The plank exercise has become one of the more popular core movements performed today. Necessitating a static contraction of all the musculature through the trunk, lower back, glutes, legs, and even chest/shoulders, it’s pretty much perfect for building the strength needed to stabilize the body. But what do you do when a normal plank exercise gets too easy? Below are 5 ways to ramp up the difficulty factor.
Before you try out a more difficult variation of the plank exercise, you need to be able to hit a couple benchmarks on the base version. First, you need to be able to plank in the top push up position with arms fully extended – not just on your elbows. After that, you should be able to solidly hold that contraction for at least 90-120 seconds without too much trouble. Once you can do that, you can move onto some of the below.
The easiest way to make the plank exercise more difficult is to simply just add external weight. By doing this, you make your torso heavier and increase the resistance in which your torso has to support. You can add external weight by donning a weighted vest, strapping resistance bands around your back and under your hands, or having someone lay weight plates or heavy chains on/across your upper back.
Any time you try to perform a static contraction on an unstable surface, you ramp up the difficulty factor. You can do this with the plank exercise but putting your feet on a stability ball. You have even more options for your hands. You could put both hands on a stability ball, both hands on a medicine ball, or a medicine ball under each hand. Make things even more difficult still by putting both your feet and your hands on a ball of some sort.
It might not seem that hard, but “stepping” your hands and/or feet onto objects while holding yourself in the planked position is actually quite difficult. For example, place a short block or aerobics step under your chest. From the planked position, “step” your left hand from the floor onto the block, followed by your right hand. Now “step” them back to the floor. Repeat in constant fashion for the desired time period.
You can do this with the feet as well by placing short blocks or weight plates on the floor just outside where your feet rest. “Step” each foot onto a block, then back off of again. Increase the difficulty even more by coupling this with the last suggestion by “stepping” your hands or feet onto and off of a medicine ball or stability ball.
Another seemingly simple, yet surprisingly difficult variation of the plank exercise is to tap each shoulder. Get into plank position with arms extended. Pick up your left hand, reach over, tap your right shoulder, then return it back to the floor. Then pick up your right hand, reach over, tap your left shoulder, and return it back the floor. Alternate back and forth in non-stop fashion.
Get into plank position with a small dumbbell sitting on the floor behind your right hand. Pick up your left hand off the floor, reach across under you, grab the dumbbell, and place it on the floor just behind where your left hand started. Return your left hand to the floor and repeat with the right side. Keep moving the dumbbell from one side to the other throughout the duration of your plank hold.
With a little bit of ingenuity, you can really make the plank exercise difficult. Ensure you can hold a proper one first, then graduate to one in the top of a push up position. Once you can hold that for an appreciable amount of time, adding other tricks to your plank not only makes things harder, but allows you to switch things up for more variation in your workouts.
For more reading material we’ve provided a comparison on the plank vs sit ups here.