The One Small Change That Makes Planks Way More Effective

Mastering a strong plank definitely earns you some bragging rights, especially if you can hold it for as long as two minutes. If you'e looking to out-plank some friends at your next bootcamp class, here's a pro tip: Give your glutes a squeeze to make the exercise more effective.

Holding a plank can be grueling but this adjustment will make it way more effective. (Image: hobo_018/E+/GettyImages)

Engaging your glutes will not only help you maintain stability but also give you even more ab-sculpting benefits. Plus, you can take this exercise to the next level by incorporating some glute activation exercises beforehand, then mixing in some plank variations.

First, Master Proper Plank Form

Make sure you can hold a plank with solid form before attempting variations. (Image: LIVESTRONG.com)
  1. Begin on all fours, hands directly beneath your shoulders.
  2. Straighten your legs out behind you and come onto your toes, using your core to keep your body in a straight line from head to hips to toes.
  3. Press through your heels to maintain your form and hold.

Tip

Avoid sinking or hiking your hips. This will make the move less effective and can add tension on your lower back.

Get Your Glutes Involved

If you're incorporating planks into your workouts, make sure you're getting all the muscle-building and core-stabilizing benefits by giving your glutes a squeeze, says SJ McShane, certified personal trainer.

"Squeezing glutes during a plank helps make the move more effective because it helps the person planking to retain proper form creating more stability, locking [them] in place," she says.

Aim to practice your planks about three times a week, doing three sets of 20 seconds and giving yourself enough time to recover between sets, McShane says.

Activation Exercises to Fire Up Your Glutes

Before you start planking, you might want to incorporate some activation exercises to get your glutes ready and make the most of this adjustment. Do two sets of 12 reps for each, resting for 30 seconds in between sets.

1. Hip Bridge

  1. Lie on your back, arms out at your sides and knees bent, feet flat on the ground.
  2. Raise your hips toward the sky, giving your glutes a squeeze once you reach the top of the motion.
  3. Lower back down to the ground.

2. Bird-Dog

  1. Begin on all fours, hands beneath your shoulders, back flat.
  2. Contracting your core for stability, raise your right arm straight out to shoulder height and raise your left leg straight out behind you.
  3. Pause here for one moment and return to all fours.
  4. Repeat this motion with the left arm and right leg.

Plank Variations for Even More Glute Strength

If you feel confident in your plank form, you can kick this exercise up a notch by incorporating these American Council on Exercise-approved variations.

1. Plank With Leg Lift

  1. Begin in a high plank, squeezing your glutes, shoulders directly above your hands.
  2. Raise one leg and hold it raised for five to 10 seconds. Lower your leg back to start.
  3. Then, raise the other leg, holding it for equal time.
  4. Alternate between your two legs for about 20 seconds to a minute, maintaining good form.

2. Hip Raises

  1. Begin in a low plank position, forearms planted on the ground, body in one straight line.
  2. Keeping your forearms on the ground, raise your hips up toward the sky, making an inverted V shape.
  3. Once you can't raise any higher, lower back into the plank.
  4. Repeat this move for 20 seconds to a minute.

3. Alternating Toe Taps

  1. Begin in a high plank.
  2. Step one foot out to the side a few inches and tap it to the floor.
  3. Bring it back to the start and repeat on the other foot.
  4. Alternate between the left and right foot for 20 seconds to a minute, depending on your ability.
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