Planks are one of the most effective exercises for getting washboard abs. They also improve abdominal strength and tightness. Doing planks will not only give you a tighter core, but you also improve your strength in other exercises that involve your core.
Plank is a core exercise that has been around for centuries. You can do it anywhere and at any time. It’s a simple exercise that requires no equipment, but it’s one of the best ways to get washboard abs.
What is Plank?
A plank is an isometric exercise involving supporting weight on your forearms or hands while keeping your body straight and rigid. You can do it on the floor or on an elevated surface like a bench or chair.
The plank position works out multiple muscle groups, including abs, lower back, glutes, and shoulders. The main muscles targeted are the rectus abdominis (abs), hip flexors, and erector spine (lower back). Plank workouts help strengthen your core, prevent injury, improve balance and posture, and are a great way to achieve well-defined abs.
Benefits of Plank Exercises
Plank Exercises are a great way to improve your core strength and build up your muscles. They also help improve your balance and stability, making them an essential exercise for older people. Here are seven benefits of doing workout planks:
Plank Exercises Strengthen Your Core Muscles
The plank exercise explicitly targets your core muscles — those located in your lower back, abdomen, and hips — to create a strong foundation for each movement you make throughout the day.
They Improve Posture and Balance
Planks improve posture by strengthening muscles along the spine and pelvis by creating more space between vertebrae and strengthening abdominal muscles that support the spine.
If you spend a lot of time on seating for the day, this exercise will help strengthen your back and neck muscles. It will also reduce any strain on these muscles from sitting too much.
Increases Strength and Endurance
Planks strengthen the upper body, arms, and shoulders. They build strength in your shoulder girdle (the bones surrounding your shoulder joint), your triceps, and your biceps. Strengthening these areas will help enhance your endurance while exercising or performing everyday tasks.
Prevents Exercise-related Injuries
Planks strengthen your core muscles and improve your posture to safely perform other exercises such as squats or lunges with good form. This helps prevent injuries from poor condition during these exercises.
What Muscles Do Planks Work?
Planks work on different muscle groups at once. The muscles include:
Core muscles: The core muscles are located in the center of your body and include those that stabilize your spine. The core muscles include:
- The transverse abdominis (TVA),
- Obliques (OBL)
- Rectus abdominis (RA).
Gluteals (buttocks) and Hamstrings (back of thigh muscles) — The gluteals are mainly responsible for hip extension, which means they move your hips backward when they contract.
Back muscles: Planks also target several large back muscles, including the erector spinae group and rhomboids. These muscles stabilize your spine during exercise, so you don’t hurt yourself.
Arms: Planks also involve arm movements that strengthen triceps and biceps
How Long Should You Do A Plank?
The answer depends on your fitness level and goals — but it’s usually between 30 seconds and 3 minutes. Most experts recommend holding a basic plank for 10-30 seconds at least three times per week to see results.
For beginners: Do three sets of 1 minute in a modern plank exercise at first, then move to low planks. Once you can hold three sets of 30 seconds in low plank, gradually increase the time as you get stronger.
For advanced planks: Hold a planking position for as long as possible before taking a break.
If your plank is not getting the results you want, there are some things you can do to improve your form and get better results. The tips for getting better results when doing planks are:
- Hold for more extended periods
- Add weight if necessary
- Try different variations
- Don’t hold your breath
Types of Planks to Get Washboard Abs
Planks are a great way to strengthen your core and develop muscle definition. Try these 10 variations to help you build a strong, lean midsection bikini body that looks amazing in any bathing suit.
1. Basic Plank
A basic plank is an excellent place for beginners because it’s easy to get into and maintain. It is the most basic variation of the plank exercise and targets all of the muscles in your abdominal region. It works on both sides of the body at once and helps to strengthen your lower back muscles.
To perform, lie on your belly with your forearms flat on the floor, elbows under shoulders, and your core engaged. Keep back flat, abs engaged, and body in a straight line from head to heels.
Lift yourself off the floor by straightening your arms until your body is in a straight line from head to toe (do not arch your back!). Hold for 20 seconds or more if possible while breathing normally.
Repeat up to three times per set. Increase the time as you become more comfortable.
2. Side Plank
The side plank exercise is similar to the regular plank, but it requires you to place your weight on one side of your body instead of balancing it evenly. It works your obliques muscles (the muscles on the sides of your abs) and burns fat from your waist, hips, and thighs.
To perform, lie on your right side with your legs extended straight out. Stack legs on top of each other behind you. Keep your elbow directly underneath your shoulder to parallel the forearm with the floor. Extend straight out from the shoulders.
Lift your hips off the ground using one arm while keeping both shoulders pressed down into their sockets. Your body should form a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Hold for 1 minute or as long as possible, then repeat on the other side.
3. Plank Jack
Plank jacks are an advanced move that combines strength training with cardio exercise by adding movement into the mix. They are a great exercise to help you get washboard abs because they work your core muscles and help increase your metabolism.
To make this move, start in a high plank position with hands directly under shoulders and feet hip-width apart with your legs extended straight behind you.
Keeping abs engaged, jump both feet forward so that feet land outside of hands. Keep your body straight from head to heels throughout the exercise — reverse movement back to start. Repeat for specified reps or time.
4. Reverse Plank
This variation is suitable for people who have trouble maintaining their balance or need more help with their lower back strength. It targets the lower part of your abs, shoulders, and back muscles. You can do it with both hands or one hand on the floor and one arm behind your head.
To perform the move, sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Put your hands on the floor, palm down behind and outside your hips.
Lift your body until you form a straight line from head to toe. Your arms should be behind your back, on the ground, as your body is elevated and straight.. Hold for 30 seconds, or as long as you can. If you cannot maintain the pose for 30 seconds, support yourself using your forearms instead of straight arms.
5. Forearm Plank
The forearm plank is an excellent way to work your abs and shoulders. It is similar to a basic plank, only that you do it with your forearms on the floor instead of your hands or elbows.
To do a forearm plank, get into a push-up position with only your forearms on the ground. Make sure that you tighten your abs, clench your glutes, and lift your body straight line from head to toe.
Hold this position for 30 seconds or more if possible.
6. High Plank
The high plank exercise is an excellent variation of the traditional plank because it strengthens your core muscles and works the shoulders and arms. This move targets your lower back muscles as well as your abs.
To perform the exercise, lie face down on the ground with arms stretched out directly below the shoulders, palms flat on the floor, and feet flexed with the bottoms of the toes touching the ground.
Lift yourself up into the push-up position. The body should form a straight line from head to toe, with no sagging in the hips, back or shoulders. Hold this position for as long as possible without allowing any body part to touch the ground.
7. Single-Arm Plank with Leg Lift (Reverse Crunch)
This plank variation is the best way to strengthen your core while toning your glutes, hamstrings, and balance. Start in a forearm plank position with one hand on the ground, elbow under shoulder, hips lifted, and feet together. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
Engage your abs by drawing them toward each other while keeping your pelvis as still as possible throughout the movement. Holding this position, brace your abs and hold for 1 minute while slowly lifting one leg until it’s parallel with the floor before lowering it back down again. Repeat on both sides for 30 seconds each time before switching arms.
8. Plank Hip Dip
The hip dip plank takes the regular plank position and adds an element of challenge by moving your hips up and down while maintaining good form throughout the exercise. This move is excellent for building strength in your abs, glutes, and hamstrings while burning calories simultaneously.
To do it, start in a high plank position with hands directly under shoulders and feet together. Keep body straight, and don’t let hips sag toward the floor.
Slowly lower hips toward heels until they almost touch the ground, then raise back up to starting position while engaging core muscles throughout the movement. Do 12 reps of this exercise for two sets each day for best results.
9. Weighted Planks
Adding weight to your body during planks will make them more challenging, so you can increase the difficulty over time as you get stronger. You can use dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells. Some of the weighted plank exercises include:
- Dumbbell side planks
- Dumbbell Side Plank Hip Raise
- Bird Dog Weighted Plank
- Standard weighted planks
- Extended planks with weight plates
Advantages vs. Disadvantages of Planks
Planks are one of the most common core exercises, and they’re often used as a warm-up or finisher in strength training workouts. But like any exercise, planks have their pros and cons. The table below shows the cons and pros of planks:
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Planks
|Advantages of Planks||Disadvantages of planks|
|Increase strength and endurance||The plank can be challenging because it requires a lot of core strength, balance, and endurance.|
|Improve athletics performance||They can be boring because it is easy to reach a plateau if you don't switch variations.|
|Help prevent back pain||Planks can aggravate existing injuries because they pressure the spine and surrounding muscles when you hold them for long.|
|Improve blood circulation in the body||You can't use a lot of weight with planks because it's so hard to balance yourself on your forearms, making it impossible to lift heavy weights (or even moderate ones) over time.|
|Help strengthen core muscles||Planks aren't very effective for building muscle mass or increasing strength because they lack an eccentric phase.|
|Improve balance and posture||Planks are unstable and require a lot of core stability to maintain form.|
The plank is one of the most effective workouts for core stability and abdominal strengthening. You can do plank exercises at home or in the gym with or without any equipment.
The great thing about planks is that they work your entire midsection from all angles: upper abs, lower abs, obliques, and even your back. To get those washboard abs, work hard to define the muscle groups that make up a lean six-pack and build endurance. Start today.