Cross Training For Runners

From Basic to Advanced: 13 Plank Variations Every Runner Should Try

9 Mins read

Have you ever given the humble plank a second thought?

Well, I’ve been on a fitness journey for the past few years, hunting down the holy grail of exercises and workout routines to get into the best shape of my life.

And guess what? I’ve stumbled upon a hidden gem – the plank. Trust me; this isn’t your average exercise.

Planks are like the Swiss Army knives of fitness moves. They’re not just about core strength; they’ve got a secret power to sculpt your entire body.

Get ready to dive into the world of planks and discover why they might just be the ultimate game-changer for your fitness journey!”

The Core’s Importance for Runners

And as a runner, you can’t, literally, do too many planks.

Core strength is crucial for runners, and incorporating exercises like planks can have a significant impact on your running performance.

Here’s why a strong core is so important for runners:

  • Posture and Stability: A strong core helps you maintain an upright posture while running. Good posture not only looks better, but it also allows for efficient breathing and minimizes the risk of injuries related to poor form.
  • Balance and Coordination: A stable core improves your balance and coordination, which is essential for navigating uneven terrain, avoiding obstacles, and making quick adjustments during a run.
  • Injury Prevention: A weak core can lead to various running-related injuries, such as lower back pain, hip issues, and knee problems. Strengthening your core muscles can help prevent these injuries by providing better support to your spine and pelvis.
  • Power and Efficiency: Your core muscles are involved in transferring power from your upper body to your lower body during running. A strong core allows for more efficient energy transfer, helping you run faster and with less effort.
  • Endurance: Core strength contributes to overall endurance. When your core muscles are strong, they can help you maintain proper running form for longer periods, reducing fatigue and extending your endurance.
  • Breathing: Proper core engagement can enhance your diaphragmatic breathing, which is crucial for delivering oxygen to your muscles and maintaining endurance.

Core Training – The 13 Plank Variations Runners Need

Planks being planks are awesome, but that’s not the end of the story. I mean, if you really, really want to make the most out of them, then you need to start doing the variations as well.

Before I started doing some of the variations I’m sharing with you today, I was quite bored with the standard version.  There are only a limited number of times before you start getting bored with doing the same exercise over and over again.

Good news is there are so many plank variations you can play around with.

This post mainly touches the surface, and I’m mostly sharing with you some of my favorites.

So, without further ado, here are 13 ways to switch up the plank for a more powerful and efficient core training workout.

  1. The Basic Plank

Starting Position:

Assume a push-up position with hands underneath the shoulders.

Engage your core, keeping your back straight and forming a straight line from head to ankles.

Stabilization:

Squeeze your glutes and engage your lower leg muscles while keeping a slight bend in your knees.

Avoid locking your knees.

Engage your abs by drawing your belly button toward your spine.

Keeping it Neutral:

Maintain a neutral head position as if you are standing straight and looking forward.

Avoid any tension in the neck.

Keep your spine neutral throughout the exercise.

Prevent any sinking or arching in the lower back.

Eye Position:

Keep your neck in a neutral position by looking at the floor about one foot in front of your hands.

Progression:

Beginners should start with short hold times, around 20 seconds.

Gradually increase your hold time as you become stronger, working toward two to three minutes.

Beginners take it slow

If you are a beginner, then practice holding the good old plank for nothing more than 20 seconds.

As you get stronger, feel free to increase your hold time until you can hold for two to three minutes without much trouble.

  1. Elbow Plank

The elbow plank is a fantastic variation that adds an extra challenge to your core workout. Here’s a summary of the key points for performing the elbow plank:

Proper Form:

Begin by lying face down on a mat.

Align your elbows directly under your shoulders with your forearms firmly on the mat.

Tuck your toes under and engage your quadriceps (front thigh muscles).

Straighten your knees to lift your body off the mat.

Hold Time:

Aim to hold the elbow plank position for one full minute.

  1. Side Plank

The side plank is an excellent variation to work on your core strength, particularly your oblique muscles. Here’s a summary of how to perform it:

Proper Form:

Start in a standard plank position with your heels touching.

Engage your core muscles.

Lean to your right side while lifting your left arm up toward the ceiling.

Balance on one hand (your right hand).

Raise your hips up in the air until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to ankles.

Hold Time:

Aim to hold the side plank position for 30 to 45 seconds on each side to complete one set.

  1. Reverse Plank

The reverse plank is an excellent exercise for strengthening your posterior chain and improving shoulder and hip mobility. Here’s a summary of how to perform it:

Proper Form:

Sit on the floor with your legs extended and feet flexed.

Place your hands just outside your hips with fingertips spread wide and facing forward.

This is your starting position.

Execution:

Press through your arms and lift your hips and torso as high as you can.

Aim to create a straight line from your chin to your toes.

Hold this position for a count of three.

Slowly lower back down to the starting position to complete one repetition.

Set and Reps:

Aim to complete 8 to 10 repetitions to constitute one set.

  1. Plank Jacks

Plank jacks are an excellent variation of the plank exercise that adds an element of cardio and works your core and lower body. Here’s how to do them:

Proper Form:

Begin in a plank position with your feet together and your core engaged.

Ensure your body forms a straight line from head to heels.

Execution:

Start performing jumping jacks with your legs while maintaining the plank position.

Hop your legs wide apart and then quickly hop them back together.

Set and Reps:

Aim to complete 30 plank jacks to constitute one set.

  1. Elbow Plank with Donkey Kick

The elbow plank with a donkey kick is an excellent variation that targets your core and glutes. Here’s how to do it:

Proper Form:

Start in an elbow plank position with your forearms on the ground, back straight, and core engaged.

Execution:

Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle, flex your heel, and raise your right foot toward the ceiling while keeping your pelvis steady.

Pause for a count of three at the top of the movement.

Slowly lower your right leg slightly, maintaining control.

Repeat this motion for 8 to 10 reps with your right leg.

Switch to your left leg to complete one set.

  1. Walking Planks

Walking planks are an effective variation to challenge your core and stability. Here’s how to perform them correctly:

Proper Form:

Begin in a plank position with your hands positioned directly under your shoulders.

Ensure your body forms a straight line from head to heels, with your core engaged.

Execution:

Start by lifting your left hand and crossing it over the right hand.

Simultaneously, step your right foot to the right.

Then, move your right hand to the right beneath the left shoulder.

Step with your left foot to the right, ensuring that your hands are moving together as your feet step apart.

Maintain a straight back and keep your core engaged throughout the movement.

Complete one set by continuing this pattern for around ten steps to the right.

Change direction and step back to the starting position to complete the set.

  1. Plank with One Arm Dumbbell Row

Performing a plank with a one-arm dumbbell row is an effective way to challenge your core and upper body strength. Here’s how to do it correctly:

Proper Form:

Start in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your legs slightly wider than hip-width apart for better balance.

Hold a dumbbell of challenging weight in one hand.

Execution:

Begin by rowing the dumbbell up toward your ribcage while keeping your core engaged to stabilize your body.

Pause for a moment when the dumbbell reaches your ribcage.

Slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position to complete one repetition.

Perform 8 to 10 reps on one side before switching to the other side to complete one set.

  1. Scorpion Plank

The Scorpion Plank is an advanced variation that challenges your core and hip flexibility. Here’s how to perform it correctly:

Proper Form:

Begin in a forearm plank position with your elbows positioned directly under your shoulders.

Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.

Execution:

Lift your right leg off the ground, bending it at the knee.

Rotate your hips to the right, bringing your right leg over and across your body.

Try to tap your right toe on the floor on the left side of your body.

After tapping, return to the starting position by reversing the movement.

Complete one repetition.

Perform 8 to 10 reps on one side before switching to the other side to complete one set.

  1. Plank with Shoulders Touches

The Plank with Shoulder Touches is a great exercise for strengthening your core, shoulders, and stability. Here’s how to do it:

Proper Form:

Start in a standard plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders.

Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.

Execution:

While maintaining a stable plank position, lift your left hand off the ground.

Reach your left hand across your body to touch your right shoulder.

Return your left hand to the starting position.

Next, lift your right hand off the ground.

Reach your right hand across your body to touch your left shoulder.

Return your right hand to the starting position.

This completes one repetition.

Repeat this movement, alternating between left and right-hand touches. Aim for a set number of repetitions or time duration while keeping your hips stable and core engaged throughout.

Plank with Shoulder Touches is a dynamic plank variation t

  1. X Plank

The X Plank is an advanced variation of the traditional plank exercise that targets your core muscles and requires excellent stability. Here’s how to perform it:

Proper Form:

Start in a standard plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from head to heels.

Execution:

While maintaining a strong plank position, begin to walk your feet out to the sides, away from the centerline of your body.

Simultaneously, move your hands outward, spreading them wider than shoulder-width apart.

Continue to walk your hands and feet away from each other until your body resembles an “X” shape.

Hold this challenging X Plank position for 45 seconds to one full minute to complete one set. Be sure to engage your core muscles and maintain a straight line from head to heels throughout the exercise.

  1. Single Arm Plank

Proper Form:

Start in a standard plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from head to heels.

Execution:

While maintaining a strong plank position, lift your left hand off the floor.

Extend your left arm out in front of you, reaching as far as you can while keeping your core engaged.

Hold this pose for 30 seconds, maintaining proper form.

After completing the hold with your left arm extended, switch to the right arm and perform the same exercise. The single-arm plank is an excellent way to challenge your core and improve stability.

  1. Wall Plank

The Wall Plank is a unique variation that adds an extra challenge to the traditional plank exercise by incorporating a vertical component. Here’s how to perform it:

Proper Form:

Start by assuming a standard plank position, but with your feet positioned against a wall so that your body is parallel to the ground.

Execution:

Hold this position, with your body parallel to the ground, for one full minute.

To make it more challenging, lift your right leg off the wall and bring it up toward your chest, pausing for a second.

Then, push your right foot back to the wall to return to the starting position.

Perform five reps with your right leg lifted, and then switch to your left leg for another five reps.

This variation is indeed challenging and adds a new dimension to the plank exercise. It targets your core, shoulders, and stability. Feel free to adjust the number of reps based on your fitness level. Thanks for sharing this effective plank variation!

Plank Variations – The Conclusion

I know this is kind of a long list, but the more plank variations you do, the stronger you will get. Your core muscles need variety to grow stronger and firmer.

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.

Feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

David D

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