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Plank Your Way To Better Abs With These 5 Variations

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Ab Plank

The traditional ab plank is one of the all-around best ab exercises for developing a svelte midsection, a strong core, and superior posture. Unlike crunches, sit-ups, cable woodchoppers, ab v holds, hanging leg raises and the like, which primarily work the rectus abdominis (the vertical “six-pack” muscles) and obliques, planks blast the transverse abdominis.

Diagram below.

Anatomy of the Abs, abs anatomy, transverse abdominis

Anatomy of the Abs

The transverse abdominis (TA), aka the “inner abs,”  is the deepest abdominal layer and runs as a belt horizontally around the midsection in between the hip bone and ribs. Unlike the biceps, chest, rectus abdominis, etc., the TA muscle is invisible from the outside.

Aesthetically, a strong TA won’t produce the abdominal crevices, caverns, and undulations characteristic of a six-pack, per se, but rather it sucks the midsection into a tight, compact, slender package. It’s essentially the body’s corset — a strong TA naturally compresses the girth of the stomach.

Transverse Abdominis

Want flat abs like this? Plank it up!

This is critically important. In isolation, a well-developed RA and obliques create six-pack striations and definition, but they’ll also appear bloated, loose, and bulging; strengthening the TA compresses the region and completes the holistic look. Ab planks are the most effective, most direct way to tear up the TA.

If you’re someone who DOESN’T like the “six-pack” look and the block-esque abs that go with it, and simply want a flat, defined stomach (like the one on the right), the TA absolutely should be your primary point of emphasis.

In the spirit of shredding up the transverse abominis, here are 5 variations of the traditional plank that can provide variety, pump up the difficulty, and infuse new stimuli to produce a washboard caliber stomach. Add them individually into your existing ab workout routine, or combine all 5 to create one über ab-flattening plank circuit.


Plank Your Way To Better Abs With These 5 Variations


Ab Plank 1: One Arm Ab Plank Reaches

One Arm Ab Plank Reaches, ab plank arm raise, ab plank with arm raise

How To:

Start in traditional plank position. Raise your right arm and reach out as far as possible in front of your body. Hold 15 seconds and repeat for your left arm. Complete 3 reps, per arm, per set (45 seconds per arm in total).

Up the difficulty, up your growth: Lift your opposite leg simultaneously as you reach out in front.

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Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
  • How often do you do this…everyday? Ever other day?

    • Add 1-2 of these plank exercises into your ab routine and rotate them every workout.

      I recommend that you do an abs workout every three days in order to give your body enough time to repair, fully recover, and grow (do an abs workout, take two days off from abs, repeat). DO NOT work your abs every day, and even every other day can be counterproductive/a less efficient use of your time..

      • Bryan Balthasar

        This seems to go contrary to all the planking challenges all over Facebook and the internet that typically do 5-6 days on, 1 day off. Can you elaborate? Are the plank challenges not considered a “full” ab workout?

  • Beth

    How long should it take to start seeing results?

  • Love These Plank Variations

  • Resting in between days when doing plank exercises will help in recovery as stated and as a result you will notice you can hold the plank for longer when you come back to them after you have rested as your core will be stronger. Be sure to time yourself for each plank so you can keep track on your progress as this will motivate you to keep going…

  • bigbaddave

    Never got much out of them myself. It’s pretty much just an isometric exercise, that’s all. You don’t work your biceps or pecs doing mainly isometrics so why would you do it for abs? Good old fashion crunches, sit ups, leg raises work wonders. Do them slowly and breath out at the end of the movement to get better contraction. And when doing other resistance exercises hold your stomach taught. There is no easy and painless way to get a great body. Some folks are naturally thinner or more muscular, yes, but for the majority it takes hard work.

    • BiggerAnd BadderThanDave

      Wrong. If you read the article thoroughly, and correctly, you would have learned that planks work areas which regular ab routines do not. In addition, you’re strengthening your core, perhaps the most overlooked component of workouts. You ignore your core and you will suffer from a possible back spasms that will reduce a grown man to tears. Using your own bodyweight always triumphs over other weight work. Look at your average male gymnast. The bulk of their workout is the gymnastic work itself. They tend to look much more developed than those who push weights in the gym. GOT IT?!