When you are preparing to tackle tough exercises, hard plank variations may be on your list to make your body nice and strong. How should you train to take on the hardest plank variation though? Here are the best ways to prep for some of the most challenging types of planks and plank variations!
The hardest plank variations are the sliding pike press, the sliding fallout, and the plank banded adduction. No matter which difficult plank variation you pick, just make sure to train well for it! Build up to it with easier planks and stretch before and after difficult planks.
What are the popular mistakes that people make when planking and how can they be avoided? How can you prepare and strengthen yourself to take on any type of plank? Let’s go over the rules of how to train for the hardest planking variations!
All Planks Ranked
Many people may be surprised to learn that there is more than one way to perform a plank while exercising! There are a plethora of planks and plank variations to choose from, some of them far easier than others to complete and hold. All of them will help keep your body strong and in shape though, so don’t feel the need to jump straight to trying the toughest one.
The easiest plank variation to perform is the straight-arm plank. Then, in order of easiest to hardest to perform, there is the forearm plank, the side plank, the bear plank, the reverse plank, mountain climbers, the plank jack, the plank walkout, the walking plank, and the plank-to-pike. We’ll be reviewing these types of planks, their variations, and the best ways to prepare for executing the difficult plank-to-pike variation!
Top Hardest Plank Variations
Many athletes and health experts argue and debate what the hardest plank variation is overall. Some will say it is the sliding pike press, others will say the sliding fallout is toughest, or the Copenhagen plank, or the Copenhagen hip lift. Other sources will report that the plank banded adduction, the plank plate pull-through, the plank banded row, or the plank banded abduction are the most challenging and ab-strengthening plank variations you can find, train for, and perform.
Overall, it doesn’t greatly matter which plank or plank variation you choose to do. What matters is that you put in the research, time, and training into prepping for doing the exercise safely and consistently! Follow the below steps to prepare yourself well, no matter if you choose the plank banded abduction or the Copenhagen hip lift.
Either way, your core will thank you.
Warm Up Before Performing Planks
Just like any form of exercise, plank variations are better and safer for you if performed after a warm-up exercise. Warming up is crucial to ensure you don’t injure yourself or pull a muscle. Use light dumbbells or body stretches to go through some easy motions and stretches that will get your body and muscles ready to go.
The warming up will raise your core body temperature. This will make the tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints in your body become much more flexible and mobile. Your prepared body will now perform better as you execute planks safely.
Not only will your whole body get stretched and prepped, but your blood flow will also be increased thanks to basic warm-ups. This heightened blood flow will support your entire body during your following exercises. Oxygen and nutrients will each be delivered more efficiently to your muscles, which will also make your workout time more productive.
Doing Planks with the Correct Form
If you are not performing planks with the correct form and accurate information, you risk losing out on an efficient workout at best, and risk hurting yourself at worst! Make sure to research beforehand and do planks in their proper form to help gain all the benefits associated with exercising. Follow the step-by-step instructions for every type of plank or variation you attempt, and make sure the steps are from a reputable source.
You need to also strive to complete the full range of motion for each plank exercise and plank variation for it to turn out well. Professionals also advise that you activate your glutes before doing planks since most people usually have extremely underactive glutes.
This means that when your glutes don’t work properly, you do not perform planks and plank variations as well as you could. Complete some basic glute activation exercises while warming up to help loosen up your hips and prep your system for the plank movement you’ll be executing soon.
Lots of experts in the health field nowadays recommend planking over push-ups, sit-ups, or crunches. This is because planks and plank variations put less strain on your spine and hip flexors while still building stronger core muscles in your body.
Great Planks and Plank Variations to Get You Prepared
It’s a great idea to train with easier planks and plank variations before tackling one of the hardest ones. Start small by learning how to perform the straight-arm plank correctly. Lots of people call this a foundation plank since it is tough on the arms but easier on the core. Graduate to harder planks and plank variations like the forearm plank, which uses the core more, the bear plank, and the side plank for a great burn and to get your body used to this type of exertion.
As you grow stronger and more disciplined, try the tougher planks and plank variations, such as the reverse plank, mountain climbers, and sets of the plank jack. These planks and variations will help tone and build up the front of your body, strengthen your core, and improve your overall balance. The more you perform planks and work on balancing the body, the better and stronger your core will get.
Exercises and Stretches After Performing Planks
Warm-ups aren’t the only important element of proper exercise! Even cooling down by performing accurate stretches and warm-up style exercises will help your body ease into cooling down after a very difficult plank.
Common Planking Mistakes to Avoid
When training to take on some of the most challenging planks and variations imaginable, it is imperative to know the do’s and don’ts.
Collapsing Your Lower Back Too Low
Some very popular planking mistakes include collapsing the lower back too low. This happens when your lower back gets compromised by dipping your butt. Put a stop to this mistake by engaging your core and imagining that your belly button is getting pulled in and toward your Spine. This visualization will help keep your torso nice and flat and it will keep your spine safe.
If you want to go further with correcting a collapsed lower back issue, ask for a friend’s help! Ask someone you know to gently place a broomstick, yardstick, or some other straight instrument on your back. The top of this stick or instrument should make contact with your head and the bottom of it should rest between your buttocks. The stick must also make contact right between your shoulder blades for proper alignment.
This will act as a terrific help to make sure your back isn’t collapsing or lowering down too much.
Raising Your Buttocks Too High
Another common error that happens in planking is when people reach their butt too high and toward the sky or ceiling. To properly engage your core in any plank or plank variation, your back must be flat enough so that your abs feel engaged and at work from the top, or right below your sternum, to the bottom, or directly below your belt. Remember to also avoid dipping your buttocks too far towards the floor. Make sure that none of your planks start to look like a downward dog!
Accidentally Letting Your Head Drop
Next, a common issue people have when doing planks is that they let their heads drop. This often occurs when your focus may be set on keeping your butt, back, and hips in their respective proper positions. The lower back and core are not the only elements of proper planking form though. The issue then arises as your diverted attention and focus lets your head drop!
Try to think of your head and neck as a long extension of your back. Keep your eyes trained on the ground. Allow them to rest roughly a foot in front of your hands. This will help to keep your neck in a secure, neutral position.
Forgetting to Regularly Breath
Another mistake people commit while planking is accidentally forgetting to breathe. This happens often since it is human nature to hold your breath and tense yourself when you are put in or holding a strenuous position. By denying yourself oxygen while holding your breath, you’ll start to quickly feel dizzy and nauseous.
Holding your breath can be uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst! Try to overcome this planking mistake by keeping up a rhythm while breathing. If it helps you, repeat an inner mantra to breathe in and out, or follow an exercise video and copy the motions and breathing of an experienced trainer or coach.
Thinking About The Clock Too Much
Finally, some people will botch their plank or plank variation by mentally focusing too much on their stopwatch. Putting too much mental energy into the timing happens when you are trying your hardest to maintain a difficult plank and strain yourself to maintain it instead of ending the exercise a bit early.
It may seem like giving up, but it is best to end the plank instead of holding a position that causes you overt pain or that suffers greatly in form and quality! Aim for a better quality over a longer quantity. It isn’t worth it to perform lots of planks if they are all straining and done in poor form. If your back begins to bow or if your shoulders begin to sink, take a well-deserved break! A timeout will allow your stamina, core, and body to recover and attempt more planks soon.
Lowering the Difficulty of the Plank
A popular way that people train to take on hard planks is by practicing with plank modifications and variations that are easier on them. In time you will be able to the normal versions of planks and plank variations. But until that time, use several modifications and variations that will still work the core muscles in your body as you build up your strength, stamina, and stability. Try modified tabletop planks and incline planks to go easier on your body.
Fuel Your Body
When training with planks and working up to harder and harder variations, it is key to fuel your body with proper rest, water, and fuel. It is important to consume some healthy protein so that your body and muscles have good nutrients and energy to build on. Look through some of these linked options for useful protein powders that will help you train for and get stronger for the tough plank variations in your future!
Benefits of Planks and Plank Variations
Some people may ask, why should I try to train for and perform difficult planks and variations? The strong core that you develop by doing these exercises can greatly help you prevent back injuries and better your stability! A strong core means improved balance, thus better stability for you. A tight core also helps strengthen your muscles and makes your lower back stronger.
Your abs will also get stronger as you graduate to tougher and tougher plank variations. This means that by the end of your training, your core, back, and abs should feel strengthened. To see and feel strong results like these, make sure to do enough additional core exercises that target your rectus abdominis. Nurture the growth of the other muscle groups in your core correctly to become the best and strongest you that you can be!
Strengthening your core like this will help you prep for all the following workout regimens. Your stronger and improved core will look and feel more solid and good, but it will also balance, stabilize, and power your body through every activity you do. A strong core can also lessen the stress bearing down on your joints and let you achieve an improved posture. Planking is a great core muscle strength test and can build your strength more than a cardio exercise can.