Tara Margulies

By Tara Margulies

9 ways to seriously upgrade your plank

Upgrade your plank

A good solid plank is one of the most popular moves across many different forms of training, and it also happens to be one of my all time favourites. It’s versatile, challenging at any level and a great foundation for more advanced bodyweight movements.

Here are my 10 favourite ways to adapt a plank. I’ve included drills that focus on mobility, as well as upper, lower and full body. Mastering these moves is how I have been able to learn new skills like handstands and L sits (which is where the real fun is at!).

I’ve ordered these plank variations from most accessible all the way to some really tough ones at the end. Happy planking!

Plank in and out

  1.  In-and-out feet

Level: entry

Focus: core

How to:

  • Start in a regular plank
  • Move your right foot out to the side, then back to the original position
  • Repeat with left foot
  • Keep alternating

Feeling strong?

  • Jump both feet out and in, whilst keeping your torso in plank

Top tips

Keep your hips steady, so it’s just your legs moving side to side rather than your hips lifting and dropping at the same time. The steadier you can keep your hips, the more work your core will be doing.

Plank to down dog

  1. Plank to downward dog

Level: entry

Focus: mobility

How to:

  • Start in downwards dog with fingers spread wide
  • Push sit bones towards ceiling
  • Bend knees a little if hamstrings are tight
  • Push evenly through hands and feet
  • Steadily move into plank
  • Slowly return to downward dog

Feeling strong?

  • Lower into a press up once you’re in plank pose
  • Flow through into updog before returning to plank

Top tips:

Working on mobility is one of the best things we can do for our bodies, especially if we’re doing a lot of strength training or high intensity exercise. Improved mobility will lead to better range of motion (making other exercises more effective) and reduce risk of injury. Plus, once they start feeling a bit more comfortable these exercises are a lot of fun.

Slow and steady is key when practicing this movement, take your time!

loaded downwards dog

  1. Loaded dog

Level: entry

Focus: mobility, legs

How to:

  • Start in downwards dog with fingers spread wide
  • Bend knees whilst pushing shoulders back (‘loaded dog’)
  • Bring right foot through into a deep lunge on outside of right hand
  • Lift right hand up towards ceiling and look towards hand
  • Return right hand to floor
  • Step right foot back to ‘loaded dog’
  • Repeat on other side

Top tips

This mobility exercise will open the chest, stretch through the hip flexors and activate the shoulders, core and quads. It is a very good warm up exercise for strength training or high intensity sport.

Once again, slow and steady is key.

Plank bear crawl

  1. plank to bear crawl

Level: entry

Focus: core

How to:

  • Start in plank
  • Without moving your arms or back, place your left toes on the floor under your hip, so that your left knee taps your left elbow
  • Keeping left foot there, do the same with your right foot
  • Return left foot to plank, followed by right foot

Top tips

The main tip for form is to keep your hips low, and if you’re looking for a challenge try and get your knees as to touch your elbows every time.

Plank core walk outs

  1. Walk outs

Level: entry

Focus: mobility/upper body

How to:

  • Start in standing position
  • Roll down so hands are on floor
  • Walk hands out into a high plank
  • Walk hands back to feet
  • Roll spine up to the starting position

Feeling strong?

  • If you have space, try walking the hands down to a plank, then the feet in to meet the hands in a forward fold
  • You can also do the same thing in reverse, get creative!

Top tip:

Walk outs are a fantastic way to improve hamstring flexibility whilst strengthening core and shoulder muscles. Hamstrings feeling tight? Have a soft bend in your knees throughout the move

Slow mountain climbers core

  1. Slow mountain climbers

Level: intermediate

Focus: core/upper body

How to:

  • Start in plank position
  • Bring your left knee up to the outside of your left armpit
  • Return to plank and repeat on the other side
  • Keep your core really engaged throughout

Feeling strong?

  • Hold the knee as close to the armpit as possible for 2 seconds
  • If that feels fine, then take your knee over to the other armpit after your 2 second hold, before returning to plank
  • Why not try a push up during your 2 second hold!?

Top tip:

Slow mountain climbers allow us to focus on keeping our hips still by maximising core control as well as using our full range of motion

plank to squat move

  1. Plank to squat (level up: push up)

Level: intermediate

Focus: core/legs

How to:

  • Start in plank position
  • Jump feet forward to either side of your hands
  • Find a squat position as you lift your hands above your head
  • Return hands floor
  • Jump feet back to plank position

Feeling strong?

  • Add a press up when in plank position

Top tip:

This full body exercise that will have you sweating in seconds! Try to jump the feet as close to the hands as possible and lift into a squat from there. Working on mobility in a squat position will help make this one feel more comfortable.

Plank tricep push up

  1. Tricep push up

Level: challenging

Focus: upper body

  • Start in a high plank
  • Lower body until triceps are parallel with floor (half push up)
  • Lower further until forearms are on the floor
  • Push back up into half push up
  • Return to high plank

Top tip:

If this isn’t working for you, try to do one side at a time to build up your strength

Plank to handstand  drill

  1. Plank to tuck handstand

Level: challenging

Focus: upper body, control

How to:

  • Start in downward dog
  • Jump feet off the ground as if you’re trying to do a handstand
  • Return to plank

Top tip:

If you’re trying this for the first time please enlist the help of someone to spot you (stand behind you so that you don’t fall out of your handstand) or use a wall.

Takeaways

Please don’t be put off if you can’t perfect these moves on your first attempt.

Nobody goes to the gym and picks up the heaviest weights on their first time, or nails front crawl in their first swimming lesson. Progress takes time, so as long as you’re enjoying the journey and practicing movements that are fun and challenging, you’re on the right track!

Tara Margulies is a TSE ambassador. You can find her on Instagram at @movewithTara or over on her blog: www.tara.fitness

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