How to do a plank exercise

The plank exercise is a foundational movement that strengthens the core, improves stability, and enhances overall body strength. It is a simple yet highly effective exercise that can be performed anywhere without any equipment. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the benefits, techniques, variations, and tips for performing a proper plank exercise.

Understanding the Plank Exercise:

What is a Plank?

  • Definition: A plank is an isometric core exercise that involves maintaining a position similar to a push-up for the maximum possible time.
  • Muscles Worked: Primarily targets the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, and lower back. Also engages the shoulders, chest, arms, and glutes.

Benefits of Planks:

  • Core Strength: Strengthens the deep core muscles, improving stability and balance.
  • Posture Improvement: Enhances posture by strengthening the muscles that support the spine.
  • Injury Prevention: Reduces the risk of back pain and injuries by strengthening the core and lower back muscles.
  • Functional Fitness: Enhances overall functional strength, making daily activities easier.
  • Full-Body Engagement: Engages multiple muscle groups, providing a full-body workout.
  • Versatility: Can be modified and varied to suit all fitness levels.

Preparation Before You Start:

1. Setting Goals:

  • Short-Term Goals: Aim to hold a plank for 20-30 seconds initially.
  • Long-Term Goals: Gradually increase the duration to 1-2 minutes or more.

2. Choosing the Right Environment:

  • Space: Ensure you have enough space to lie down and stretch out comfortably.
  • Surface: Perform the exercise on a mat or a comfortable surface to protect your elbows and forearms.

3. Warm-Up:

  • Importance: Warm up your body with light cardio exercises like jogging in place or jumping jacks to increase blood flow to the muscles.

Performing a Basic Plank:

1. Starting Position:

  • Face Down: Start by lying face down on the mat.
  • Elbows and Forearms: Place your elbows directly under your shoulders and your forearms flat on the mat. Your hands should be relaxed, palms facing down.
  • Toes: Tuck your toes under so that they support your body.

2. Lifting the Body:

  • Raise Your Body: Lift your body off the ground, supporting your weight on your forearms and toes.
  • Alignment: Ensure your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels. Avoid sagging your hips or raising them too high.
  • Head Position: Keep your head in a neutral position, looking down at the mat to avoid straining your neck.

3. Holding the Position:

  • Engage Your Core: Tighten your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button towards your spine.
  • Breathing: Breathe steadily and deeply, avoiding holding your breath.
  • Hold the Position: Maintain the plank position for the desired duration, starting with 20-30 seconds and gradually increasing the time.

4. Finishing the Exercise:

  • Lowering the Body: Slowly lower your body back to the starting position, lying face down on the mat.
  • Rest: Rest for a few seconds before repeating the exercise or moving on to other variations.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Sagging Hips: Ensure your hips do not drop towards the floor, which can strain your lower back.
  • Raised Hips: Avoid lifting your hips too high, which reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.
  • Arching the Back: Keep your back flat and straight to avoid unnecessary strain.
  • Holding Breath: Maintain steady breathing throughout the exercise.
  • Looking Forward: Keep your head aligned with your spine to avoid neck strain.

Variations of Plank Exercise:

1. Forearm Plank:

  • Description: The standard plank position, performed on the forearms.
  • Benefits: Provides a strong focus on the core muscles.

2. Straight-Arm Plank:

  • Description: Performed with arms extended, supporting the body on the hands.
  • Benefits: Engages the shoulders, chest, and triceps more intensely.

3. Side Plank:

  • Description: Performed by balancing on one forearm and the side of one foot, with the body forming a straight line sideways.
  • Benefits: Targets the obliques and improves lateral stability.

4. Reverse Plank:

  • Description: Performed by sitting on the floor, then lifting the hips to form a straight line from shoulders to feet.
  • Benefits: Engages the posterior chain, including the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.

5. Plank with Leg Lift:

  • Description: Performed by lifting one leg off the ground while holding the plank position.
  • Benefits: Increases the challenge to the core and glutes, improving balance and stability.

6. Plank with Arm Lift:

  • Description: Performed by lifting one arm off the ground while holding the plank position.
  • Benefits: Enhances upper body strength and core stability.

7. Plank Jacks:

  • Description: Performed by jumping the feet in and out while holding the plank position.
  • Benefits: Adds a cardiovascular element, increasing heart rate and calorie burn.

8. Mountain Climbers:

  • Description: Performed by alternating bringing the knees towards the chest in a running motion while holding the plank position.
  • Benefits: Adds a dynamic element, improving cardiovascular fitness and core strength.

9. Plank with Shoulder Tap:

  • Description: Performed by tapping one shoulder with the opposite hand while holding the plank position.
  • Benefits: Challenges balance and stability, engaging the core and shoulder muscles.

10. Walking Plank:

  • Description: Performed by moving from a forearm plank to a straight-arm plank and back again.
  • Benefits: Engages the core, shoulders, and triceps, improving upper body strength.

Incorporating Planks into Your Workout Routine:

1. Frequency:

  • Beginner: Start with 2-3 times per week.
  • Intermediate/Advanced: Aim for 4-5 times per week or include planks in your daily routine.

2. Sets and Repetitions:

  • Beginner: Start with 2-3 sets of 20-30 seconds.
  • Intermediate: Increase to 3-4 sets of 45-60 seconds.
  • Advanced: Aim for 4-5 sets of 1-2 minutes or more.

3. Progression:

  • Duration: Gradually increase the duration of each plank hold.
  • Difficulty: Incorporate advanced variations and combinations to challenge yourself further.

4. Combining with Other Exercises:

  • Core Workout: Combine planks with other core exercises like crunches, Russian twists, and leg raises for a comprehensive core workout.
  • Full-Body Workout: Include planks as part of a full-body workout routine, alternating with exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and burpees.

Safety Considerations:

1. Listening to Your Body:

  • Discomfort vs. Pain: Distinguish between muscle discomfort from exertion and pain from improper form or injury. Stop if you experience sharp pain.
  • Modifications: Modify the exercise if needed, such as performing the plank on your knees or using a stability ball for support.

2. Proper Form:

  • Alignment: Ensure proper body alignment to avoid strain and injury.
  • Progression: Progress gradually, increasing the duration and intensity as your strength improves.

3. Recovery:

  • Rest: Allow adequate rest between plank sessions to prevent overtraining and muscle fatigue.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet to support muscle recovery and overall health.

Tracking Progress and Staying Motivated:

1. Journaling:

  • Record Progress: Keep a journal to track the duration, sets, and variations of your plank workouts. Note any improvements or challenges.
  • Set Goals: Set specific, measurable goals for increasing plank duration and incorporating new variations.

2. Using Technology:

  • Apps and Timers: Use fitness apps or timers to track your plank holds and monitor progress.
  • Online Communities: Join online fitness communities or social media groups for motivation, support, and accountability.

3. Staying Consistent:

  • Routine: Establish a consistent workout routine that includes planks.
  • Variety: Incorporate different plank variations to keep your workouts interesting and challenging.

4. Celebrating Milestones:

  • Achievements: Celebrate milestones, such as holding a plank for 1 minute or mastering a new variation.
  • Rewards: Reward yourself with small treats or new workout gear to stay motivated.


The plank exercise is a powerful and versatile movement that offers numerous benefits for core strength, stability, and overall fitness. By understanding the proper technique, avoiding common mistakes, and incorporating variations, you can effectively perform planks and enhance your workout routine. Remember to listen to your body, progress gradually, and stay consistent to achieve your fitness goals. With dedication and persistence, you can master the plank exercise and enjoy its many rewards.