Too many people go about core strength the wrong way. They sit at a computer all day, hunched over in flexion, then head to the gym to put themselves in more flexion through countless sit-ups and crunches.

For folks lifting barbells off the ground and over their heads, good hip and core stability is more important than core flexion.

That’s why planks are never going out of style. When done right, they don’t just improve midline stability, they strengthen the glutes and quads, target the rectus abdominus (which can improve jumping power), improve posture, reduce back pain, and increase balance.

These aren’t the only core exercises you should have in your rotation, but for their sheer versatility and do-anywhere-ness, it’s worth fitting a solid plank sesh into your rest days. (And if you’ve already mastered them, send this to your more unstable friends.)


1) The Incline Plank

The incline plank, like an incline push-up, is an easier version of the standard kind. It requires a little less stability and puts more emphasis on the middle muscles of the abs.


2) The Decline Plank

This version places a little more stress on the lower abs than the rest of the six-pack. Since these muscles are often neglected, and since the decline puts more stress on the shoulders, this “beginner” exercise can wind up surprisingly hard to maintain. Swap the bench for an exercise ball to step things up a notch.


3) The RKC Plank

The RKC plank looks like your regular plank, but the trick is to push the forearms hard into the ground, squeeze the glutes hard, and create tension throughout the entire body.img_8105 It cranks the humble plank up to eleven.


4) The Side Plank

The go-to bodyweight move for your obliques, the side plank helps to improve lateral stability and gives some fullness to the outer ridges of your six-pack. Stack the legs on top of each other and make things more difficult by lifting your top leg or holding a weight.


5) The Weighted Plank

We call this the plank plus. For the sake of safety and to target the most desirable muscles, try to put the weight directly over your core.


6) The Bird Dog

Simply lifting two limbs off the ground is a terrific way to amp up your plank. It’s much better at challenging your balance, kinesthic awareness, coordination, and low back. For extra difficulty, try bringing your knee and elbow together or performing the exercise with straight arms.


7) The Extended Plank

Start the plank on your hands and slowly walk them out in front of you as you get closer and closer to the floor. Make absolutely sure your back stays straight and your hips don’t sag.


8) The X Plank

Moving your base away from your core forces your muscles to work harder to stabilize the body. If you’re daring, you can combine this with the extended plank, moving back and forth between the positions.


9) The Fingertip Plank

Hand strength is arguably the most important kind of functional strength. It can result in everything from easier deadlifts to finally opening that damn pickle jar. The fingertip plank will help you in this goal, just remember that you don’t really want to be all the way on the tips of your fingers, but rather on the pads of your fingers with the tips slightly bent back.


10) The Suspension Trainer/Ring Plank

Our pick for the most difficult on this list: Loop your hands inside the handles of a suspension trainer (or a couple of rings, as shown above) and feel the burn. This variation instantly throws the body into a wildly unstable position and ratchets up the difficulty of the movement. For an easier version, loop the feet inside the handles instead. For even more instability, try a side plank with one hand balancing in the handle.


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Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of different kinds of things, but his passion for health ultimately led him to cover it full time.Shanghai was where he managed to publish his first health related article (it was on managing diarrhea), he then went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before he finished his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and headed to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.Nick’s interest in health kind of comes from an existential angle: how are we meant to live? How do we reach our potential? Does the body influence the mind? (Believe it or not, his politics Master’s focused on religion.)Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.