Coach Robert does an excellent job showing us how to progress our planks. Here are just a few variations that we use at the gym!
1. “Hardstyle” Front Plank – The “secret” here is to first start from the heels and drive the heels together. This small movement ensures the feet are together and that you are beginning to “pressurize” the entire body, from your toes to your nose! Then drive the knees together (this will help turn your leg muscles “on”) then drive your elbows through the mat and down towards your ribcage, engaging all of your upper body muscles!
Once you get into the “Hardstyle” position, don’t attempt to hold this for more than 10-15 seconds maximum. The goal of this position is to turn on as many muscles as possible and to get a maximal co-contraction of the ab muscles! This is not where you try to hold a plank for up to a minute or longer, then this drill no longer becomes useful. You can, however perform 3-5 holds for 10-15 seconds at a time and reap amazing benefits here.
Really focus on maintaining a neutral spine – the best way to describe a neutral spine is when you are standing, you want to have that same curve in your back as when you are in a plank – not too much curve (hyper-extending) and not a big loss of curve (flexing).
2. Front Plank with arm reach – As a progression, the goal here is not to rotate, while maintaining a neutral spine while taking an arm off the ground. The feet can be about shoulder width apart.
You can progress how long you will hold the arm off the ground – we like to start with 2-3 seconds at a time, and 5-6 repetitions per arm.
3. Front Plank with leg reach – The goal here is to barely lift the leg, while driving the heel to the wall behind you, not the toe.
All of the same progressions apply as the arm reach!
4. Front Plank with arm and leg reach – This progression is one we don’t use too often at the gym, as it is a big progression from just lifting one arm or one leg. Now the goal is to reach with the opposing arm and leg while pretending to keep a glass of water on your back! Do not attempt this progression until you have become perfect with the arm reach and leg reach exercises.
Give these plank progressions a try, and you will never get tired of doing planks!