Plank Variations – The Best Drills for Building Serious Core Strength

Front and side planks are great for teaching core positioning and beginning to develop strength. But quickly they become more of an endurance exercise than a trunk & core strengthener. If you want to build serious strength, then you are going to need to up your game by trying these plank variations!

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The Best Plank Variations

RKC Planks

Without a doubt, my favorite plank variation is the RKC. The standard front plank quickly becomes too easy and (in my opinion) doesn’t translate to athletes learning how to create serious trunk stiffness that is necessary for maximal effort lifting. The RKC version is my go-to for developing max trunk stiffness.


Renegade Row

A challenging variation that incorporates upper body rowing and anti-rotational strength. Being more dynamic means athletes must learn to have better control.


Front Plank Hip Extension

While this one looks easy, if the athlete does a great job of maintaining a neutral spine, the small repeated hip extensions are a great glute activation exercise (Boren et al.).


Side Plank Hip Abduction

Another variation that is seriously good for glute activation simultaneously (Boren et al.), the side plank hip abduction combines lateral trunk with lateral hip strength, a VERY important combination for athletics.

Oblique TRX Plank

The suspension trainer adds an additional stabilizing component to step up the challenge from a normal plank. Adding in an oblique crunch to each side followed by a tuck up specifically targets all areas of the abdominals. This is another great way to improve your core endurance as it relates to gymnastics.

Band Resisted Front Plank

Great way to easily spice up your standard plank. The resistance band further challenges your body’s ability to resist moving the low back into extension.


Chinese Planks

As opposed to most plank variations, this version works the complete opposite side of our core muscle. The core functions 360 degrees and the posterior (back) muscle tissues are crucial to a stable and strong core. Use the Chinese Plank to light up your back and glutes and bullet proof your back!


Long Lever Plank Flutters

Similar to the RKC plank variation, this twist on the standard front plank just makes for a better drill to teach athletes to create max stiffness.


Stir The Pot

A favorite of world-renown back specialist Dr. Stu McGill, stir the pots add a dynamic component while working high-end core strength. Another great one for training the spinal stabilizers to be better prepared for max effort lifting.

Body Saw Planks

This plank variation creates some instability in the shoulders by using the rings. The challenge to the midline increases as the arms travel further from the body. Maintain a hollow position throughout to translate to gymnastics movements.


Adductor Plank

An uncommonly performed exercise, but an especially important one, to address the medial (inside/groin) hip musculature (adductor muscle group). Lengthen the lever arm and challenge of this exercise by performing with both legs straight (moving further away from bench/chair height).


Captain Morgan Side Plank

A side variation is much more difficult than it looks! Try this to strengthen the lateral core, hip abductors, and hip adductors.


Runner’s Side Plank Variation

One of my favorite variations to use with runners. Even with the knee bent, the dynamic movement of the top leg makes this variation great for strengthening the hips and core. This drill is also one that I use for hip mobility!


Plank KB Drag Throughs

The KB drag through forces the core to work from multiple directions throughout the movement while also working single arm stability. Try not to rotate or shift side to side as you perform this to put the focus on challenging your core!

Video by Onward Greenville