Planks and Side Planks

A one arm/one leg side plank

Having a strong core is an essential component of fitness; the plank is the most simple and fundamental core building exercise you can do.

The term “core” generally refers to your abs, lower back and obliques. When holding a plank, you engage all of these muscles.

Whether your focus is bodyweight training, weight training, yoga or anything else really, the plank is likely to come up in one form or another.

The Basic Front Plank
The standard push-up position is the most simple type of plank. Make sure to keep a straight line from the top of your head to the heels of your feet; don’t let your hips drop or your butt go up in the air.

The basic plank (Front plank)

Elbow Plank
A slightly harder variation involves supporting your upper body on your elbows instead of your hands. For the beginner, a nice core challenge is to try alternating between the basic plank and the elbow plank. Make sure to keep your hips steady and stay on your toes.

One Arm/One Leg Plank
Once you’re comfortable with the elbow plank, you can add a new challenge by taking one arm or one leg out of the equation. Eventually you can try a plank on one arm and one leg; the fewer limbs you have on the ground the more you’ll need to use your core.

Side Planks
Side planks put more emphasis on your obliques (the muscles on your sides) than on your abs (though they still get worked!). Just like a front plank, you can perform a side plank on your palm or your elbow, and with one or two legs. Transitioning from a front plank to a side plank and back is another fun challenge.

Planks are often held isometrically (in a fixed position) for a given length of time. Try to build up to a minute with the simpler variations before progressing. One you’ve mastered the plank, you should consider training to do a planche.

Watch the video below for more:

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  • http://www.facebook.com/pauloone Paulo

    OMG I haven't had my coffee yet! Again excellent guidance!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Paulo! I'll take a morning workout over coffee any day.

  • Fatkid

    Nice video Al! Your pecs look huge in this video (although that does make your delts looks smaller… :-/ )! Good stuff! Keep it up!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks. There are pros and cons to all situations!

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  • Anjeanette

    Sometimes I need to make modifications in side plank. I love the stretch but I can’t always get my bottom leg all the way off the mat. Leeann Carey has a free yoga video on side plank that I thought you might want to check out: http://planetyoga.com/yoga-blogs/index.php/free-yoga-video-side-plank-pose/

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Hey Anjeanette – Leeann sure seems to know her stuff. I agree that the knee variation is a great alternative for beginners. It can take some time for people to build up to the full side plank.

  • G-alexander

    you rock Al

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks!

  • Perry

    Hi Al! 1st time posting on your site…Awesome material..Just wondering what kind of sandals are you sportin while doing your planks! Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work:)

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Perry! That type of sandal is called a Huarache. The pair I’m wearing was made by Invisible Shoes. I’ll blogged about them last year: http://www.alkavadlo.com/2010/05/invisible-shoes/

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  • typedeaF

    Cool. I never would have imagined that being stationary would be a good ab/core workout. This will definitely be added to my routine. I also would like to to he hanging leg raises and L-sits. I look forward to reading your guides on those.

  • typedeaF

    Cool. I never would have imagined that being stationary would be a good ab/core workout. This will definitely be added to my routine. I also would like to to he hanging leg raises and L-sits. I look forward to reading your guides on those.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks! The plank can be deceptively challenging. Hope you enjoy the other tutorials.

  • Cesar

    Is it normal that my shoulders hurt after each set and not my abs or the area of my stomach?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    What you’re describing is not uncommon – the plank has a way of exposing weaknesses.  I guess your shoulders aren’t as strong as your abs.  Either that or there is something off about your form (which I obviously cannot assess over the net).

  • Cesar

    That’s weird, Usually I train my arms more than my abs, I thougth my shoulders were stronger, but it hurts only after doing the change between elbows and palms explosively… By the way.. what a AWESOME website, it has been a great help!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    You should have specified that in your original post!  The impact may just be too much for your joints right now.  Maybe take it easy on the plyos for a while and try them again when you’ve built more strength.

    Glad you’re enjoying my site!

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  • Marcus

    Damm.. u’re strong :(

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks!  You can be strong too – you just have to do the work!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks!  You can be strong too – you just have to do the work!

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  • http://disqus.com Ty

    What about planking and then you have your feet in one of those larger ab wheel things and do rolls while keeping the forearms on the ground in the elbow plank?

  • http://disqus.com Ty

    What about planking and then you have your feet in one of those larger ab wheel things and do rolls while keeping the forearms on the ground in the elbow plank?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Yep – that’s a good one!

  • Fyture

    I know I keep commenting on your blogs lol, I hope you aren’t getting annoyed with it – it’s just that they’re so fantastic! I used to be big into bodybuilding because, I weigh hardly anything (130 at 5’7), so I was always trying to lift super heavy weights and appear big. But after about a year, I maxed at 190 on the bench, and stopped making gains everywhere, so I quit working out for like 3-5 months (I still stayed in shape doing brazilian jiu jitsu, but I lost a lot of mass and power). Then about 3 weeks ago, I came across some stuff on calisthenics, and fell in love with it. Now that I found your blog, I’m addicted! It seems like the bible of calisthenic workouts! Just wanted to say thank you, and sorry in advance for the many more questions I’ll end up posting lol.

  • Fyture

    I know I keep commenting on your blogs lol, I hope you aren’t getting annoyed with it – it’s just that they’re so fantastic! I used to be big into bodybuilding because, I weigh hardly anything (130 at 5’7), so I was always trying to lift super heavy weights and appear big. But after about a year, I maxed at 190 on the bench, and stopped making gains everywhere, so I quit working out for like 3-5 months (I still stayed in shape doing brazilian jiu jitsu, but I lost a lot of mass and power). Then about 3 weeks ago, I came across some stuff on calisthenics, and fell in love with it. Now that I found your blog, I’m addicted! It seems like the bible of calisthenic workouts! Just wanted to say thank you, and sorry in advance for the many more questions I’ll end up posting lol.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Not a problem!  I like hearing from other bodyweight training enthusiasts!

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  • Kai

    You know what is a killer ab and arm workout Al? Doing the plank from the push up position to the elbow position with your legs elevated. I can only do about 45-50 until my arms and abs start burning but yeah, good stuff!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Right on!  There are endless variations on the plank.  Keep training hard!

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