Many traditional core exercises work just the rectus abdominis muscles (your six-pack), leaving the rest of your (many!) core muscles untouched. Planks, on the other hand, hit so many more areas, making them the ultimate core move to incorporate into any workout. (Just try this 30-day plank challenge for your strongest core ever.)
Science backs it up: Forearm plank variations require more than twice as much activity in the rectus abdominis, external abdominal oblique, and lumbar erector spinae (the muscles that support your spine) compared to a traditional trunk flexion and extension exercise (like a crunch or sit-up), according to research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. (That's one reason the Navy cut crunches from their fitness test.)
Forearm Plank Exercise Variations and Benefits
Aside from your abs, you'll also build strength in your shoulders, chest, upper back, and thighs. Squeeze your glutes in this position to activate them and make this move feel easier.
"The forearm plank puts a greater emphasis on the core than the high plank, but both are equally important to work on," says Stephany Bolivar, CrossFit coach and personal trainer at ICE NYC. She suggests perfecting both the high plank and forearm plank before moving on to other plank variations.
The high plank is your best way to build up the ab strength necessary for a forearm plank. Once your forearm plank (demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti) is solid, you can experiment with different challenges, like lifting one leg, reaching one arm straight out in front, or rocking forward and back on your toes. (Also see: What Happens When You Plank 5 Minutes a Day for a Month.)
How to Do the Forearm Plank Exercise
A. Start on the floor in tabletop position on all fours with hands stacked directly under shoulders, knees bent and stacked directly under hips.
B. Step one leg back at a time to come into a high plank on palms, actively squeezing glutes and heels together.
C. Lower one elbow at a time to come into a plank on forearms, with forearms directly under shoulders. Actively draw navel in to spine.
Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat for 2 to 4 sets. As you build strength, increase time to 1 minute or more.
Forearm Plank Exercise Form Tips
- Don't allow hips to drop, as this will strain the lower back.
- Maintain a neutral position from head to heels.