6 Popular Plank Exercises For Beginners To Strengthen Core

plank exercises for beginners

If you’re looking to target your abdominal muscles and build a strong core, then you’ll want to incorporate a plank workout into your week.

There are several variations which are perfect for those who want plank exercises for beginners.

In this article, we’ll recommend some of the best alternatives of planks for beginners that you can perform either in the gym or the comfort of your home, with no equipment needed.  

Plank Exercises For Beginners

There are several different plank variations, all of which are body weight exercises that can help to work your entire core, even if you’re a beginner.  

As with all core exercises, good form is crucial to effectively engage the correct muscles and to prevent the risk of injury.  

Basic Plank

The basic plank, sometimes called the forearm plank, is a perfect isometric core movement that is the best plank exercise for beginners.  

If you’re new to training and have a weak core, keep your knees on the ground until you’re strong enough to progress.  

When you’re ready to make it more challenging, simply tuck your toes under and bring your knees away from the mat.  

Your body should then form a straight line from your head to your heels.  

basic plank exercise

How To Do Planks For Beginners:

  1. Begin by positioning yourself face down on a mat or the floor, resting on your forearms with knees and toes on the ground.  
  2. Your forearms should be extended out in front with your elbows directly under your shoulders.
  3. Engage your core muscles and keep your spine in a neutral position.
  4. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, gradually increasing the time as you build strength.
  5. Remember to control your breath steadily throughout the exercise.

Side Plank

The side plank is slightly different when compared to the standard plank and is a great way of activating the external obliques. These are muscles that run down your sides.  

side plank movement
  1. Lie on your side with your lower arm bent at the elbow.  Your elbow should be directly underneath your shoulder.  
  2. Place your upper hand on your hip to help with stability.  
  3. Keep your legs extended and stacked on top of each other.
  4. Lift your hips off the ground, forming a straight line from your head to your feet.  
  5. You should now be resting on just your forearm and bottom foot.  
  6. Engage your core and hold the position for between 30 to 60 seconds, then switch to work the other side.

Straight Arm Plank

The straight arm plank, also known as the high plank, is an exercise that will allow you to build a stronger core but will also activate many muscles across the entire body.  

It’s a plank variation where you need to adopt a push-up position.  

straight arm plank
  1. Start by positioning yourself face down on a mat with your hands placed directly under your shoulders.
  2. Extend your legs straight out behind you and rest your toes on the ground.
  3. Push through your hands to raise your upper body from the ground.  You should now be in a high plank position.
  4. Engage your core muscles by drawing your belly button towards your spine.
  5. Keep looking down towards the floor to avoid straining your neck.
  6. Ensure that your wrists are aligned with your shoulders and your fingers are spread wide, helping to keep you stable throughout.
  7. Maintain a steady breathing pattern as you hold this position.
  8. Hold the straight arm plank position for as long as you can maintain proper form, gradually increasing the duration as your strength improves.

Reverse Plank

Reverse planks are a full-body exercise that will work the muscles of the posterior chain, including the shoulders, triceps, glutes, as well as core muscles.

This variation of the plank can help to improve posture, strengthen the upper body, and enhance overall stability. 

reverse plank exercise
  1. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your feet flexed (toes pointing towards the ceiling).
  2. Place your hands on the floor behind you with your fingers pointing toward your feet.
  3. Keep your palms flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart.  
  4. Push through your palms and raise your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your head to your heels. 
  5. Engage your core muscles by drawing your navel towards your spine and focus on keeping your body in a straight line.
  6. Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears and open your chest by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  7. Maintain this position for between 30 to 60 seconds, gradually increasing the duration as your strength improves.
  8. Breathe deeply and maintain a steady breathing pattern throughout the exercise.

Plank with Shoulder Taps

This variation adds an extra challenge to the basic plank by incorporating shoulder taps to effectively work your core helping with stability and balance.  

plank with shoulder taps
  1. Start by adopting the basic plank position resting on your forearms and toes.
  2. Whilst engaging your core muscles, lift your right hand and tap your left shoulder. 
  3. Return the hand back to the starting position and repeat with the other hand.
  4. Continue alternating sides, ensuring that your hips don’t sag throughout the movement.  

Plank to Downward Dog

This is a combination of the high plank and the downward dog yoga pose.  It’s an effective exercise to work multiple muscle groups throughout the body.  

plank to downward dog exercise
  1. Start in a high plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Engage your core muscles and make sure your wrists are aligned with your shoulders. 
  3. From this position, raise your hips up and back whilst pushing your chest towards your thighs, transitioning into a downward dog position. Your body should resemble an upside-down V shape.
  4. Straighten your legs as much as is comfortable.  
  5. Keep your heels flat on the ground, you should feel a stretch to your calves and hamstrings.  
  6. Keep your head and neck relaxed, allowing them to hang freely between your arms.
  7. Hold the downward dog pose for a moment, focusing on breathing deeply and allowing your body to stretch.
  8. Then return to the plank position, leading with your shoulders and lowering your hips and chest back down towards the floor.
  9. Repeat the plank to downward dog movement for around 10 to 15 reps.  

Plank Exercise Benefits

Below are some of the key benefits of incorporating plank exercises into your workout routine:

Build a Strong Core

Planks primarily target the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, and lower back muscles. 

By engaging and strengthening these muscles, plank exercises can improve core stability and strengthen the spine. This is turn can enhance your posture and improve common ailments such as low back pain.

Full-Body Workout

Whilst planks are typically known for their core-strengthening benefits, they also engage other muscle groups throughout the body. 

During a plank, muscles in the shoulders, arms, chest, and legs are activated to maintain proper form and stability. This makes planks an efficient exercise for working multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Improved Posture

Strong core muscles are essential for maintaining good posture. Plank exercises help to strengthen the muscles that support your spine encouraging proper alignment. By strengthening these muscles, planks can help alleviate back pain and improve posture, both during exercise and everyday tasks.  

Increased Flexibility

Plank exercises require you to adopt and hold a straight and stable body position.  When performed regularly, this can help to improve overall flexibility.

This in turn can improve athletic performance, reduce the risk of common injuries, and allow for better movement patterns.

Enhanced Balance and Stability

Planks challenge your ability to stabilize your body in a fixed position, promoting balance and stability. As you hold a plank, you engage the muscles in your hips, pelvis, and shoulders to maintain proper alignment. 

This improves your body’s ability to stabilize and control movements, benefiting various activities and sports.

Time-Efficient and Convenient

Planks are a ‘do anytime, anywhere’ exercise that involves no fitness equipment. Whether you’re at home, the gym, or even in a hotel room, you can perform planks anywhere that space allows.  

This convenience makes planks an accessible exercise option for individuals with busy schedules or limited resources.

Final Thoughts

The regular plank for beginners is a great way to start recruiting your core muscles and increasing their strength. You’ll also improve your stability, mobility and give a boost to your overall health and fitness.   

It’s important to start with the regular plank where you gradually increase the intensity and duration as your strength improves. Remember to maintain proper form and engage your core muscles throughout each exercise and always listen to your body. 

As you get stronger, you can then add in some of the recommended plank variations to keep testing your muscles and preventing any plateaus.

If you’re looking for a more challenging core workout, why not have a read of our article ‘weighted ab workouts at home‘.

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