Planks are the ultimate core strengthener and these five dynamic variations work your abs from angle.
If you’re looking for one move that shocks your abs into getting stronger fast, there aren’t many as good as the plank. As an isometric hold – meaning the muscles are under full tension without lengthening or shortening – it works the entire core region, targeting your abs, obliques and deep-lying support muscles, as well as your glutes and lower back.
But static-hold planks for time can be boring. Add in some dynamic movements, though, and you’ll get all the core-building benefits without watching the clock.
Here are five of our favourites…
Single-Leg Knee Drive
- Start in a three-point press-up position with one knee bent and foot off the floor.
- Brace your core and keep it engaged.
- Dynamically raise your foot as high as you can, then bring it back down in a smooth arc to return to the start position.
- Do 12 reps, then switch legs and repeat.
Adding a dynamic movement to a static hold will force you to keep your core fully engaged (so you don’t fall over) and help fire up more muscle fibres across the entire core region.
What’s more, you’ll also work the glutes and hamstrings and improve lower-body mobility and flexibility.
TIP: Get your abs tight by drawing your belly button in towards your spine – a bit like what you do when you brace your stomach to be punched. This will create tension across your entire core.
Single-Leg Roll Twist
- Get into the press-up position, then twist your hips to raise your right leg so it’s the highest part of your body.
- Keep your chest facing the floor and your abs tight.
- Twist back down and around to bring that knee back under your body.
- That’s one rep. Do 12 reps, then switch legs and repeat.
Many men suffer from tight hips, which makes a lot of important lower-body exercises far harder and increases injury risk.
This rolling plank variation will work the core and help ‘open up’ the hips for greater lower-body mobility and improved power transfer between your legs and torso.
TIP: Another great way to get your abs as tight as possible, and keep them engaged, is to exhale as forcefully as possible through your lips so your abs tighten, then not relax from that position.
- Start in a three-point press-up position with your hips raised and your right arm straight and behind you.
- Lower your torso over your left hand as you swing your right hand around in front of you, then return to the start.
- Keep your core tight.
- That’s one rep. Do 12 reps, then switch arms and repeat.
This variation not only works the entire core, it also contracts and stretches the upper and lower abs during each rep for greater strength gains.
You’ll also strengthen the stabilising muscles of the shoulders because your planted arm must work hard to keep your torso stable.
TIP: Go up on tiptoes to raise your hips as high as you can for the start position. As you lower your chest to the ground, push your hips forwards at the very bottom of the rep.
Side Plank Roll Twist
- Start in the press-up position with your core engaged.
- Raise your right hand, then twist your torso so your right hand and head are pointed to the ceiling.
- Twist back down and around so your hand goes under and across your chest.
- Return to the start.
- That’s one rep. Do 12 reps, then switch arms and repeat
Rolling one arm up to the top, then down and across your body, brings the obliques into play in a big way.
These muscles are involved in all rotational movements, so making them stronger has huge cross-over benefits for many sports.
TIP: To avoid putting excess pressure on your neck, make sure your eyes follow your hand to the top and then back down and around again. This will keep your head moving in a smooth arc for each rep.
Side Plank Heel Tap
- Start in a side plank with your upper body supported on your left forearm.
- Raise your hips and engage your core, then raise your right heel up towards your bum and tap it with your right hand.
- Straighten your arm over your head and your leg again.
- That’s one rep. Do 12 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
This variation works the obliques as well as the deeper core muscles, which are recruited to keep your hips raised so that you can maintain the side plank position.
Adding a movement works them even harder to keep your body from falling forwards or backwards.
TIP: Keep your glutes engaged for the whole set to improve lower-body stability so you can lift and lower your heel without your body rocking. And keep your head looking forwards with your chin up.