Step-by-Step Directions on How to Do the Plank

training fitness woman doing plank core exercise working out for
A woman is in a plank position. (Image: undrey/iStock/Getty Images)

The plank is a handstand and balance pose that strengthens the abdominal and lower-back muscles as well as the shoulders and upper back. Variations of the plank provide different levels of challenge and work diverse muscle groups. For example, the high and low planks engage the rectus abdominus and lower-back muscles, while the side plank focuses more on the obliques. The reverse plank focuses more on the lower back.

High Plank

Step 1

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Proper form for a high plank. (Image: LIVESTRONG.COM)

Lie face down in a push-up position. Keep your palms on the floor next to your shoulders and your feet flexed with the bottoms of your toes on the floor.

Step 2

Take a deep breath and press up into a pushup. Your body should make a straight line from your heels to the top of your head.

Step 3

Draw your navel toward your spine and tighten your buttocks. Look at the floor to keep your head in neutral position and breathe normally.

Step 4

Hold for at least 10 seconds and lower yourself back to the floor.

Low Plank

Step 1

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Proper form for a low plank. (Image: LIVESTRONG.COM)

Lie face down with your forearms on the floor and your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your feet flexed with the bottoms of your toes on the floor.

Step 2

Clasp your hands in front of your face, so your forearms make an inverted “V.”

Step 3

Rise up on your toes so that only your forearms and toes touch the floor -- your body should hover a few inches off the floor in a straight line from shoulders to feet.

Step 4

Draw your navel toward your spine and tighten your buttocks. Look at the floor to keep your head in neutral position and breathe normally.

Step 5

Hold for at least 10 seconds and lower yourself back to the floor.

Side Plank

Step 1

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Proper form for a side plank. (Image: LIVESTRONG.COM)

Assume the high plank position.

Step 2

Rotate your body to the left and balance on your right arm, with your left foot stacked atop your right. Put your left hand on your hip or extend it toward the ceiling. Hold for at least 10 seconds, return to the full plank and lower yourself to the floor.

Step 3

Repeat the exercise on the other side.

Reverse Plank

Step 1

Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Put the palms of your hands on the floor behind you with your fingers pointing toward your buttocks.

Step 2

Lean back and lift your hips off the floor. Press your chest toward the ceiling and look at the ceiling to keep your head neutral.

Step 3

Engage your abs to keep your torso stable – do not let your buttocks drop. Hold the pose for at least 10 seconds. Turn your fingers outward if you feel strain in your hands or wrists.

Tip

For more intensity on any of the planks, lift one leg, hold for at least 10 seconds and switch to the other leg. For less intensity, keep your knees on the floor. If a pushup is too difficult, you may also move into the high plank position from hands and knees.

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