If you’re looking to upgrade your core workout, then look no further than X planks.
This variation of the traditional bodyweight plank is a great way to tone up your abs, improve stability, shoulder strength and hip range of motion.
In this article, we dive into how to perform this exercise, the muscles worked and benefits. We also outline some example workouts you can follow along to.
How to Perform X Planks
To do X planks, start in a plank position before lifting one hand off the floor and tapping your opposite foot. Return to a plank position and repeat with the other hand.
A detailed step by step guide is detailed below:
- Start on all fours, with your knees and elbows touching the floor (in the table top position). Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders.
- Extend your feet backwards to lift your knees off the ground. Your legs should now be in a straight position with your heels off the ground too.
- Keep your hips lifted and avoided a rounded back.
- Carefully raise up from your elbows so they are straight and your hands are touching the floor. Hold this traditional plank position for a moment.
- Transferring your weight to your right shoulder and arm, lift your left arm off the ground and reach towards your right foot. As you do so, you will need to raise your glutes and hips to accommodate the movement. Once you’ve tapped your right foot, lower your glutes and hips, and place your left arm back on the floor.
- You should now be back into a normal plank position.
- Now transfer your weight to your left shoulder and arm, lifting your right arm off the ground and reach towards your left foot to repeat the movement on the other side.
- Keep doing this alternating movement for repetitions.
Tip – This should be a slow and controlled movement. Don’t try and rush things. The plank, like any exercise, benefits from proper form. Dropping your hips or rounding your back could lead to injury, so focus on maintaining the correct form, instead of trying to opt for speed.
The X plank primarily works the abdominals and core muscles. These muscles are required to keep your body stable during the movement. Unlike the traditional plank, this exercise is dynamic and the continuous movement requires other muscles to come in and lend a helping hand.
Lifting one arm off the ground to touch the opposite foot will require the remaining shoulder to take extra weight. This helps strengthen the shoulders and improve shoulder mobility and stability.
It will also work your hamstrings and calves, as you raise your hips up to touch your foot. At the moment of touching your foot, your body will look similar to a single arm downward dog pose.
Benefits of X Planks
X planks involve holding the plank position and therefore bring with them all the benefits of the plank exercise. These benefits are primarily centered around strengthening and toning the abdominals and core muscles. Planks also offer additional benefits such as improving posture, alleviating back pain and supporting better body stability.
The alternating foot tap of the X plank variation creates a whole host of additional benefits as well. As you transfer your weight to one side to lift up your arm, the remaining arm now needs to adapt to accommodate the extra weight. This helps strengthen the shoulders during the movement and also improve the stabilizing muscles in the upper body to avoid your body dropping to the floor during the foot taps.
X planks also help to improve hip range of motion and flexibility. As you raise your hips to reach towards your foot, it stretches out your hips and helps to combat tight hips. This supports better overall movement, particularly for those who find themselves sat for a long time.
The hamstrings and calves also benefit from X planks as you raise up. This movement helps to stretch out tight hamstrings and calves.
If you find you’re struggling during the movement, it may be a result of tight hips creating limitations. In this case, try incorporating movements like Asian squats into your stretching routine. Similarly, stretching straps can help loosen up tight muscles.
X Plank Variations
If you enjoy X planks and want to add progression, using wrist weights is a simple way to add additional weight to the movement.
Another option could be to do a push-up after each X plank, turning the exercise into more of a HIIT workout. The push-up would create upper body strength benefits, creating a very effective workout with just a few basic movements.