Plank Challenge Week 1: 7 Beginner-Friendly Plank Variations for a Stronger Core

Your core is like the foundation of a house: Neglect it, and everything crumbles — your ability to comfortably stand, walk, lift, rotate and more. But keep it strong, and you're set for life.

One of the best and most beginner-friendly ways to do that is with the simple plank. For Week 1 of the 4-Week Plank Challenge, we're starting out with some foundational plank variations — and throwing in a few that you may not have tried before — to work the many muscles of your midsection.

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Every day you'll do 2 sets of a different plank variation. Aim to hold each plank for 30 seconds, but if you're new to planking, start with 10 to 15 seconds. You can also lower to your knees or perform your planks on an incline with your hands on a step, bench or countertop to make things easier. Or, if you're a bit stronger, you can hold for 1 to 2 minutes.

Elise Joan, yoga teacher and creator of Barre Blend, breaks down this week's moves in the video above, and you can also keep scrolling for step-by-step instructions for each plank variation.

Challenge Day 1: Wide-Arm Plank

Challenge Day 1: Wide-Arm Plank
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Time 30 Sec
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Press your feet back and straighten your legs as you lift up to a high plank position, like the top of a push-up.
  3. Support your weight on your hands and toes with your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  4. Walk your hands out several inches so that your hands are wider than shoulder-width apart.
  5. Walk your feet out several inches so that your feet are wider than hip-width apart. You should now be in a star shape.
  6. Draw your bellybutton toward your spine and squeeze your glutes to keep your back from rounding or arching.
  7. Hold for 30 seconds.

Challenge Day 2: Knee-to-Nose Extension Plank

Challenge Day 2: Knee-to-Nose Extension Plank
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Intermediate
Time 30 Sec
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Press your feet back and straighten your legs as you lift up to a high plank position, like the top of a push-up.
  3. Support your weight on your hands and toes with your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  4. Walk your hands and feet out several inches so that you're in a star shape.
  5. Draw your bellybutton toward your spine and squeeze your glutes as you draw your left knee toward your left elbow.
  6. Return to the star-shaped position and repeat twice more.
  7. Now do 3 reps on the other side, drawing the right knee toward your right elbow.
  8. Continue doing 3 reps per side for 30 seconds.

Challenge Day 3: Straight-Arm Plank

Challenge Day 3: Straight-Arm Plank
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Time 30 Sec
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Press your feet back and straighten your legs as you lift up to a high plank position.
  3. Support your weight on your hands and toes with your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  4. Draw your bellybutton toward your spine and squeeze your glutes to keep your back from rounding or arching.
  5. Keep your arms straight without locking out your elbows.
  6. Hold for 30 seconds.

Challenge Day 4: Cross-Knee Extension Plank

Challenge Day 4: Cross-Knee Extension Plank
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Intermediate
Time 30 Sec
Region Core
  1. Press up into a straight-arm plank position, supporting your weight on your hands and toes with your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  2. Draw your bellybutton toward your spine and squeeze your glutes.
  3. Bring your left knee to your right elbow.
  4. Return your left foot to the ground, then repeat twice more.
  5. Now do 3 reps on the other side, drawing your right knee to your left elbow.
  6. Continue doing 3 reps per side for 30 seconds.

Challenge Day 5: Forearm Plank

Challenge Day 5: Forearm Plank
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Time 30 Sec
Region Core
  1. Press up into a plank position with your weight in your forearms and toes. Keep your body in line from head to hips to heels. This should feel similar to the straight-arm plank but on your forearms instead of your hands.
  2. Draw your bellybutton toward your spine and squeeze your glutes to keep your back from rounding or arching.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.

Challenge Day 6: Opposite-Leg Bicycle Plank

Challenge Day 6: Opposite-Leg Bicycle Plank
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Time 30 Sec
Region Core
  1. Press up into a forearm plank, supporting your weight on your forearms and toes. Keep your body in line from head to hips to heels.
  2. Draw your bellybutton toward your spine and squeeze your glutes to keep your back from rounding or arching.
  3. Slowly start to bend one knee, then the other, keeping your hips level.
  4. Continue alternating knees for 30 seconds.

Challenge Day 7: Hip-Drop Plank

Challenge Day 7: Hip-Drop Plank
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Intermediate
Time 30 Sec
Region Core
  1. Press up into a forearm plank, keeping your body in line from head to hips to heels.
  2. Draw your bellybutton toward your spine and squeeze your glutes to keep your back from rounding or arching.
  3. Slowly drop your hips to the left, hovering a few inches above the ground (or as far as you can without overarching your lower back).
  4. Hold for 5 seconds, continuing to breathe.
  5. Return to center before dropping your hips to the right. Hold for 5 seconds.
  6. Alternate sides for 30 seconds.

Ready for More?

Learn your next seven ab-blasting plank variations in Week 2 of the 4-Week Plank Challenge.

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