The plank is one of the most comprehensive full body exercises you could possibly execute. Because of this, many plank exercise variations have been born over the years.

It’s by no accident that a ‘plank,’ as defined by Dictionary.com is something to stand on or cling to for support.
While this definition is clearly not referring to the exercise version of the plank itself, it’s not too difficult to understand where the ‘plank’ exercise gets its name (and before you get bored of this quick & interesting reference, there will be plenty to keep you busy in just a moment, I promise).

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Without a doubt, the plank is a hardcore task requiring mega-strength. Consider the definition’s words ‘something to stand on’ and bring the image to your mind of holding your bodyweight above ground in a flat manner, with only your forearms and toes on the ground.

Could someone stand on you, without you collapsing to the floor? Most people would answer no (and I’m not sure I’d recommend trying this), but the exercise (and its name) stems from the mindset that a kind of strength that recruits nearly every muscle in your body to work very, very hard is necessary to perform a plank.

And an exercise that requires that much strength is one to master – and create variations of – for benefits that stem far beyond a chiselled middle (we’ll leave that for another article).

Forearm Plank Hold

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This is what most people consider the standard plank. Lying facedown on the floor, align your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your forearms on the ground and hoist yourself up to your toes (modified: to the tops of your kneecaps), creating a straight line with your body from your head to your heels. Contract your core by pulling your belly button towards your spine, squeeze your glutes and keep your head in line with your spine.

Now that you’ve come to the complete realization of just how incredible the plank is, let’s talk variations.

There are so many plank exercise variations, which is a wonderful thing because we remain challenged and resist boredom. Here are 16 great variations for you to add to your core-strengthening routine!

Forearm Plank with Floor Taps

From a forearm plank position (above), alternate lightly tapping one knee at a time to the floor. Perform each tap slowly, one at a time; each time you bring your leg back to straight position, be sure to give your glutes an extra squeeze for full body work (and try your best not to rotate through your hips).

Forearm Plank with Oblique Crunch

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This excellent plank variation incorporates your obliques, those side-waist muscles where we all yearn for more definition (and because you perform it in a plank position, you get a lot of bang for your buck!). Begin in a forearm plank position and bring your right knee to the outside of your right elbow, actively working through your oblique to “crunch” your knee to your elbow. Keep your hips from rising up into the air by maintaining a flat plank. Alternate sides.

Forearm Plank with Leg Lifts

This plank gives extra work to your glutes, hamstrings and lower back muscles. While in a forearm plank, alternate lifting one leg straight into the air by activating your glute muscle (alternate sides). The lift doesn’t need to be high, but just enough to feel your backside engage.

In Part 2 I will continue to look and all the variations of this superb exercise discipline. 

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