Planks are one of the most underrated exercises. Simple in theory, yet when performed correctly, can help strengthen the core and improve your overall training ability. A strong core is important to prevent back pain, improve posture, prevent injuries during your training and, ultimately, help you increase your strength with other lifts.

A proper plank begins with the basic position: on your forearms and toes, ensuring a neutral spine without arching your back or sagging your hips. Focus on keeping a strong core by imagining your belly button being pulled in to your spine. Hold this isometric contraction for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Make sure you are breathing throughout the activity. Once this is mastered, continue on to more advanced variations.

Jackknife Plank: From basic position on forearm, extend one leg off the floor, then laterally to the side, then back to starting position.

Bird Dog Plank: Begin with both hands and both feet on floor. Raise your right arm forward and left leg off the floor. Return to starting position and raise opposite arm and leg. Perform 20 to 30 total repetitions, alternating opposite arm and leg.

Stability Ball Plank: Using stability ball, place forearms on ball, and feet on bench, holding for 30 to 60 seconds.

Stability Ball Rolling Plank: Using a stability ball, place forearms on ball and feet on floor or bench. Roll the ball forwards and backwards with your forearms for 15 seconds, laterally to the left and right for 15 seconds, clockwise for 15 seconds and counterclockwise for 15 seconds.

Side Plank: Begin on right forearm and right foot, ensuring a neutral spine without allowing your hips to fall. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on left side. Advance this position by raising the top leg during the isometric hold.

Plank Jacks: Begin with hands or forearms on the ground, jump both feet out the side, then back to the middle, continuing for 30 to 60 seconds.

Up Down Planks: Begin with both hands on ground. Transition onto your right forearm, then left forearm, then push back up with your right hand, then your left hand. Continue with this pattern for 10 to 15 repetitions, then repeat beginning with your left side. Increase your speed to also achieve a metabolic workout.

Happy planking!