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When it comes to effective ab exercises to include in your strength-training program, the high plank is one of your best options.

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What Is a High Plank?

A high plank is a bodyweight exercise that activates muscle groups throughout your body—including your core muscles, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Perform high planks by getting on all fours and placing your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Straighten your legs to lift your knees off of the floor. Keep your neck in a neutral position as you hold yourself up on your hands and toes. Keep your upper body and lower body in a straight line.

3 Benefits of Doing High Planks

Incorporating high planks into your workout routine can have several benefits.

  1. High planks can increase core strength. The high plank can help you build a strong core by activating muscles like the transverse abdominis, the rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscle), and the oblique muscles.
  2. High planks can improve your posture. Holding yourself in a high plank position activates and stretches your core, shoulders, legs, and lower-back muscles, increasing your stability and improving your everyday posture.
  3. High planks are a versatile bodyweight exercise. Similar to other core exercises like sit-ups and crunches, high planks require no equipment, making them an easy exercise to learn and add to your home workout routine.
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How to Do a High Plank With Proper Form

For high planks, begin by performing 2–3 sets of 30–60 seconds. Choose your sets and duration of holds based on your ability to maintain good technique throughout each set.

  1. Get into an all-fours position with your knees and toes flexed and in contact with the floor. Your hips should be over your knees. Your hands should be slightly wider than your shoulders and directly beneath them. Grip the ground with your hands and rotate your shoulders outward to engage your lats.
  2. Straighten your legs to lift your knees off of the ground and get yourself in a push-up position. Keep your legs hip-width apart or slightly wider. Pre-tension your shoulders and hips while engaging your core. Keep your ribs down and your pelvis slightly tucked.
  3. Squeeze your quads and glutes. Your chin should remain tucked throughout the movement, as if you were holding an egg under your chin. All repetitions should begin from this starting position.
  4. Continue to engage your core and maintain full-body tension. Hold for the desired length of time.

5 Plank Variations

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Once you’ve mastered the high plank, try one of these five variations.

  1. Side plank: Perform side planks by balancing on your side with your elbow directly under your shoulder. Touch the floor with your forearm and the side of your foot. This variation activates your oblique muscles more than a standard plank.
  2. Forearm plank: Also known as the low plank, this beginner-level variation involves holding your upper body on your forearms rather than on your hands with your arms extended.
  3. Plank jacks: If you want to add cardio to your planking routine, try plank jacks. Perform this variation by starting in a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart beneath you. Keep your upper body and lower body in a straight line as you jump your feet out and back.
  4. Plank row: Practice this variation by lifting a dumbbell in a row movement with one arm while holding yourself in a high plank position with the other arm.
  5. Single-leg plank: This variation challenges your stability by requiring you to lift one leg while performing a plank. For an added challenge, hold your upper body on a stability ball during the exercise.

How to Work Out Safely and Avoid Injury

If you have a previous or pre-existing health condition, consult your physician before beginning an exercise program. Proper exercise technique is essential to ensure the safety and effectiveness of an exercise program, but you may need to modify each exercise to attain optimal results based on your individual needs. Always select a weight that allows you to have full control of your body throughout the movement. When performing any exercise, pay close attention to your body, and stop immediately if you note pain or discomfort.

To see continual progress and build body strength, incorporate proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition into your exercise program. Your results will ultimately be based on your ability to adequately recover from your workouts. Rest for 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups to allow sufficient recovery.

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