If you want to work your core, plank position (top of a push-up) is a great move. You'll not only feel it in your abs, but it works your back, arms, shoulders, and legs. Here are seven variations to make it even more challenging.
- Get low: Instead of balancing on your hands in a straight-arm position, bend your elbows and lower onto your forearms into dolphin plank. This plank variation targets your core and arms even more. Be sure to engage your abdominals to prevent straining your lower back, and if it's too intense, lower one or both knees to the floor.
- Get up, get down: Instead of holding in a straight-arm position or an elbow plank position, alternate between the two. To do the up-down plank exercise, begin in the basic plank position with arms and legs straight. Lower your right forearm to the floor, and then your left (now you're in elbow plank), then come back onto your right hand, and then onto your left. Repeat this for 10 reps, and then reverse directions, lowering the left forearm first and then the right and so on for 10 more reps. To effectively work your arms and core, keep your torso as still as possible and avoid rocking too much from side to side.
- Get lifted: Balancing on your hands and feet in the basic plank is a fairly stable stance, so try lifting one foot off the floor and holding your leg extended behind you a few inches from the ground. The instability will challenge your core, and lifting your leg will also tone your tush.
- Get extended: Lifting one leg off the ground is tough, but to make yourself even more wobbly, which ends up tremendously working your core, lift the opposite arm at the same time. Balancing with opposite limbs extended is a great way to add intense shoulder and upper back toning to the basic plank.
- Go sideways: Turn your plank on its side and balance on your right hand and the outside edge of your right flexed foot. This move will tone your arms and obliques and get rid of love handles. Check out this video for some side-plank variations.
- Get rolling: Exercises done on an exercise ball are great for an unstable surface, and doing plank on a ball is no exception. Try this variation: come into an elbow plank position, placing your forearms on the top of the ball. Keeping your body in a straight line and your core strong, use your arms to roll the ball in small counterclockwise circles (here's a video demonstrating how). Do five circles in this direction and five clockwise. This counts as one set. Complete three sets without any breaks if you can.
- Reverse it: Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and your feet together. Place your hands six to eight inches behind you with fingertips pointing toward your feet. Squeeze your inner thighs together, press into your hands and feet, and lift your hips off the floor. Lower your head between your shoulder blades and gaze behind you. Known as Intense East in the yoga world, this plank variation is sure to tone your tush and the backs of your legs.