Beginner Series: Incline Plank Challenge Workout

Beginner Plank WorkoutToday’s plank workout is great because it grows with you. So don’t be thrown off by the “beginner”—if you’re advanced, you can also fit it into your next workout, maybe doing it after a long run. As you’ll see, you pick the interval length and incline level that fits your current physical condition, and as you improve, challenge yourself to stay in each move longer, working your way from an incline plank to a traditional plank on the ground.

If you need a refresher on proper plank form, check out this post I did a while back going over all the common errors I see with this exercise. 

Incline Plank Challenge Workout

Equipment I Used:

There are four plank variations in this workout. You will do them back-to-back, moving from one right to the next without resting. Once you’ve completed all four then you rest for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times total.

For how long do you do each variation? That’s where the challenge comes in. True beginners, start with 15 seconds. That means in total, you’ll do a minute of plank work before resting. That might sound like a long time to be in a plank, but the incline and the fact that you’re changing movements slightly will make it doable, I promise.

As you improve …

  • Increase the time interval. Try 20 seconds per move. Then 25. Can you make it up to 30 seconds (2 minutes of continuous work)?
  • Decrease the incline. Instead of having your forearms on a table, maybe you hold your plank from a low bench. Can you gradually build up to a traditional plank on the ground holding your body level to the floor?

beginner-plank-challenge-workout

Incline Plank Hold

Plant your forearms on a flat, elevated surface like a table or bench. Elbows should be under shoulders. Step your feet back so that your body forms a straight diagonal line. Tuck the tailbone slightly as you pull the bellybutton up towards the spine. Picture your ribcage as a girdle: close it in around you. Squeeze your quads right above the kneecaps to straighten your legs and then imagine you’re trying to pull your elbows and feet together. Everything is contracted and holding the position.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Plant your forearms on a higher surface. Increasing the angle of your body in relation to the floor will make it easier.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Plant your forearms on a lower surface or the floor. Decreasing the angle of your body in relation to the floor with make it harder.

Incline Plank Reptile Crunches

Start in your incline plank position. From here, hover your right leg and crunch the right knee towards the right arm, contracting your right sidebody. Extend that leg back out, planting your foot and repeating on the left side. Continue alternating back and forth. Be aware of your hips—you don’t want to pike them up in the air as you do these.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Plant your forearms on a higher surface. Increasing the angle of your body in relation to the floor will make it easier.
  • Step instead of crunch. Instead of crunching one knee forward at a time in a hover, step one foot at a time lightly out to the side. It’s the same move, just making contact with the floor for support.

Beginner Plank Workout

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Plant your forearms on a lower surface or the floor. Decreasing the angle of your body in relation to the floor with make it harder.

Incline Plank In ‘n Out Steps

Start in your incline plank position. From here, step one foot at a time out wide to the side, and then back in to center to your starting position. As you do this (out, out, in, in), try not to let your bum bounce up in the air. Think of keeping your hips aligned in that plank position.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Plant your forearms on a higher surface. Increasing the angle of your body in relation to the floor will make it easier.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Jump instead of step. Instead of stepping your feet wide and narrow, jump both feet out wide to the side and then jump them back together. Just be careful not to pike your bum into the air as you do this—it’s a low hop; not a high bounce.
  • Plant your forearms on a lower surface or the floor. Decreasing the angle of your body in relation to the floor with make it harder.

Incline Mountain Climbers

These are like doing high knees in a plank position. Start in your incline plank and squeeze your core in like you’re wearing a girdle (don’t let your low back sag or your butt stick up in the air). From this position, drive one knee at a time up towards your chest, like running horizontally. The pace on these should be quick, but the most important part is how far forward you’re crunching the knees (really pull the abs in to drive them up toward your chest!). Don’t sacrifice this for speed.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Plant your forearms on a higher surface. Increasing the angle of your body in relation to the floor will make it easier.
  • Step instead of crunch. Instead of crunching one knee forward at a time in a hover, step one foot at a time lightly underneath your torso. It’s the same move, just making contact with the floor for support.

Beginner Plank Workout

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Plant your forearms on a lower surface or the floor. Decreasing the angle of your body in relation to the floor with make it harder. Note that if you’re on the ground, you’ll want to do this in a high plank (hands, not forearms) so that you have space to crunch the knee forward.

The “Why” Behind This Workout

Planks are a foundational exercise. There is no escaping the plank, so you might as well start working on it. Planks pop up everywhere—in burpees, in push ups, in yoga. They’re the basis for so many exercises!

A strong core makes for a strong body. As your core strength improves, you’ll notice that you’re better able to perform low body and upper body exercises with proper form. So much of our ability to balance and move with coordination comes from having a strong core—after all, it’s where all our limbs are attached! That being said …

Planks don’t just strengthen your abs. I Holy shoulder burn! I still find it to be true that sometimes during plank workouts, my shoulders fatigue faster than my abs. If you’re holding a plank correctly, your abs aren’t the only thing contracted: You’re engaging the shoulders, chest, legs, glutes, etc. to maintain the body alignment. 

Incline forearm planks won’t bother your wrists. I’ve suggested doing these in a forearm plank rather than a high plank (on your hands) because wrist pain is one of the most common things I encounter with beginner clients. I used to have the same issues, so know that there is hope—your wrists will strengthen and adapt to not bother you as much as you continue to regularly workout (this may not apply if you’re working with an injury). I don’t want anything to take away from the work your core is doing during this workout, so let’s just eliminate those pesky wrists from the equation. 🙂

Flexible interval structure allows you to track progress. When a workout allows room for growth, you can see your progress—a huge motivator! Challenge yourself to revisit this plank workout and gradually lengthen the interval time and reduce the angle of your incline.

Beginner Plank Workout

WEARING | leggings: Zara Terez c/o Bombas (<– the comfy socks I’m wearing!) // tank: H&M (old but similar HERE) // sports bra: (old but similar HERE) // sneakers: Nike

SHOT in a Breather room (Gloucester St. #2) — I always get lots of questions about where the decor is from and unfortunately have no clue (although I wish this was my apartment haha). You can get your first hour of Breather free with code PUMPIRON (they’re in NYC, Boston, San Fran, Montreal & Ottawa).

MORE RESOUCES FOR BEGINNERS: 

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Comments

  1. Planks are so hard for me but such a great workout! Thanks for this!

  2. I love how you’ve been sharing beginner workouts! There’s so many people out there who feel intimidated by online workouts or get injured because of them. This rocks!

  3. This was an awesome set! I’ve added it twice to a run and it seriously kills my entire waist! I am trying to build up to getting better at pushups and know core is a lot of that, is there anything else you suggest? Thanks!

    • Yes–core is huge! Also developing chest strength (add chest press/fly into your workouts). To improve, I would do high push up rep numbers from my knees and when I could do 10+ in a row with proper form, then I’d start incorporating “real” push ups in plank position (2 in plank, 8 modified from my knees … gradually increasing the first number and reducing the modified number). Hope that helps! 🙂

  4. This is a lot more challenging than it looks but so worth it in the end. Planks have replaced crunches as the go-to core exercise and for a good reason, they’re way more effective than crunches.

  5. I’ve just started this challenge. I love it! As a 55 year old, in menopause, (blah), will this help with the middle weight gain? I have always been active and the same now. Never had this problem with weight on my middle. I am currently doing weights, upper and lower body, at the gym. I run, bike, walk the dog doing lunges. ….I am not seditary! But I cannot get rid of the stomach. I tried kick boxing and that is an insane workout, but hurt my wrist, so decided not to continue that. Any suggestions? But I’m going forward with the plank challenge!

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