Skip to main content

How To Plank

What is a plank?

What is a plank

See all plank variations

The plank is a popular isometric exercise that works every core muscle, as well as muscles in the back, shoulders, hips, and legs. While most traditional core exercises train the core through movement, the plank trains the core to resist movement by keeping the body stable for a period of time. Known as an anti-core exercise, it builds strength and stability and can improve strength in lifts like squats and bench press.

Because there is no spinal flexion involved, planks are a good alternative for those who find ab exercises like sit ups and crunches stressful on the back. Planks can also help to build core strength and master correct engagement to make these exercises easier.

Planks are a challenging exercise but well worth adding to your training routine. There are several variations which can make planks more or less challenging, as well as emphasise different muscles more:

  • Elbow plank (also called forearm plank). The forearm plank requires the performer to be on their elbows and forearms. This reduces involvement from the upper body, focusing more attention on the core.
  • Full plank (also called straight arm plank). Straight arm planks are performed in a push up position. This helps to strengthen the shoulders, which reduces the tension on the core.
  • Kneeling plank. Kneeling planks are a suitable regression for those who struggle to maintain correct position in a full plank.
  • Weighted plank. Weighted planks are good for those who have mastered the plank and want to make it harder without spending more time in a plank position.

We cover another variation, side planks, here.

Check out some of our other ab exercises: Sit ups, Crunches, V sit ups, Bicycle crunchesRussian twists





Most Commonly Asked Questions About Planks

  • Sometimes called a straight arm plank, the full plank refers to the conventional technique where the plank is performed from a push up position. It’s an isometric exercise that challenges the muscles to keep the body stable for a period of time.

  • The full plank strengthens the core and shoulders, with the back, hips, and legs also working to stabilise the body. Training the core can help to improve posture, reduce back pain, minimise injury risk, and improve sports performance and other lifts.

  •  The full plank is a more challenging variation than the elbow or forearm plank as there is less contact with the floor, meaning the body must work harder to keep stable. Because there is more involvement from the shoulders in the full plank, the elbow plank actually puts greater emphasis on the core. Both are good exercises!

  • The straight arm plank is the most challenging plank position. There is less point of contact with the floor, meaning the body has to work harder to stay stable. The shoulders and triceps also need to be engaged to maintain good form, and it is harder to prevent the hips from dipping in this position.

  • Weighted planks are a good progression from the full plank or elbow plank, however it’s important that these are mastered and you are able to maintain correct form before attempting this version. If performed incorrectly or before you are ready, the weighted plank can cause injury. When moving onto weighted planks, start with 1-2kg and build this up.

  • Weighted planks can aid in building abs. This exercise challenges the core, including the rectus abdominis which are the muscles responsible for visible abs. Weighted planks allow the rectus abdominis to be progressively overloaded which can aid muscle mass.

  • The safest way to do weighted planks is with e a partner on hand who is able to position the weight plate on your back and remove it once you’re finished.

    If you don’t have a partner to help you, kneel on the floor holding the weight plate in front of you. Carefully position the weight plate behind your head and lean forward slowly to balance the plate on your upper back, before adopting the plank position.

  • The kneeling plank is a great variation for those new to planks, as it allows you to build strength and master technique. This version removes some of the pressure off the lower back to help the tension remain on the core.

  • Performing planks on the knees is an effective way to train the core. As you build strength and stability, you may find you need to progress to full planks to sufficiently challenge the core. 

Tips for the perfect plank

Correct technique is crucial to ensure the plank is strengthening the core and to protect the back from risk of injury. Common errors include arching of the back, having the hips too, high and extending the neck by looking upwards.

Arching the back during the plank shifts the tension away from the core and exposes the lower back to injury risk. To stop this from happening, brace your abs by pulling your belly button towards your sternum throughout the exercise.

While the hips shouldn’t be held too low, it’s also important to ensure they are not positioned too high as this again shifts the tension away from the core and into the legs, back and arms. Film yourself performing the plank or ask a friend to check your hips are positioned correctly!

Ensuring a neutral spine is important during the plank, and this includes keeping the neck aligned. When the performer looks forwards, the neck is exposed to unnecessary strain which can expose it to injury risks. Ensure a neutral spine by tucking the chin and looking straight down to the floor.

how to plank from knee

Level: Beginner

  1. To obtain the starting position, adopt a kneeling press up position before bending your elbows to rest on your forearms, elbows stacked under your shoulders.

  2. Squeeze your core and think about pulling your belly button towards your sternum to engage the abs.

  3. Hold the position for as long as possible or intended.

How to do a Full plank

Level: Intermediate

  1. Adopt a push up position, with wrists and elbows stacked directly under the shoulders, and body in a line from head to heels.

  2. Push through your hands and squeeze your core by pulling your belly button towards your sternum to engage the abs.

  3. Hold the position for as long as possible, or for the desired time.

How To Do Forearm Plank

  1. Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees, then lower down to your forearms with your elbows stacked beneath your shoulders.

  2. Step your feet back until your body makes a line from shoulders to heels.

  3. Squeeze your core and think about pulling your belly button towards your sternum to engage the abs.

  4. Hold the position for as long as possible or intended time.

How To Do A Plate Weighted Plank

Level: Advanced

  1. To obtain the starting position, sit on your knees and hold the plate behind your head before sliding it down to the middle of your back as you adopt a press up position.

  2. If performing a forearm plank, bend your elbows to rest on your forearms. For both variations, your elbows should be stacked under shoulders and body in a line from head to heel.

  3. Squeeze your core and think about pulling your belly button towards your sternum to engage the abs.

  4. Hold the position for as long as possible or for the intended time.

  5. Once you’ve finished, lie on the floor so that you’re able to reach behind you and remove the plate.


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.