Last week we provided an introduction to plank exercises because I believe that planks are one of the best ways to build your core strength and make you a better runner.

I admittedly had to be sold on the idea of planks over some of the other more traditional core exercises but now I use them almost exclusively to develop and maintain my own core strength and the strength of my runners. Some of the many benefits of plank exercises include:

  • Supporting your lower back and hips while running and reducing your chances of injury
  • Improving your posture while running

  • Improving your running economy and efficiency

  • Improving your overall strength and ability to maintain your form in the latter stages of a run or a race

  • Improving mental focus especially under physical fatigue

Planks also target a number of different muscle groups simultaneously, they don’t strain your lower back (as crunches sometimes do) and they don’t take very much time. With planks (and one of the reasons I like them so much) you’re essentially getting a lot of “bang for your buck”.

I’d like to take this time to highlight some of the ways you can modify the traditional plank exercise and make it an even more effective part of your workout routine. If you're just getting started with planks, I suggest attempting the first one or two types of straight-arm planks and doing 10 reps per leg. Then as your strength improves, you can try the rest of the series.


This series of planks are a little easier to execute over forearm planks, and they offer a variety of ways to activate your core and supporting muscles.

Forward Plank with Leg Lift

Forward Plank with Alternating Toe Taps

Forward Plank with Knee-to-Elbow

Two-Point Forward Plank

Forward Plank Hip Dips

Side Plank with Leg Lift (or Star Plank if your arm is raised)

Side Plank Thread-The-Needle

Side Plank with Knee Tuck

Reverse Plank with Leg Raise

Reverse Plank with Alternating Toe Taps


This series of planks are a little bit tougher to execute because they recruit your muscles faster, but they share a lot of the same movements as the straight-arm planks. See if you can challenge yourself!

Forearm Plank with Leg Lift

Forearm Plank with Alternating Toe Taps

Forearm Plank with Hip Dips

Forearm Plank with Knee-to-Elbow

Forearm Side Plank with Leg Lift

Forearm Side Plank with Knee Tuck

Forearm Reverse Plank with Leg Lift

Forearm Reverse Plank with Toe Taps

For a demonstration of all of these movements, check out my plank series videos on YouTube:

Straight-Arm Planks demo video

Forearm Planks demo video

Coach Mwangi is a USATF-Certified running coach and competitive runner. He is the former head coach at Rhode Runner and he has coached a wide range of athletes from milers to marathoners. He has has also written about a wide range of topics related to running training. He can be reached at

Run Better. Run Smarter. Run For Life.

Coach Mwangi