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How to upgrade your plank & strengthen your arms

Engage, breathe and smile!!

Although it’s probably high up there as one of people’s least-favourite words – plank is a real saviour!

It’s one of the best exercises you can do for your arms as well as strengthening your core, which is why many of our Go Yoga teachers use it in their classes, to prepare you for arm balances and poses that require core strength.

Plank doesn’t have to just be plank, though. There are lots of variations to try out to mix things up a little and get creative with your practice.

Here are a few of our favourite versions….

Forearm plank

Most of us will consider this as the bog standard type of plank, but believe us, it’s not bog standard when it comes to results.

Start by lying faced down with your legs outstretched behind you. And elbows directly underneath your shoulders, resting on your forearms. You can either clasp your palms together in front of you or spread your fingers out wide with your palms down (this is also known as Dolphin plank). Both feet should be the same width apart as your hips and you should be on your tip toes with straight legs. Draw up your belly button towards your spine and begin to breathe for a count of 10.

High plank

Also known as straight-arm plank, this version follows all the principles of the forearm plank above, except that in a high plank, the arms are straightened, and the weight is pushed down onto both palms in equal measure. Think of this as the top part position of a push up.

Having your arms straight means that you might be able to get a little higher onto to your tip toes. Keep your abs tight and your belly button sucked up and begin to breathe for a count of 10.

High plank to forearm plank

Once you have mastered both of these holds, it’s time to put them in sync.

Start in a high plank, count one inhale and one exhale, and then bend the elbows one by one until you are in forearm plank. Ensure your elbows stay directly under your shoulders and that your core stays engaged. Count one full breath here and then straighten the arms one by one back up to high plank.

Repeat for 5 full rounds if you can, remembering to breathe evenly throughout.

High plank with shoulder taps

A favourite in Jo’s Hot Yoga classes, this variation will help to tone your abs and obliques, as well as your triceps and shoulders. It will also help you to prepare for one-armed arm balances.

Start in high plank, lift your right hand from the mat, across your chest and give your left shoulder a gentle tap. Ensure that your hips and core remain stable throughout. Place the right hand back down and then lift the left and give your right shoulder a tap.

Repeat 5 times on each side.

Knee to elbow crunches

Begin in a high plank and ensure your abs are engaged and your breathe is flowing.

With your next exhale, bend your right knee and draw it to the outside of your right elbow. Try to touch if possible, but otherwise draw the knee just as close as you can.

Pause for a moment here, before inhaling to straighten the leg back behind you.

Repeat on the left side, and then keep alternating until you have completed 5 crunches on each side.

Side plank

Ah, we saved the best until last!

From a high plank position, bring your right hand further towards the centre of your shoulder-line, so that perhaps it is directly underneath your chin. Press down firmly with your right palm and rotate your body so that your weight shifts onto the outer edge of your right foot and the right arm.

Stack your left leg on top of your right leg (or you could even raise that left leg high for a little more oooomph!). Lift your torso and right butt cheek upwards, extending your left arm high into the sky and pointing up your fingertips. Tighten your abs and draw in your core. Hold for 5 deep breaths and then return the right hand back down to the mat and adjust back into high plank.

Repeat on the left side.


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