It’s hard to think of a better exercise than push-ups. You can do this virtually anywhere.
You can make it harder or easier with a simple shift in hand or foot placement. It is a proven upper-body muscle and strength builder.
And with just a little tweaking, you can make it a killer key move.
Enter the plank push-up.
As the name suggests, the plank push-up is a mash-up of the classic push-up with the core-building plank.
For those who find the plank or push-up too easy or boring, the plank push-up adds challenge and complexity.
Here’s how to nail your form every time.
Plank Push-Up: Step-by-Step Instructions
- Assume the plank position: arms, palms, and balls of feet on the floor, body straight from your heels over your head. Your feet should be shoulder width apart, your toes should be spread and your arms should be parallel.
- Without slouching your shoulders toward your ears, or letting your hips sag or lift, shift your weight to your left side and place your right palm on the floor under your right shoulder.
- Still maintaining a perfectly straight body, shift your weight to the right, keep your left arm flat, and straighten both arms to assume a top-of-a-push-up position.
- Reverse the movement, lowering your right arm and then returning your left arm to plank position, keeping your body straight the entire time.
- Repeat the movement, this time placing your left hand in front of your right hand in a push-up position. After both hands are in a push-up position, place your left hand in front of your right hand in plank position.
- Continue the movement, switching the arm that starts the step on each rep.
How to make plank push-ups easier
If plank push-ups are beyond your power at this point, don’t sweat it: lightening the load is easy enough. Here’s how:
- Material master. Before you attempt plank push-ups, you first need to become a pretty proficient plank-er and push-upper. Work these two basic moves – make sure you can hold a plank for 30 seconds and perform at least ten hard push-ups independently before combining them.
- Do the step-down version. In this version, start in an elevated plank — raise your elbows six to eight inches on the aerobic step and move your hands off the step (on either side of it) to get into a push-up position.
- Hands up work. Perform this move with your elbows elevated on a 12- to 18-inch box or step.
How to make plank push-ups harder
- Toss up a push. Once in push-up position, perform a full, narrow-grip push-up with good form on each rep. “Keep the hands just outside your chest, so that as you descend, your body forms an arrow shape and your elbows point about 45 degrees in relation to your torso,” says Cody Brown, CSCS.
- Do foot-up work. Perform the move with your legs elevated up to 18 inches.
- Add weight. If you have a weighted vest, wear it while moving, or have a partner place a barbell plate on your back while you move (and mark you to make sure it doesn’t fall off).
Benefits of plank push-ups
Plank push-ups offer all the benefits of both push-ups and planks:
- More muscle and strength in the chest (pectorals), shoulders (deltoids) and back of your arms (triceps),
- A strong anterior core (rectus abdominis)
- A strong oblique stomach
- An increased ability to stabilize your spine during active movement
1. They show you where you are weak
“This exercise can quickly show you where in your body you’re lacking strength depending on which part of the body you target to compensate with movement,” says Brown.
If your hips sag, you need to work your transverse muscles and anterior core (your six-pack muscles).
If you struggle to push yourself up from the bottom position, it’s your chest and shoulders that are lacking. And if your hips thrust upward, you need to focus on your glutes and hips.
2. They add complexity
Planks are a static exercise: You assume a static position, stabilize the core, and hold it until it hurts. But life is not static.
We’re constantly reaching, bending, stepping, running, and moving, and if you can’t keep your torso still while doing all of this, you’re going to fall — or pull something — pretty quickly.
Plank push-ups force you to stabilize your spine When you move – A key life skill, and a key function of core muscles.
3. How they teach twisting
Plank push-ups teach rotational stability at the core. The standard plank forces your core to resist overextension — or hyperextension — in the lower back.
Add the one-arm-at-a-time up-down element of the plank push-up and your core needs to create and resist rotation. Over-Rotation, often occurs when you perform dynamic sports movements such as walking, sprinting, or dynamic sports movements such as swinging a tennis racket or throwing a punch.
Work on steps and you’ll reduce the chance of injury in all forms of athletic movement.