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3 Ways to Modify Planks, for Every Body Type

The plank has a couple benefits over crunches.

Planks are one of those moves that *looks* easy but is actually anything but. While the planker appears motionless, several muscle groups are activated and working very hard to support the body.

“[Planks are] a great exercise for strengthening the abdominals and the spinal muscles,” says Joan Pagano, exercise physiologist in New York City.

What planks have over other ab-sculpting moves like crunches and bicycles: You don’t need to round your back to do them, which can hurt you if done incorrectly. Planks can give your core a similar workout without the back strain. (Check out this variation on crunches that reduces back strain.)

But holding a plank for long periods of time—or even just 15 seconds—can be challenging. If you droop your belly, for example, you could put harmful strain on your hips or shoulders and not get the desired workout. If you’re new to planks, you can modify them to start building ab strength at the level that’s right for you and your body.

Here are three ways to do a plank exercise, no matter what level you’re at.

Wall Forearm Plank

If holding up your body weight above the floor is too challenging or painful for you, this modification using the wall may help.

  1. Lean against a wall while supporting your weight on your forearms. Space out your feet and arms so they are shoulder-width apart.

  2. Step back so your body forms an angle, and keep your body and spine in alignment from your head to your heels.

  3. Engage your core (this should help keep your body aligned).

  4. Hold the position for at least 15 seconds, or for a minute or longer.

Half Forearm Plank

If you’re ready to be on the floor but aren’t quite ready to put your entire body against gravity, this modification on the knees may be perfect.

  1. Support your weight on your forearms on the floor.

  2. Bend your arms so your elbows are directly beneath your shoulders.

  3. Bring your knees to the ground, keeping your body in alignment from your head to your knees.

  4. Engage your core.

  5. Hold this position for at least 15 seconds, or for a minute or longer.

Full Forearm Plank

This full forearm plank is a challenging workout in which you will need to support your whole body against gravity. Remember, if you are unable to keep your body in alignment for at least 15 seconds, it might be better for you to do half forearm planks until you can build up your strength.

  1. Support your weight on your forearms on the floor.

  2. Bend your arms so your elbows are directly beneath your shoulders.

  3. Step both legs back so your forearms and toes are the only parts for the body touching the ground. Your feet should be hip-width apart.

  4. Engage your core to keep your body in alignment from head to heels. Don’t drop your head; keep the neck straight and aligned with the rest of your spine.

  5. Hold the position for at least 15 seconds, or for a minute or longer.

Ready to put your planks to the test? Check out this 9-minute beginner core workout. And get more modifications here: Find out how to modify a squat, and here are ways to modify a push-up.

Joan Pagano

This video features information from Joan Pagano. Joan Pagano is an exercise physiologist in New York City.

Duration: 2:11. Last Updated On: June 15, 2018, 3:21 p.m.
Reviewed by: Preeti Parikh, MD . Review date: June 13, 2018
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