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Most guys use planks to strengthen their abdominal muscles and, make no mistake, they’re a surefire way to get rock-hard abs. However, this tried-and-true exercise does a whole lot more than just work your core. Planks target your calves, thighs, glutes, back, shoulders, arms and chest simultaneously, giving you a full-body workout that’s hard to beat. Plus, if you add some movement, you can get a cardio workout in, too. There are plenty of plank variations to sculpt and shape every muscle in your body. All you need is a mat, some weights and a yearning for that sweet, sweet burn. You know what they say: no pain, no gain.
1. TRX Plank
TRX bands are no joke. With just a few straps — and a steely will — you can whip your body into shape in no time. The TRX plank is just one powerful way you can incorporate the gear into your routine.
This variation puts your hands on the ground and your feet in the tops of your feet in the stirrups. There’s no graceful way to get into the position but, once you’re there, all you have to do is hold it. Want to intensify things? Raise the straps so your feet are above your hips or add pike sets between longer holds.
2. Rowing Plank
The plank position is a great way to build core strength but, if you want to pump up your arms fast, you can easily add a rowing variation to your workouts.
Try the move without weights from a high plank position first. Focus on anti-rotation by incorporating an isometric hold at the top of each row. Increasing your time under tension will test your balance and stamina while adding dumbbells to your hands will increase strength.
3. Plank Jacks
If you’re trying to enhance your cardio routine, planks are a great way to do it. Even holding the position will boost your heart rate and burn calories, which is great news for HIIT lovers. However, if you want to take things to the next level, you can always give plank jacks a go.
This intense move is effective in both a low and high plank position. Begin with your feet together. Then, quickly jump them wider than hips-width apart before hopping them back together. Repeat for three sets of 15 or bust out as many as you can in one minute to really feel the burn.
4. Superman Plank
Do you think Superman does a regular old plank? Of course not. He does a special, harder version named after his likeness. This variation halves the number of limbs on the floor at one time so you’ll feel like you’re flying — or maybe dying depending on how strong really you are.
Begin in a low or high plank position and raise your right arm and left leg simultaneously. Return both limbs to the ground and repeat on the other side. Add weights to your hands to make each rep extra challenging. This move isn’t for sissies and is sure to test your form, so go slow and only do as many as you can without sacrificing quality for quantity.
5. Side Plank Crunch
Perhaps you’ve already mastered the side plank and want to up the ante. Well, say hello to the side plank crunch. This killer variation has you begin in a high side plank and quickly intensifies from there.
Instead of reaching up to the sky with your top arm, bring your fingertips to rest lightly behind your ear. Press into the side of your bottom foot as you lift your leg and draw your knee up toward your elbow. Crunch your side body and see if you can touch the two together before returning to the start position. Try to avoid leaning forward or backward to maintain balance and proper form.
6. Reverse Plank
Want to light up more posterior muscles without doing supermans? Reverse planks are a great alternative. This variation targets the backside of the body first before working the abdominals. That way you can tone everything from your triceps to your hammies and still have strength for classic forward-facing planks later.
Make sure your fingertips point forward and your hands are slightly behind and outside your hips as you lift your pelvis and core up to the sky. Draw your toes down toward the ground to engage your legs and glutes. Maintain a straight line from your toes to the tip of your head for 30 seconds or rep it out to really bump up your heart rate.
Quality Over Quantity
Remember, your planks are only as effective as your form is good. That means you should focus on doing fewer reps if it helps you maintain proper posture. Then, you can progress to holding each of these plank variations for longer periods of time or busting out more reps and sets. The more consistent you are, the stronger you’ll get, so stick with it. You’ll see results soon enough.