Plank Variations That Work Your Core

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Change Up Your Routine With 3 Plank Variations

Plank Pose
Ben Goldstein

We all know plank is great for strengthening your core muscles, but it can get a little boring. And nothing derails a workout routine like boredom. Keep things interesting with these variation on plank, which also have the added benefit of working different parts of your abdominals. If you do yoga at home, add these in at the end of your warm-up sequence to get yourself ready to flow. There's also an option to throw in a few arm balances just for fun. 

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Begin in Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog. Ann Pizer

To begin this sequence, come into downward facing dog. If it's your first downdog of the day, take a few breaths to settle into the pose. Try swaying your hips side to side and then peddling the legs, releasing one heel at a time toward the floor. Then come to stillness and take a few breaths there.

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Three-Legged Dog Pose

Three Legged Dog Pose
Three Legged Dog Pose. Ann Pizer

Lift your right leg to three-legged dog pose, also known as down dog split. It's not about how high you can lift your leg here. Instead, pay attention to your hip alignment. Even though you are raising your right leg, keep your right hip point facing the floor and your toes pointed straight down. This is the position you'll return to after each plank variation. 

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Plank Variation I - Knee to Nose

Plank - Knee to Nose
Plank - Knee to Nose. Ann Pizer

Inhale to bring yourself forward so your shoulders are over your wrists (plank arms). At the same time, dome your spine into a cat position as your bend your right knee and draw it under your body to meet your nose. Exhale as you push back to three-legged dog. To increase the intensity here, you can hold the knee-to-nose position for a few breaths. Or try repeating the movement from three-legged dog to knee-to-nose a few times on your breath as a vinyasa (breath synchronized movement). 

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Plank Variation II - Knee to Elbow

Plank - Knee to Upper Arm
Plank - Knee to Upper Arm. Ann Pizer

From three-legged dog, bring your right knee to the outside of your right arm, aiming to get your knee above your elbow. Again, you can opt to hold this pose for a few breaths or come back and forth between this position and three-legged dog. If you like arm balances, another option is to transition into eka pada koundinyasana II (see below) since your right leg is already in position. 

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Arm Balance Option - Eka Pada Koundinyasana II

Eka Pada Koundinyasana II
Eka Pada Koundinyasana II. © Barry Stone

To try eka pada koundinyasana II, bend your arms to make a 90 degree angle and rest your right thigh on the shelf you've made with your right arm. Then work on lifting your left foot off the floor and straightening both legs. Return to down dog split when you are done playing. 

Note that this photo shows the pose with the left leg forward instead of the right. It's easier to see what the pose looks like this way, but stick to your right side for now. You'll get a chance to switch to your left leg later. 

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Plank Variation III - Twisted Knee to Elbow

Plank Twist
Plank Twist. Ann Pizer

From three-legged dog, bend your right knee and bring it across your body's midline to your left upper arm. Try to tap the knee on your elbow or above. Challenge yourself by holding this position or you can try another arm balance- a side crow variation (see below).  

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Arm Balance Option - Side Crow Variation

Side Crow Variation
Side Crow Variation. © Ann Pizer

You can try to take your twisted plank into a variation on side crow if arm balances are part of your practice. Place your right thigh as high up as possible on your left arm and then bend both arms to 90 degrees. Try to straighten your right leg and lift your left foot off the floor. You may need to let your right toes come to the floor at first because it's tricky to get the balance in this position.

Return to downward facing dog and prepare to begin the sequence again on the left side. You can take a vinyasa or a little break in child's pose between sides if you like.

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