Mastering a plank definitely earns you some bragging rights. But if you want to max out your core strength and definition, there's one (often-missed) tip you need to try: Squeeze your glutes.
"Squeezing your glutes during a plank helps make the move more effective," certified personal trainer SJ McShane, CPT, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Engaging your glutes — seriously, imagine you're trying to crack a walnut between those cheeks — completely makes over your average plank. It helps you keep good form, really engage your full core (your glutes are part of your core!), hold planks longer and even protect your lower back from strain.
First, Master Proper Plank Form
- Begin on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips.
- Straighten your legs out behind you and come onto your toes, using your core to keep your body in a straight line from your head to your hips to your toes.
- Press through your heels to maintain your form and hold.
Avoid sinking or hiking your hips. This will make the move less effective and can add tension on your lower back. (FYI, if you squeeze your glutes, it's pretty much impossible for your hips to sink or hike!) Similarly, squeeze your lats to pull you shoulders down and away from your ears.
Aim to practice your planks about three times a week, doing 3 sets of up to 20 seconds and giving yourself enough time to recover between sets, McShane says.
Get More From Your Planks With These Glute-Activation Exercises
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 2 sets of 12 reps for each, resting for 30 seconds in between sets.
Move 1: Glute Bridge
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Arms at your sides.
- Lift your hips toward the sky, forming a diagonal line from your knees to your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes at the top.
- Lower back down to the ground and repeat.
Move 2: Bird Dog
- Begin on all fours, hands beneath your shoulders, back flat.
- Bracing your core for stability, lift your left arm straight to shoulder height and raise your right leg straight out behind you.
- Pause here for one moment and return to all fours.
- Repeat this motion with the right arm and left leg.
3 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 variations into your routine. Remember to squeeze your glutes to help you stabilize.
Move 1: Single-Leg Plank
- Begin in a high plank with your shoulders directly above your hands, squeezing your glutes.
- Lift one leg off the ground and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Lower your leg back to the starting position.
- Then, raise the other leg and hold it for the same amount of time.
Move 2: Plank Pike
- Begin in a forearm plank with your elbows planted on the ground and your body in a straight line.
- Keeping your forearms on the ground, raise your hips up toward the sky, making an inverted V shape.
- Once you can't raise any higher, lower back into the plank.
Move 3: Plank With Glute Kickback
- Start in a forearm plank, forming a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Bend one leg at the knee so it forms a 90-degree angle and pulse your foot up toward the ceiling 10 times.
- Lower that leg to the ground and switch sides.