Last Updated on April 3, 2024

If you don’t like crunches but want a flat, toned tummy, these planks for abs are perfect for you!  If you want abs I recommend plank exercises over crunches for a few reasons.

That’s why I’m excited for you to watch today’s episode of CCtv.   I explain more about planks and share 20 different plank exercises you can use to train your abs, avoid back pain, and increase core strength.


Plank Exercise Benefits


Planks truly are great for anyone, who wants to flatten their stomach, from beginners to advanced exercisers, even those with back problems.

After you’ve had a chance to watch, leave me a comment and let me know which plank exercise you like most.


Christina Carlyle's Abs holding out loose pants




Imagine you’re holding a credit card.  Visualize using your finger to repeatedly flex and extend the credit card… Eventually, you’d wear out the plastic and change the shape right?  That’s exactly what happens to your spine when you, repeatedly do crunches or sit-ups.

Each of your spinal discs is only able to support a limited number of bending motions over the course of your life before you get low back pain, a disc bulge or a disc herniation.

Crunches involve lying on your back and repeatedly bending and extending your “spinal credit card,” they place excessive strain on the part of your low back that has the most nerves and is most prone to wear and tear.

Perhaps you’ve heard that if you pick a heavy object off the ground, and you don’t want to hurt your spine, you should “Bend at the knees, and not at the back.” But think about crunches this way: Anytime you do a crunch, you’re bending at the back — over and over again!

But having a strong core can help reduce back pain and planks strengthen abs without straining the back like crunches can.  (Source


Mindy's Review from the Metabolism Makeover Challenge on instagram


Abs Are Made in the Kitchen, Holding a Core Contraction, and Burning Fat

A lot of my clients already feel like you have abs… but they’re hiding under a layer of stubborn fat.  Many people think they’ll get a coveted set of “six-pack abs” from doing endless crunches.

The problem is that a six-pack is revealed through melting that layer of fat… and fat loss happens when you follow a complete nutrition and training program… not crunches.

And that’s not all…  To build muscle you have to hold a muscular contraction… a plank requires holding a contraction via a pose for a longer period of time.

Crunches have you holding a contraction for a short period of time, so planks mean better results for you.  There are also moving plank exercises that engage the core muscles while you’re moving… which means more calorie and fat burning for you, too.

A crunch simply doesn’t burn as many calories as necessary for you to get rid of any fat that is obscuring your stomach muscles.  Plus, crunches only engage a limited number of core muscle fibers but planks target all of the muscle fibers in the core muscle group.

Ultimately, plank exercises can help you get noticeable definition, burn calories, and strengthen your back and core.  (Yassssss!)  #TeamWorkSmartNotHard

HINT:  If you want to know more about how I can get you results, check out my Metabolic Training & Analysis.


20 Planks for Abs

20 Plank Exercises being done by Trainer Christina Carlyle

Pin these Planks to Pinterest so you’ll have it forever


How to Do Planks in a Workout


  • Warm up first with some light cardio and stretches.
  • Pick 4 to 6 of the following planks.
  • For planks with a pose, repeat each one for 10 seconds to 1 minute each.
  • For planks that have movement do 15 reps (on each side, if applicable) – to complete 1 set.
  • Complete 3 full sets of all exercises for a full ab workout.
  • NOTE:  You can pick 1 or 2 planks and add them onto any ab workouts or the workouts from my exercise programs, too.



Plank Exercises


There are 4 basic plank poses that the rest of the exercises build upon.

Start with these planks first, to see your strength, balance, and endurance improve. As you get stronger you can move on to the more challenging plank exercises.


Standard Plank done by Christina Carlyle

Basic Plank #1:  Plank

When it comes to planks, form is everything. Paying close attention to form not only ensures you’ll get a great workout, but also that you’re protecting your body from injury. Start in tabletop position, kneeling on the floor with hands directly below your shoulders. Lift your knees until you are supporting your weight on just your toes and hands.  Spread your fingers to make a wide, stable base.  Line up your shoulders over your hands and heels over your toes. Hold your body in a straight line from the top of your head down to your heels. Hold your core in tight, being careful not to let your stomach sag or your back round out.


Elbow Modified Plank being done by trainer Christina Carlyle

Basic Plank #2:  Elbow Plank

Starting from standard plank position, lower yourself until you’re resting on your forearms. Keep forearms parallel to each other with hands flat on the ground or clasped together if that’s more comfortable.


Side Plank exercise being done by Christina Carlyle

Basic Plank #3:  Side Plank

Starting in standard plank position, bring your legs together until your heels touch.  Twist until you’re balanced on your elbow with your feet stacked on top of each other.


Reverse Plank done by Christina Carlyle

Basic Plank #4:  Reverse Plank

Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you and arms at your sides. Place hands on the floor next to your hips, fingers pointing towards your feet. Lift your hips as high as you can, aiming for a straight line from chin to toes. You may discover here that your shoulders aren’t as flexible as you thought; just take it slow. And, you know, try not to cry.


Marching Plank Exercise done by Christina Carlyle

Marching Plank

Take your plank on the move by adding an up-and-down motion. Assume the standard plank position on hands and toes. Slowly lower your right arm down to your forearm then bring your left arm down as well so you are now supported by your forearms. Then place your right hand on the ground and begin to push your body back up, allowing your left hand to follow. Repeat, allowing your left arm to lead. Sing “Follow the Leader” to keep your rhythm. Ignore any weird looks at the gym; they’re just jealous.


Knee to Elbow Plank done by Christina Carlyle

Knee-to-Elbow Plank

You know the drill: Start in a standard plank position. Slowly bring your right knee underneath and across your body, toward the inside of your left elbow. Again, just get it as close as you can without dropping your right shoulder and hip. Repeat on the other side.


Crawling Plank Exercise done by Christina Carlyle

Crawling Plank

Start in a plank position and keeping your abs in tight walk your hands in towards your feet as you exhale.  Quickly reverse the movement and walk your hands back to the plank position as you inhale to complete one rep.


Rocking plank exercise done by Christina Carlyle

Rocking Plank

From a basic plank, rock forward on your toes until your shoulders move past your hands. Then push your shoulders backward until your heels extend beyond your toes. Move slowly and in a controlled manner to challenge your balance, coordination, and shoulder strength. This move can be done on your hands or forearms.


One Leg Plank exercise being done by trainer Christina Carlyle

One Leg Plank

Start in a standard plank position. Lift one leg up as far as you can, keeping your body flat and both the extended and supporting leg straight. Repeat on the other side.


Spiderman plank exercise being done by trainer Christina Carlyle

Spiderman Plank

Start with a standard plank. Slowly bring your right knee toward the outside of your right elbow. You’ll be tempted to look back to see how close your knee is—don’t do it! It will make you round your shoulders and drop your hips. Just get it as close as you can without losing your form. Pretend like you’re Spiderman trying to climb up a building…  If you can touch your knee to your elbow, you get extra credit and are excused from Friday’s final exam. Repeat on the other side.


Reverse Plank Pulse exercise being done by trainer Christina Carlyle

Reverse Plank Pulse

Start by sitting on the ground with your legs extended in front of you and your arms at your sides. Plant your hands firmly on each side and lift your hips up as high as they’ll go. Lower them slowly toward the ground (without touching it) and then lift them again. To make it a bit easier, start with bent knees and work up to keeping your legs straight.


Reverse Plank with Leg Lift exercise being done by trainer Christina Carlyle

Reverse Plank Leg Lift

Start in a reverse plank with your hips lifted and head facing forward. Lift one leg as high as you can without bending your waist or knees. Repeat on the other side.



Hip Dip exercise being done by trainer Christina Carlyle

Hip Dip Plank

From the elbow plank starting position, slowly dip both hips to the right side. Go down as far as you comfortably can without touching the floor. Quickly lift back up to a plank and repeat on the left side. Quickly alternate dipping your hips from side to side to do this exercise.


Thread the needle exercise being done by trainer Christina Carlyle

Thread the Needle Plank

From a side plank, lift your top arm straight up. Bending slightly at the waist, reach down and “thread” your hand through the gap between your side and the floor. You should feel a deep side crunch. Return to your original position. When you’re done on one side repeat the same number of reps on the other side.


Side plank pulse exercise being done by trainer Christina Carlyle


From a side elbow plank position, this your start position.  Lower your hips down towards the floor without putting all of your weight on the floor. Quickly reverse the movement back up to the start position to complete one rep.


Rowing plank exercise being done by trainer Christina Carlyle

Rowing Plank

Holding a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand, get into standard plank position. Make sure your weights have flat edges or you won’t be able to balance on them. Bend your right elbow and slowly lift it up toward the ceiling, keeping your elbow in tight by your side. Lower the weight and repeat on the other side.


Chaturanga plank exercise being done by trainer Christina Carlyle

Chaturanga Plank

From standard plank position, making sure your shoulders are directly above your hands, slowly lower yourself until your body is in line with your arms. Keep your elbows touching your ribs and your core tight so nothing touches the floor except your hands and toes. Imagine the ground is hot lava (or, you know, any other surface you wouldn’t want to come into contact with. Floor of a movie theater, anyone? Get creative—it will make the time go faster!)


X Plank exercise being done by trainer Christina Carlyle

X Plank

You don’t have to be one of the X-Men to do this variation (Although it wouldn’t hurt! We’ll keep your secret). Start in a standard plank. Move your legs out laterally until your feet are planted wider than hip-width apart. If this feels tough enough, you can stay in this position (a Y plank, perhaps?). You can add some extra upper-body work by walking your hands out wider than shoulder-width apart until you’re in a full X.


Stability Ball Plank Done by Christina Carlyle

Stability Ball Plank

Kneel, facing away from a stability ball. Lift one leg behind you and place your shin or foot on the ball. (The ball will likely have rolled away from you at this point, as balls do. It helps at first to position the ball in front of a wall so it can’t go far when it escapes.) Lift your other leg onto the ball. Straighten out into a plank position. Use your forearms or hands, depending on the height of the ball and how well you’re able to balance.


Birddog Plank being done by Christina Carlyle

Bird Dog Plank

Begin in a standard plank. Lift your right leg straight behind you, then lift your left arm straight in front of you. Keep your body in a straight line from fingertip to toe. You’ll soon discover that this works your core and your balance in a major way.


Notes about these Plank Exercises


I recommend doing planks twice a week at most.  Once a week would be better.  That’s because the body is an excellent adaptor, and it will get used to doing the same exercises if you do them too quickly.  To avoid plateaus it’s better to rotate the different plank exercises that you do every week.  Hint:  That’s why I gave you so many options.

There you have it.  Crunch-free exercises that will strengthen your core, without killing your spine.  I hope you liked this post.  Leave me a comment and let me know which plank exercise you liked the most.  If you think that it could help someone you know, please share it.

It works, if you work it.  So work it!  You’re worth it!




If you liked this post you’ll love these ab workouts, too

Want to get fit and healthy exercising the easy way?  Check out my Lazy Girl Exercise Program

Lazy Girl Exercise Program Results


20 different plank exercises being done by trainer Christina Carlyle and text that says 20 planks for flat, toned abs

Don’t forget to pin these planks to pinterest so you’ll have them forever