Jan 5, 2018
Variations on the Plank

The plank is a very simple exercise, but it can go a long way in helping athletes develop a variety of muscles. With an abundance of variations, the plank can target a number of areas and prepare athletes for more advanced exercises. Here are five progressions of the plank that are worth trying.

Planks can be done with either the forearms on the ground or with the hands on the ground and the arms straight out. Both offer a number of variations. In an article on BreakingMuscle.com, Jennifer Pilotti describes the following progressions of the straight-arm plank.

1. Beginner Version

It’s important that athletes start with the basics and build a base of strength. Begin by putting your hands in front of your shoulders with fingers pointed straight ahead. Your nose should be even with your fingertips and the back of your head should be in line with your spine. Keep your arms straight and push your hands on the floor. Your feet should be straight up and down and your legs should be straight and parallel to each other. This is the starting position for a push-up and it will also help prepare athletes for performing mountain climbers and burpees.

2. Shoulder Blade Version

Get into the basic plank position, making sure your breastbone is parallel to the floor and your hands are pressing down equally. Exhale and press your hands a little more against the floor, moving your shoulder blades away from each other. Then inhale, get a little lighter on your hands and allow your shoulders blades to come closer together. Keep your arms straight throughout the exercise and don’t move your torso. Perform 6-8 times. By moving their shoulder blades in this position, athletes will improve strength, awareness, and mobility.

3. Crow Prep Variation

Start in plank position and begin pressing your hands strongly against the floor, allowing your shoulder blade to move away from each other. Your mid back should become rounded as your breastbone moves further away from the floor. Try to lift your back to the sky. Maintain the rounded shape as you breath. Stay in this position for four breaths.

4. Planche Prep

While in basic plank position start to shift your weight forward. Your shoulders should move in front of your wrists. Hold this position for at least four breaths, but try to gradually work up to 10 slow, even breaths. Be sure to keep the shoulders from collapsing forward. If an athlete is struggling with wrist flexibility, they may not be able to perform this movement. Be sure to incorporate wrist strengthening exercises into their routine, and while they work on other plank variations they can periodically test their ability to move forward.

5. Single Arm Variation

Start in basic plank position and then move your feet so they are positioned wider than your shoulders. Strongly press your right foot and left hand into the ground. Focusing on pressing your left palm into the ground and imagine that the weight is distributed evenly across all five fingers. Then put your right arm behind your body and hold this position for at least two breaths. Switch sides and repeat. This is a great way for athletes to prepare themselves for a single arm pushup.

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