PLANKOMATIC: 12 Plank Alternatives That Have Fun-Factor

PLANKOMATIC: Twelve Plank Alternatives That Have Fun Factor

By now it is likely that you have heard of a “plank” and probably even performed one on occasion. You will wholeheartedly agree then, that the traditional plank is about as much fun as watching paint dry. So just forget about them, right? Wrong. Hands down, the plank, is one the best exercises for core. We can’t dismiss it; we just need to make it more interesting.

PLANKOMATIC: 12 Plank Alternatives That Have Fun-Factor


Before we head into how to make planking much more interesting, we have to address the proper contraction of our core. Your core’s major players include Multifidus, Tranversus Abdominus, Pelvic Floor, Obliques, Rectus Abdominius, Erector Spinae, and diaphragm. For all of these many core muscles to become strong and healthy, we need to know how to find them and subsequently contract them effectively.

Many patients, I have core-tested, have no actual idea how to “brace” (tighten the core group of muscles) correctly. These patients either cannot find the right muscles to contract, or they have been taught to suck their stomachs in as a method of contraction.

Do you just want to see the video of this post instead? 



Here are two easy ways to make sure you are contracting your core effectively.

BAR FIGHT: You’re standing outside a bar and some patron, (who you may or may not have offended with as snide remark over the top of your martini) decides to “step outside” and show you what’s what. They throw a punch aimed toward your midsection and without even thinking you engage, anticipating the blow. This, my friend, is a proper core contraction. So close your eyes and with focused effort “brace” as though you are about to receive a gut punch.

SHUSHHHH: You are standing across a playground, and you are chatting with another parent. Your children are being terribly interruptive with their yells, screams, and laughter across the lot. You turn, and because you don’t want to leave the engaging conversation, you “SHHHHHHHHHHH” them with great gusto hoping your “shush” carries all the way to the monkey bars. If you lay your hand on your stomach, you will feel that “shushing” at full force engages a lovely core contraction. Try it!


Okay. Now you know how to contract your core correctly let us ramp up our plank fun factor with an engaging round of

PLANKOMATIC. Twelve plank variations to spice up the plank party.

How To Do A Basic Plank: Before we get to all the fun one has to know how to do a basic plank. Get in a push-up position. Make sure knees hips and shoulders are all aligned. Shoulders need to be directly over wrists not in front of them. You should have a subtle bend in the knees. Don’t allow your butt to sag below neutral or to pop up above the neutral position. Your head needs to be aligned with shoulders not dropped down between them. Now you can squeeze the glutes and engage the core in the way I taught you above, and you are good to go! (You can modify a plank by dropping the knees to the ground at any time. You can also go down on your elbows if that feels better on your shoulders.)

NOTE: You can work plank exercise from an “elbows straight” position, or you can also work your planks from a forearm plank position (See post feature photo.). For most of the following exercises, you should be in the straight arm plank position. (Think of the starting position for a push-up)

Now for the Plank Variations. – Throw on some music and set your timer. Start with 2 minutes of plank variations and then move up to five minutes as you build your core.


  • FORWARD AND BACK: Keeping the core consistently tight lean forward on your toes for a count of four and then come back to neutral over a count of four.
  • OPPOSITE ARM AND LEG: You can start with reaching one arm forward for ten seconds and then switch sides. Now extend one of your legs for ten seconds. Switch sides. If you feel stable, try extending an opposite arm and leg at the same time for a count of ten. Do not let your hips drop. Do not sacrifice form for any of these variations.
  • DONKEY KICK PLANK: Gently bend one knee, so the bottom of the foot is facing up to the ceiling. Squeeze the glutes to elevate the leg up one to two inches. Slowly move the leg up and down like a donkey kicking! Not a lot of movement of the leg is needed. Make sure to remember to keep everything tight in the core.
  • SINGLE KNEE TAP: From the basic plank slowly bend your knee and drop it to the ground with a light tap. Return it to neutral and perform the same exercise on the opposite side.
  • DOUBLE KNEE TAP: Similar to the exercise above but now you slowly tap both knees to the ground at the same time and then return to the neutral position.
  • HIPS UP AND DOWN: This one is a very difficult variation. If you have low back pain, avoid this variation until you are stronger. From the plank position slowly lower your pelvis toward the ground. Then raise the hips, so they go through neutral to a peaked position. The whole movement should span no ore than six-nine inches and should be performed very slowly with an extra tight core throughout the exercise.
  • LIZARD TO OUTSIDE TRICEPS: From the plank position bring your right knee to the outside of your right triceps and then extend it back to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
  • LIZARD TO INSIDE TRICEPS: Move the right knee to the inside of the left elbow and then back to neutral. Repeat on the opposite side.
  • TICK TOCK: Bring the right knee to between the arms. “Tick tock” the knee back and for the between the insides of both arms. Try to touch the knee to the inside of each elbow. Perform ten and then switch to the left knee.
  • THREAD THE NEEDLE TO SIDE PLANK: Take your left leg and “thread” it through the hole created between the right arm and leg. You will end up in a side plank with the left leg extended forward. For added difficulty lift the left leg off the floor. Hold for at least ten seconds and then perform this on the opposite side.
  • SIDE PLANK SIDE DIPS: From the SIDE plank position, slowly dip your hip to touch the floor. Perform ten and then repeat on the opposite side.
  • REVERSE PLANK: From a seated position on the floor with legs extended place your hands on the floor behind you. Lift your hips off the ground with the legs extended so you are in a reverse plank position. Hold for at least ten seconds.

[Tweet “Fun and Planky plank variations you will love!”]

Of course, ALL of these make much better sense if you watch the video. Check it out!


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32 Responses

    1. You are most welcome, Christine. I know, there is a lot to think of to make sure you are doing the right.

  1. Oh, the plank! It’s certainly awesome, but you are right that it lacks pizzazz. I’ve done a few of these variations in yoga and some other classes, but I will have to work on the others too. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes, of course Lori! I love that yoga has evolved with so many variation on the best exercise in the world!

    1. I am curious why you think you cannot do planks while pregnant. I actually think planks are great for pregnancy. Now, you would want to do them with knees down and a little spread apart but it is a safe and effective way to keep those abs at least firing while they get stretched out.

  2. So many great variations! I finally feel like I got my plank form correct, although, now I’m questioning whether I’ve been contracting my stomach muscles correctly. I practiced the ways you instructed, so now I’ve got to try a plank while doing it 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing these plank variations. I am gonna save this to refer back too. I know planks are really good for you to do. I am so happy you shared this!

    1. They are great! hey make are really big difference. I know, when I forget about them for a few weeks my back and muffin top complain!

    1. Thank you, Jen! Sounds like you might do well to alternate between forearm and straight arm planks and you will build up your strength, I promise!

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About Dr. Denniston

Dr. Denniston is a wellness strategist for elite leaders and their teams, bridging the connection between personal well-being and professional success. She provides custom solutions for burnout and stress and facilitates cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.

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