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10 Killer Variations Which Will Step Up Your Plank Game

(We know we’re not the only ones staring at the clock the whole time.) That’s why we asked Women’s Health‘s fitness director, Jen Ator, C.S.C.S., to mix it up with a few new iterations of this classic pose. Ladies, let us introduce you to the plank tap.  Planks are pretty much your best friend when it comes to buiding badass core strength. But if you’ve ever worked 30- or 60-second timed planks into your routine, you know they can be pretty damn boring.

“What I love about plank taps is that they are a simple—yet deceptively challenging—way to mix up the basic plank,” Ator says. “Each of these variations activates your entire core by creating instability through moving one or more of your ‘stable bases’ (a.k.a. your hands and feet).”

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Your abs aren’t the only body part you’ll be working, either. Variations like the forward reach and hand taps recruit your upper back and shoulders, while heel and lateral toe taps get your glutes and inner thighs more involved in every rep, Ator says.

The key to conquering each new move: keeping your core stable. “Think of it as keeping your core, and especially your hips, ‘quiet’ rather than them moving up and down or side to side with every rep,” Ator says. “You don’t get bonus points for speed with moves like these, you get points for control. So keep your reps slow and steady, focusing on keeping your core tight—think of bracing your abs like someone is about to punch you in the stomach.” (Take your core to the next level of awesome with Women’s Health’s Flat Belly Yoga DVD!)

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If you want to add these fancy-pants planks to your routine, choose one and challenge yourself to repeat the move for as long as you would normally hold a standard plank. Or, choose three to four variations and perform them back to back, completing 10 to 12 reps of each. Do one to two sets of this at the end of your usual workout, or perform two to three sets for a standalone ab workout.

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