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The classic plank and its variations are some of the most rigorous exercises for your entire core, or the stabilizing muscles in your shoulders, abdomen and hips. By adding a knee-to-elbow movement to the plank, you can incorporate a crunch into the exercise and boost intensity. This variation puts more stress on your abdominal muscles and improves your balance and coordination. Perform knee-to-elbow planks, using forward, lateral and diagonal leg motions.
By touching your knee to your elbow below your body in the plank position will blast the stabilizing muscles in your shoulder. For example, assume a plank position in which your arms are fully extended. Spread your fingers to give yourself more leverage. Slightly lift your glutes about an inch above the straight line formed by your head, body and legs. Bending your left leg, draw your left knee up and across your trunk. Gently touch your right elbow with your left knee, holding the touch for a second. You may have to slightly shift your weight and rotate your torso to achieve the touch. Slowly return to starting position. Repeat the knee-to-elbow touch with your right leg to your left elbow. Perform 10 reps, alternating your legs.
The Spiderman plank is similar to the knee-to-elbow plank, except you draw your right knee to your right elbow and then your left knee to your left elbow. The movement should resemble Spiderman crawling up a wall in slow motion and will tax all of your core muscles - front and side abdominals and lower-back muscles. Begin this variation of the plank with your forearms on the ground. Since the knee-to-elbow touch is not occurring below your body but to the side of your body, you don't need to fully extend your arms. Perform 10 reps, alternating between your right and left legs.
Side Plank with Crunch
Knee-to-elbow touches done in the standard plank position can also be performed in the side plank position. For example, begin by lying on your left side. Stack your right foot on top of your left foot. Prop your body on your bent left elbow, pointing your left forearm directly in front of you. Lift your body and hips up so your head, body and legs form a straight line. Bend your right elbow and position your right hand by your right ear. Bend your right knee and then crunch that knee toward your right elbow, staying in the same vertical plane as your body. Perform 15 reps and then repeat the exercise on the other side. You can also do a cross crunch in the side plank, which will target your obliques. Still on your left side, begin with your feet in a staggered position, putting your left foot in front of your right foot. Balancing your body on your right foot, bring your left knee up and across to the right elbow. Slowly return your left leg back to starting position.
Tips and Considerations
If you grow fatigued in a plank, you may find your hips will start to sag and cause your lower back to hyperextend. This compromised position puts too much stress on your cervical vertebrae and can lead to injury. To counteract this tendency, slightly pike your hips up to ease the pressure off your lumber spine. Keep your head neutral while in the plank position, directing your gaze at your hands. To increase the difficulty of knee-to-elbow planks, you can wear a weighted vest or ankle weights or perform the exercise with your hands or feet positioned on a stability ball.