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How to Plank

What is a plank?

What is a plank

See all plank variations

The plank is a bodyweight exercise which involves holding the trunk part of your body in a straight line off the ground. The static exercise engages multiple muscle groups at the same time which makes it extremely effective at strengthening your core, whilst also working the shoulders, arms and glutes. 

Planks are also an effective safeguard against back pain - which the NHS reports as the largest single cause of disability in the UK - as they strengthen your core which in turn, can help to alleviate pressure on your back.

They're a great addition to any exercise routine as they're equipment-free and quick to perform.

Getting into plank position is relatively simple but the tricky part is maintaining that position for a period of time.

Regularly adding planks to your fitness regime will go some way to conditioning your core, improving your posture and stability. To get you started and fire up those abs, try out the exercises below.

Most Commonly Asked Questions About Planks

  • The plank is an exercise which helps to improve core strength.

  • Planks primarily work the core but also works the back, shoulder, chest, glutes and legs.

  • Planks can help burn belly fat if it helps you be in a calorie deficit, which is needed for fat loss.

  • How many planks you do a day should be determined by your needs and goals. There is no set number you have to perform.

  • Side planks work the rectus addominis, serratus anterior, external oblique and rectus femoris muscles.

Tips for the perfect plank

  • To ensure you're getting the maximum benefit from the core muscles make sure you're not sticking your bum in the air and your back is flat.
  • Don't let your head drop as you perform a plank - ensure your head and neck are in line with your back so you're looking at the floor.
  • Although it's important to concentrate on perfect form, don't forget to breathe as lack of oxygen can cause dizziness or nausea.


Plank variations

how to plank from knee

Level: Beginners

Equipment: No equipment required

  1. Lay on the floor with your elbows under your shoulders, hands flat on the floor and core engaged.
  2. Keeping your forearms and knees on the floor slowly raise yourself upwards until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your head.
  3. Hold the position for as long as you can. Don’t worry if you abs muscles start shaking. This is a sign that you are working your abs.

How to do a Full plank

Level: Intermediate

No equipment required.

  1. Start in a press-up position.
  2. Bend your elbows until your forearms are on the floor beneath your shoulders so your body is in a straight line from your feet to your head.
  3. Keep your abs tight and look at the space between your hands to ensure a neutral spine position.
  4. Hold the position for as long as you can.

How to do a side plank

Level: Intermediate to Advanced.

No equipment required.

  1. Lay on your right side with feet together and forearm beneath your shoulder.
  2. Engage your core and raise your hips so your body is in a straight line from your feet to your head.
  3. Hold this position for as long as you can. If you can, aim for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat on your left side.

How to do a Plank knee to elbow

Level: Advanced

No equipment required.

  1. Start in a plank position with hands shoulder-width apart on the floor
  2. Engage your ab muscles and keep your spine straight
  3. Lift you right foot towards your right elbow.
  4. Return the right foot back to full plank position.
  5. Repeat with the left side, moving your left foot towards your left elbow.

How to do a Plank to press up

Level: Advanced

No equipment required

  1. Perform a full press up with hands shoulder-width apart and return to starting press up position.
  2. Lower yourself into plank position by moving one elbow after the other onto the floor whilst keeping your abs tight and spine tall.
  3. Lift yourself back up into starting press up position by placing one hand after the other onto the floor.


How to do swiss ball circles

Level: Beginners

Equipment required: Swiss ball.

  1. Kneel on the floor and rest your forearms on the Swiss ball.
  2. Lift your knees of the floor and go into plank position.
  3. Keep your core engaged and back straight. You might feel a bit wobbly – this is normal, as this exercise requires working on core stability.
  4. Roll the ball in a circular motion and in a controlled manner as if stirring a cup of tea. 

How to do a swiss ball pike

Level: Advanced

Equipment required: Swiss ball

  1. Start in a press-up position with your feet resting on the Swiss ball.
  2. Engage your core as you lift your hips so the ball rolls towards your chest, pause, then return to the start position.


If you’re not sure if any of the above exercises are suitable for you, please consult your doctor before you start it. Need guidance on how to perform the exercise? Ask a personal trainer at your gym.