Optimize Your Planks For A Stronger Core

June 24, 2023

Planks are designed to increase core muscular strength, endurance, and stability.  The primary muscles engaged through planks are the rectus abdominis (abs), external obliques, and the erector spinae (lower back / spinal muscles).  However, recent studies have shown that there are a few variations of planks with the instability that result in significantly greater electromyography in these muscles. Electromyography measures the raw muscle activation of a specific muscle or muscle group.  Hence, these variations of planks increase muscle activation and will lead to a harder workout and greater increases in strength, stability, and endurance.  


Regular plank: Assume a prone, plank position on an exercise mat with your elbows flexed to 90 degrees with only the forearms and toes in contact with the ground. Athletes should maintain a rigid torso, neutral head and spine, and extended leg position throughout the exercise.

Variations with instability: Athletes can place forearms on a swiss ball resulting in an inclined position, or place their feet on the swiss ball and forearms on the ground resulting in a decline position while planking. It can also be performed using a suspension band (TRX), with the handles 6-8 inches off the ground. The athlete can either place forearms or feet in the handles and perform a plank.

Note: Caution should be taken for those individuals with a history of weakness in the lumbar region due to the increases in erector spinae activation during instability planks.