of it, we need ways to add progressive challenges.
To progress to harder plank variations, it's vital to have solid mechanics during a simple plank. From head to toe, the elbows should be under the shoulders, spine neutral, hips tucked under in a posterior tilt, legs straight and feet slightly wider than hips.
In this position, you want to create full body tension, especially through the core, glutes and legs. Once you've accomplished this task with ease, it's time to add variations.
Base of Support
The standard plank involves maintaining four points of contact with the ground. This produces a stable base of support.
To increase the challenge, we change the base of support by lifting an arm, leg or both.
Decreasing your contact points with the ground adds in subtle changes to your positioning
Set yourself in a Plank.
Once engaged, lift one arm/leg off the ground without losing your position.
Bring your arm/leg back to the ground, and lift the opposite limbs.
Lift an arm, and you have to create tension to accommodate. Lift a leg, same thing
Increase the Lever Length
In a typical Plank, the elbows or hands are placed directly under the shoulders. This creates a strong, stable base.
What would happen if you alter that base by moving the elbows or hands in front of the shoulders? For one, the tension you would have to create throughout your core would have to increase to prevent your body from crumbling.
Secondly, you would increase the degree of difficulty as you’re in a more extended position
Set yourself up in your basic plank
Once engaged, move your elbows or hands up past your shoulders.
Move your elbows or hands to a point where it’s a challenge to hold the position.
Hold for 10-15 seconds
The further out you go, the harder it gets.
A second way to increase our lever length is to do a Body Saw, where you put your feet on a set of glide discs and slide yourself back to increase the lever, then pull back to come back to that basic position.
Add a Physioball
The next way we can level up the plank is by adding in a physioball or stability ball, whichever name you'd like to give it.
This adds an element of instability to your basic plank, and we can start by just holding the plank and that can be challenging enough. However, this gets even more challenging when we add in movements like a Stir the Pot or a Pushout.
Add in Movement
Adding in movement, like this crawl variation challenges our core to react to each step as we move forward and backward. As you step, the challenge is keeping the hips in the same position and not shifting side to side.
It’s all about tension!
What good is doing a plank if you’re not building tension through your body?
One way to do this is to think of driving your elbows towards your toes, and your toes towards your elbows. You’ll notice in the video that my arms shift back a bit once I do this. It’ll fire everything up a bit more
Then you have to breathe, and not just shallow breathing. Try using deep inhales through the nose and forceful exhales through the mouth ( if you listen close you can hear me)
As you exhale, you work on building more and more tension, kinda like twisting a wet towel to get the water out. There’s always more you can get out of it.