I love me some unconventional ab exercises, but, when it comes to strengthening your core, you can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned plank. What if you can’t do a plank, though?
First of all, if you’ve been telling yourself that you can’t do a plank, I want you to start by changing the way you talk to and about yourself. Maybe you can’t do a traditional plank — yet — but that doesn’t mean planks are totally inaccessible to you.
In today’s post, I’m sharing a bunch of plank progressions that you can use to scale your plank and work up to the traditional exercise (and, eventually, some more advanced variations). Read on to learn all the different ways you can make a plank easier or harder to meet your specific needs.
Benefits of Planks
Before we get into some different plank progressions, I first want to touch on what makes planks so special.
Planks are a great exercise because they strengthen all the muscles of the core. Remember, your core is more than just your abs. Your core is comprised of all the muscles in the torso, including the muscles of the back and the glutes.
When done correctly, planks require you to engage all these muscles. If you want a stronger core — which comes with its own benefits, such as less low back pain and better posture — then planks should definitely be a regular part of your workout routine.
I also love planks because they’re easy to scale depending on your current fitness level.
What if You Can’t Do a Plank?
There are lots of ways you can simplify a plank or make it harder. Here are some of the different progressions I recommend:
Hands or Elbows on Box
If a regular plank on the floor is too difficult for you, this is a great place to start. When you place your hands or elbows on a box or bench, you don’t have to use your core muscles quite as much.
Don’t be fooled, though. This is still a challenging exercise and it will help you strengthen your core.
Make sure you’re still keeping your body in a straight line and not letting your hips sag toward the floor or rise too high in the air.
Knees on Floor
When you feel confident holding a plank with your hands or elbows on a box or bench, you can move on to doing a modified plank with your knees on the floor. Place your hands or elbows on the floor just like you did in the version above.
As with the last exercise, make sure you’re keeping your body in a straight line and lifting your hips (but not too high) so they don’t sag toward the floor.
Hands and Feet on Floor
Once you’ve mastered the modified plank, you’ll be ready to do a high plank with your hands and feet on the floor.
This version requires quite a bit more core strength than the modified version, but it’s not quite as challenging as a plank with our elbows on the floor (more on that in a second).
When you’re doing this kind of plank, it helps to push down into the floor and protract your shoulder blades a bit. You almost want to think of rounding your upper back while also squeezing your glutes. This will help you engage your lat muscles and utilize more of your core.
Elbows and Feet on Floor
If you want to make your plank even more challenging, lower your forearms to the floor.
I see a lot of people cheating when they do planks this way by tucking their elbows into their sides to try and hold themselves up. Don’t do this. Remember, when you cheat while doing an exercise, you’re only cheating yourself.
Position your elbows so they’re right underneath your shoulders and keep your forearms parallel (don’t clasp your hands).
Push into the floor just like you did during the previous plank variation and round your upper back slightly and squeeze your glutes.
If you’ve mastered the forearm plank and need a new version to master, why not try an up-down plank.
This exercise combines a high plank with a forearm plank and really challenges your core strength and stability.
Start in a high plank, then lower yourself down to your forearms. Then, push back up so you’re on your hands once again.
Try not to let your hips rock too much from side to side. The goal is to keep everything as steady as possible.
If you want an isometric (holding one position) exercise for your core, try a wall plank.
The goal is to get your body totally straight while placing your feet on the wall (as you’ll see in the video down below, I’m definitely not there yet).
If you can’t get your body all the way straight, do your best to still hold your core in and engage all your muscles.
I’d err on the side of having your hips too high rather than letting them sag down toward the ground. That just sounds like a backache in the making.
Plank Progressions Video Breakdown
Not sure how to do any of these plank progressions? Here’s a video demonstrating each one for you:
If you try any of these progressions, please let me know! Remember, even if you can’t do a plank (in the traditional sense) now, you’ll get there eventually if you keep working at it!