We asked Jesse Dufresne, an NASM-certified personal trainer at Equinox in New York, to show us new variations to make planks feel less monotonous. Each one challenges your balance in its own way, making your core work harder and delivering better results.

BEGINNER

Roving Stability Ball Plank

1. Grab a small stability ball.
2. Get into your normal plank position (on your hands, not your forearms), placing your right foot on top of the stability ball.
3. Hold for a few seconds, then bring the ball to your left foot, placing your foot on the ball and holding for a few seconds.
4. Roll the ball up to your left hand and place your left hand on top of it. Hold for a few seconds, then roll the ball toward your right hand and place your hand on top of it.
Tip: Focus on keeping your shoulders above your hands. It's virtually impossible for your hips to be out of position when your shoulders and hands are properly aligned.

Plank with Shoulder Taps

1. Get into your plank position, with hands directly beneath your shoulders and feet spread hip-distance apart.
2. As you hold the plank, alternate tapping your shoulders with opposite hands. So you're tapping your left shoulder with your right hand, bringing your right hand back down to the ground, and repeating with your left hand tapping your right shoulder.
Tip: It's important to keep your hips level and not rock side to side as you tap your shoulders. Try putting a water bottle on your lower back during the exercise: If it falls off, it means you're rocking.

INTERMEDIATE

The Beast

1. Get on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, with your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips.
2. Squeeze your core, and as you do so, lift your knees 1 to 2 inches off the ground, so your toes are the only part of your lower body touching the ground. Hold that position.
Tip: Focus on keeping your back straight, not rounded, which will help keep the work in your abs instead of your back.

Bird Dog

1. Get into a standard plank position.
2. Slowly take one hand off the ground and lift your arm up in front of you until it's parallel with the floor. At the same time, lift the opposite foot off the floor, lifting your leg back behind you until it's also parallel with the floor.
Tip: You can make this easier by doing it on your knees. Start in a tabletop position instead of a plank and instead of lifting one foot, lift your opposite knee, straightening your leg as you bring it back behind you until it's parallel with the floor.

Plank Jacks

1. Start in a standard plank position.
2. Keeping your shoulders over your hands, jump your feet out so they're slightly wider than your hands, then jump them back into your starting position. Repeat.
Tip: Keep your hips at the same level they would be at if you were holding a static plank. People tend to let their hips dip during plank jacks, and that puts stress on your lower back.

Knee to Same-Side Elbow Plank

1. Start in a standard plank position
2. Keeping your torso steady, lift up your right foot, bend your knee and, squeezing your oblique’s, bring your knee to the outside of your right elbow, then bring your right foot back to starting position.
3. Repeat with your left foot to left elbow.
Tip: Try not to lean to the opposite side as you bring your knee toward your elbow. You should feel equal weight distributed in both of your hands.

Knee to Opposite Elbow Plank

1. Start in a standard plank position
2. Lift your right foot and bend your knee, bringing it underneath and across your torso toward your left elbow.
3. Bring your right foot back to start.
4. Repeat with your left foot, bringing it toward your right elbow.
Tip: Bring your knee as far under and across as you can without letting your back start to round. You want to keep a straight back so your abs are doing the work.

Forearm Plank with Hip Dips

1. Start in a plank position on your forearms.
2. Keeping your shoulders above your elbows, twist your torso to bring your right hip toward the ground, hold for a second, then return to start.
3. Repeat with your left hip, alternating between right and left for the duration of the hold.
Tip: If you feel any discomfort or stress in your lower back, stop the exercise. You should feel it only in your core and, specifically, your oblique’s.

Side Plank with a Twist
1. Get into side plank position on your forearm, feet stacked, keeping your body in a straight line from your head to your feet.
2. Lift your top arm toward the ceiling.
3. Keeping your feet stacked and your hips high, squeeze your abs to twist your torso toward the floor, reaching your top hand down and underneath your torso.
4. Return to starting position.
Tip: Focus on form over speed here. Twist too fast and you'll probably lose your balance. Keep it slow and controlled, and only twist as far as you can without getting wobbly.

Side Star Plank

1. Get into side plank position on your hand instead of your forearm, feet stacked.
2. Lift your top arm directly above your head, so your arms form a straight line up from the floor.
3. Squeezing your core to maintain your balance, lift your top leg off your bottom leg and continue to lift until your feet are a few feet apart. You should feel like you're making a star shape. Hold there.
Tip: Make this easier by doing it on your forearm instead of your hand. If you need another step down, hold the plank on your knee instead of your foot.

ADVANCED

Moving Beast

1. Get into the same starting position as the Beast (above).
2. Taking very small steps, start to crawl forward a few feet, then backward, and then sideways, keeping your knees 1 to 2 inches off the floor the entire time.
Tip: In addition to taking really small steps, think about where your hips are. You want them to stay level while you crawl, not bobbing up and down every time you take a step.

Plank with Pike Up

1. Find a smooth floor surface and grab a towel or floor sliders.
2. Get into a plank position on your hands, placing your feet on the towel or sliders.
3. Squeezing your abs, lift your lips toward the ceiling and pull your feet toward your hands, keeping your legs straight so you form an upside-down V.
4. Bring your feet in as close as you comfortably can, hold for a second, then slowly slide your feet back out to starting position.
Tip: If this feels too hard, you can do a pike without moving your feet. Just lift your hips toward the ceiling while keeping your feet stationary, so you form a wider upside-down V, then return to start. You can also do it on your forearms if necessary.

Jackknife Plank

1. Grab a large stability ball
2. Get into a plank position, hands on the floor and feet on the stability ball. You want your feet far enough on the ball so that your ankles and the lower part of your shins are also touching the ball when you're in starting position.
3. Keeping your shoulders over your hands and your torso steady, squeeze your abs and bend your knees to roll the ball toward your hands.
4. Bring the ball as close as you can while maintaining good form, pause for a second, then return to starting position.
Tip: Keep your hips level. You don't want them to dip, but you also don't want them to lift up into a pike position.

Rollout Plank

1. Grab a large stability ball.
2. Get into a plank position, with your forearms on the stability ball and feet on the ground.
3. Keeping your core tight, slowly roll the ball forward and backward with your forearms, maintaining that plank position the whole time.
Tip: Get more control by clasping your hands together as you roll the ball back and forth, and don't let your neck scrunch toward your shoulders—you want space between your shoulders and your ears.

Plank Drag

1. Start in a plank position with hands on the ground and feet on a towel or sliders, on a smooth floor surface.
2. Slowly walk your arms forward, keeping your feet on the towel or sliders, so you're dragging your lower body with you.
3. When you've gone a few feet, walk your hands backward, pushing your feet backward as well.
Tip: Keep a straight line between your head and your feet, making sure not to let your hips drop as your drag your body forward.

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