Planks are the MacGyver of bodyweight movements: They’re super tough and great for almost any situation. They’re best known for working your core, but planks engage more than 20 muscles, including your shoulders, back, arms, legs, and glutes.
Even better, planks allow you to work your core without the risks of back injury and overstressed hip flexors that come with traditional situps.
To master proper form of the good ol’ basic plank, start with the beginner exercises. Practice holding each move for 30 seconds at a time, adding 15 seconds each time you work out.
Once you can hold a basic plank for a minute, move on to the intermediate and advanced variations that will transform you into a plank pro. At the very least, this will take your planking game to a whole new level and make all your Instagram followers jealous.
These basic planks will form the foundation of all the other moves on this list. Get these down first. As your strength, balance, and endurance improve, move on to the more challenging variations.
1. Standard plank (high plank)
When it comes to planks, form is everything. Paying close attention to form not only ensures you’ll get a great workout but also helps protect your body from injury. Start in tabletop position, kneeling on the floor with hands directly below shoulders.
Lift knees until you’re supporting your weight on just your toes and hands (as if you’re, you know, a plank). Spread your fingers to make a wide, stable base. Line up your shoulders over your hands and heels over toes.
Hold your body in a straight line from the top of your head down to your heels. Hold your core in tight, being careful not to let your stomach sag or your back round.
2. Rocking plank
Start in a basic plank position. Rock forward on your toes until your shoulders move past your hands. Push shoulders backward until heels extend beyond toes.
Move slowly and in a controlled manner to challenge your balance, coordination, and shoulder strength. This move can be done on your hands or forearms.
3. Knee plank
If holding a basic plank is too difficult, try lowering your knees to the floor.
Keep your back straight and core tight — imagine drawing your belly button to your spine rather than sucking in your stomach. Practice holding it until you can work up to a standard plank.
4. Plank with shoulder touch
Start in a standard plank position. Reach your right hand to touch your left shoulder. Put it back down and repeat with left hand tapping right shoulder.
Even though you’re basically doing the Macarena, don’t let your hips sway from side to side as you move. If it helps, imagine a glass of water (or a margarita) resting on your back. This will keep your focus on a tight and stable core.
5. Side plank
Start in standard plank position. Bring legs together until your heels touch. Lean to your left while lifting right arm up toward the ceiling until you are balanced on one hand. Repeat on the other side.
6. Forearm plank (low plank)
Start in standard plank position. Lower yourself until you’re resting on your forearms. Keep forearms parallel to each other with hands flat on the floor or clasped together, if that’s more comfortable.
7. Reverse plank
Sit on the floor with legs extended in front of you and arms at your sides. Place hands on the floor next to your hips, fingers pointing toward your feet. Lift hips as high as you can, aiming for a straight line from chin to toes.
You may discover here that your shoulders aren’t as flexible as you thought. Just take it slow. And, you know, try not to cry.
8. TRX plank
Adjust the TRX straps so that they’re approximately 1 foot from the floor. Face away from the TRX and kneel. Place your feet in the stirrups. There’s no graceful way to do this — however you can get them in without falling on your face is fine.
Crawl forward until your body is extended and ready for plank position. Place your hands or forearms on the floor in front of you. Lift your knees so your body is in a straight line.
9. Crouching hover plank
Begin in tabletop position on hands and knees. Keeping core tight, back straight, and legs bent (at a 90-degree angle), lift knees off the floor. You are now balancing on your hands and toes. Crouching tiger, hidden abs?
Now that you’re planking like a boss, step up your game by adding some movement and asymmetric balancing. This will not only increase the number of muscles worked but also improve your coordination and endurance.
10. Walking plank
Take your plank on the move by adding an up-and-down motion. Start in standard plank position on hands and toes. Slowly lower right arm down to your forearm, and then bring left arm down as well so you’re supported by your forearms.
Place right hand on the floor and begin to push your body back up, following with left hand. Repeat, letting your left arm lead. Sing “Following the Leader” to keep your rhythm. Ignore any weird looks at the gym — they’re just jealous.
11. Chaturanga plank
Start in a standard plank position, making sure your shoulders are directly above your hands. Slowly lower yourself until your body is in line with your arms. Keep elbows touching ribs and core tight so nothing touches the floor except hands and toes.
Imagine the floor is hot lava, or, you know, any other surface you wouldn’t want to come into contact with. Floor of a movie theater, anyone? Get creative — it’ll make the time go faster.
12. Extended plank
Add some extra shoulder work to your standard plank by extending your arms as far in front of you as you can while maintaining proper plank form.
13. X plank
You don’t have to be one of the X-Men to do this variation (although it wouldn’t hurt — we’ll keep your secret). Start in standard plank. Move your legs out laterally until your feet are planted wider than hip-width apart.
If this feels tough enough, you can stay in this position (a Y plank, perhaps?). You can add some extra upper-body work by walking your hands out wider than shoulder width, until you’re in a full X.
14. BOSU topside plank
Using a BOSU, bubble side up, kneel and place your forearms on the top of the bubble. Lift your knees until you’re in a plank and hold.
15. BOSU walking plank
Remember the walking plank in No. 10? Well, now you’re turning your gentle stroll into more of a hike. Start in standard plank position with your hands on the bubble side of the BOSU.
Lower to your forearms one at a time. Push back up to the basic plank. Repeat, leading with the opposite hand.
16. Single-arm plank
Test your balance and your strength! Start in standard plank position. Slowly lift right arm, extending it in front of you.
Keep back flat and resist the urge to tilt hips to the left. Imagine you’re reaching for that one thing you’ve always wanted but could never quite get. Like that My Pretty Pony you asked for for your birthday four years in a row. No? Just me?
17. Single-leg plank
Start in standard plank position. Lift one leg up behind you, keeping your body flat and both the extended and supporting legs straight. Repeat on the other side.
18. Side plank with leg lift
Start in a side plank. Press into the floor with your bottom foot while lifting your top leg as high as you can without bending at the waist (i.e., without dropping your hips).
Try it on your forearm first for more stability, and then work up to doing it on your hand. And if you’re P!nk, do it hanging upside down from a rubber sling 20 feet above a stage while singing. No pressure.
19. Knee-to-inside-elbow plank
You know the drill: Start in standard plank position. Slowly bring right knee under and across your body, toward inside of left elbow. Get it as close as you can without dropping right shoulder and hip. Repeat on the other side.
20. Knee-to-outside-elbow plank
Start in a standard plank. Slowly bring right knee toward outside of right elbow. You’ll be tempted to look back to see how close your knee is — don’t do it! It’ll make you round your shoulders and drop your hips.
Just get it as close as you can without losing your form. If you can get it all the way to touch, you get extra credit and are excused from Friday’s final exam. Repeat on the other side.
21. Side plank crunch
Start in a side plank. Push into the floor with bottom foot and lift top leg. Bend knee and bring it in to touch top elbow. Try not to lean forward or backward — you are not a little teapot. Repeat on the other side.
22. Plank with feet on stability ball
Kneel, facing away from a stability ball. Lift one leg behind you and place your shin or foot on the ball. The ball will likely have rolled away from you at this point, as balls do. It helps to position the ball in front of a wall so it can’t go far when it escapes.
Lift your other leg onto the ball. Straighten into a plank position. Use your forearms or hands, depending on the height of the ball and how well you’re able to balance.
23. Side plank mermaid raise
Cue up The Little Mermaid soundtrack and get into a side plank position. Drop your bottom hip toward the floor. Reverse the movement and lift hip up as high as you can — you’re a beautiful rainbow! Sing-along optional (but we’re in favor of it).
24. Reverse plank hip lift
Start sitting on the floor with legs extended in front of you and arms at your sides. Plant hands firmly on each side and lift hips up as high as they’ll go.
Lower hips slowly toward the floor without touching it, and then lift them again. To make it a bit easier, start with bent knees and work up to keeping your legs straight.
25. Reverse plank leg raise
Start in a reverse plank with hips lifted and head facing forward. Lift one leg as high as you can without bending your waist. Repeat on the other side. Take it slow — you’re not doing the can-can.
26. Plank hip dip
Start in standard plank position. Slowly dip both hips to the right side. Go down as far as is comfortable without touching the floor. Lift back up to a plank and repeat on the other side.
On the last one, feel free to drop to the floor and banana-roll a few feet. Wait for applause — you earned it.
27. Autograph-a-stability-ball plank
This one is as good for your brain as for your abs (six-pack brains — why not?). Kneel facing a stability ball. Place forearms on the ball and lift knees so you’re in a plank position.
Moving the ball with your elbows, “write” your name in cursive. Try just your first name to start, unless it’s “Ed,” in which case you should write someone else’s (longer) name.
Work up to writing your full name. Or write your first name combined with the last name of your crush, just like in junior high but minus the public humiliation.
28. TRX plank with abduction/adduction
Kneel facing away from a TRX. Reach behind you and place your feet in the stirrups. Plant hands and lift knees, straightening into a plank position.
Move your legs away from each other as much as possible, then slowly bring them back together, working both outer and inner hips and legs.
29. Side plank thread-through
Start in a side plank. Lift your top arm straight up, as if you’re giving your imaginary friend a high-five. (If you have a real friend, feel free to really high-five them.)
Bending slightly at your waist, reach down and “thread” your top arm through the gap between your side and the floor. You should feel a deep side crunch. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
30. Plank jack
Start in a standard plank with legs together. Jump feet out as if you were doing a horizontal jumping jack. Jump feet back together.
If jumping is too much, start by walking your legs out one at a time. Just don’t try to add jumping jack arms — in a fight between you and gravity, gravity always wins.
31. Rowing plank
Holding a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand, get into standard plank position. Make sure the weights have flat edges or you won’t be able to balance on them.
Bend right elbow and slowly lift it toward the ceiling, keeping elbow in tight by your side. Lower the weight and repeat on the other side.
If you’re really ready for a challenge, you’ll love these circus tricks, er, advanced plank variations. They’ll test your balance, core strength, and tolerance for people staring at you while you work out.
Don’t worry — they’re just in awe of your strength and ingenuity. That and the puddle of sweat beneath you.
32. Bird dog plank
Start in a standard plank. Lift right leg straight behind you, then lift left arm straight in front of you. Keep your body in a straight line from fingertips to toes. You’ll soon discover that this works your core and your balance in a major way.
33. Fingertip plank
This one is exactly what it sounds like, so don’t overthink it. Also, don’t break your fingers. Or our fingers, for suggesting you try this.
34. BOSU wobbly plank
Flip the BOSU so the bubble side is on the floor and the flat side is facing up. Kneel facing the BOSU and place both hands on top of it, gripping the edges. Lift knees so you’re in plank position and hold.
For a real core challenge, slowly shift your body weight from side to side and forward and back. Real pros do it with their eyes closed. On one leg. In a sea of sharks. OK, maybe not the sharks.
35. Sphinx plank push-up
Start in a forearm plank. Push up onto your hands. Lower back down to your forearms with both arms at the same time. It sounds easier than it is, so just keep practicing until you get the motion down.
36. Plank rollout
Start in a forearm plank with your arms on a stability ball. Push arms forward to move the ball a few inches away from you. Hold it there for several seconds, and then roll it back in. It’s a very small movement, but you’ll feel it in a big way.
37. Side plank with bottom leg lift
Start in a side plank and place your top foot on the floor just behind your bottom foot. Lift bottom leg, using top foot to stabilize you.
You can stick with the leg lift or bring your knee up to your elbow for a crunch. Fun fact: If you lean too far backward, you’ll feel a sharp pain in your groin, so be careful and go slowly. (OK, that’s not so much fun as just fact.)
38. Plank drag with feet on towel
If you’re on a wood or cement floor, grab a towel. If you’re on carpet, work with two paper plates. Start in standard plank position with your feet on the towel or plates.
Walk hands forward 10 paces, dragging legs behind you. The towel or plates should allow your feet to slide over the floor.
39. Sea witch plank crawl
Start in a forearm plank with both feet on a weight plate. Using your forearms, drag your body forward, pulling the plate behind you.
This is just like Ursula dragging her tentacled booty out of the ocean. Some people call this the “army plank crawl,” but sea witches are way more entertaining.
40. Plank plate drag
This move can be a real drag (sorry), but you’ll appreciate how well it works your abs. Start in a standard plank with both feet on a weight plate. Experiment a bit to find a weight that’s challenging for you.
Contracting your core, drag the plate toward you until you’re in a crouched position. Push the plate back out with your legs. Repeat.
41. Scorpion plank
Scorpions may sting, but this plank definitely causes its own kind of pain. Start in a standard plank. Raise left leg, bent at the knee — that’s your stinger.
Lower yourself halfway to the floor by bending your arms and reach left leg over your back, touching left toe to the floor on your right side. Push back up and repeat on the other side.
42. 90-degree bird dog plank
Once you’ve mastered the bird dog plank (No. 32), try reaching your left arm and right leg out to the side, making a 90-degree angle with each limb.
43. Plank crunch on stability ball
Lift one leg at a time, placing feet on a stability ball. If you want a fancy party trick, start with the ball in front of you and roll all the way over it, into a plank. You’re Superman!
From the plank position, pull knees in toward chest, crunching your abs and pulling the ball toward you. Push the ball back out with your legs.
44. Plank pike-up on stability ball
This move is similar to the plank crunch (No. 43) but requires more balance and core strength. Start in a plank position with your feet on the ball. Jackknife your body (hips up), bringing the ball in toward your hands.
Keep legs straight and try to get hips as close to over your shoulders as you can. Your butt should be straight up in the air.
45. TRX plank 3-way crunch
Three is the magic number! Start in a plank position with your toes in the TRX stirrups. Crunch your knees in toward your left elbow and then back out.
Next, bring them in toward your chest and back out, then crunch toward your right elbow and back out — these three crunches equal 1 rep.
46. Plank with cross-under toe touch
Start in a plank position with legs slightly wider than hip-width apart. Keeping right leg as straight as possible, bring it under your body until you can tap your foot with your left hand. Repeat on the other side. You should also feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings.
47. Plank climber on slides
Place both feet on paper plates and lift up into a standard plank. Maintaining plank position (without sticking your butt up in the air), bring right foot forward toward hands.
Quickly switch so left foot is forward. Quickly alternate sides, like you’re running in place. On your hands. Because you’re a bear.
Thanks to our plank model, Sarah Pope.