10 ways to upgrade your planks

Planks are great exercise, at least they are when done well. I.e. not this…

But there comes a time when holding a rock solid plank for time gets a bit humdrum. What you need are some options to upgrade the humble plank and get a bigger challenge out of it.

Here are a few ideas to help you out.

Extended base

This is your standard plank, on your elbows or hands, but instead of having your elbows directly below your shoulders, you move your arms out in front of your head. Now, due to the longer base of support, you have to work a lot harder to maintain good position through your low back and hips.

Swiss ball

Taking away a little of your stability by placing your forearms on a swiss ball makes you work a whole lot harder through your obliques and hips.

TRX planks

Following on from the option above, the instability is now at your feet. Set up on your elbows or hands with your feet through the bottom loops of the TRX. Now you have to work harder through your quads and hips to maintain good position. If you want to increase the difficulty of this option, move forward so your feet are in front of the TRX anchor point rather than below it.


Yes, this is a plank variation. You are trying to maintain a straight line from your knees, through your hips, to your shoulders. All you are doing is varying its intensity by moving the support. Bonus points if you can do it from your toes…

Plank touches

The first option where we can take away a point of support to challenge you. Set up in a push-up position plank with your hands below your shoulders, keep the floor pushed away and touch your left shoulder with your right hand. Now you are balancing on your feet and only 1 hand. Don’t let your unsupported shoulder drop, then alternate between left and right for reps or time.

Alternating leg lifts

Much the same as the option above, this time you’ll be alternating between left and right feet. Making sure you don’t allow your hips to roll or drop.

Plank rows

Set up in front of a cable stack or, if you are using a band, in front of a solid upright in an elbow plank. Grab the handle/ band and row the load to bring your elbow to your ribs, maintaining a solid position through your hips and shoulders.

Renegade rows

Set up in a pushup position with your hands on dumbbells. The hex shaped ones are best here so they don’t roll, but if you have circular ones, you need to make sure you have a solid setup with your shoulders stacked directly above the weights. Then you are going to row the right DB towards your torso, maintaining great position, before placing it back on the ground. Alternate left and right for time or reps.

Body saw

This is a variation on the TRX plank we looked at earlier. Your feet in the bottom loops, in an elbow plank. From here you are going to push yourself back to bring your elbows above your head, extending the base and placing more load through your midsection. Keep your glutes tight throughout to  help keep your hips neutral or slightly tucked.

Swiss ball pike

This variation starts in a pushup plank with your shins on a swiss ball. You’ll then pull the ball towards your middle lifting your midsection up to a pike position (straight torso, hinging at the hips) and return under control to your start position. As you return, make sure you don’t lose your hips by dropping them below your starting position.

Give these a try if you need to progress your planks  beyond the standard option.

Stay strong,


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