Sit-ups and crunches have always been the go-to exercise for working out your ab muscles. However, fitness experts are beginning to advise people against the ab-standard exercise, mainly due to risks of back injuries.

So what’re solid alternatives to keep that Holiday belly manageable? Planks are the best way to not only tone your abdominal muscles, but strengthening your entire body as well. And once you’ve mastered the plank form and technique, there’re variations that’ll push your body more than crunches ever could.

Check out the video to learn these five planking variations:

  • Running Man Plank
  • Bird Dog Plank
  • Uneven Plank
  • Hamstring Curl Plank
  • Wide Stance Plank

Once you’ve mastered those five, challenge yourself with these variations:

Flipped Wrist Plank


flipped-wrist-plankStart positioned in your standard plank position. Flip both hands around so the fingers face the toes and the inner elbows face forward. This is a great variation for stretching tight wrists and shoulders; hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

One-Arm Plank



Once again starting from your standard plank, place one hand on your lower back with your palm facing up. Always keep your form in mind, not arching your break, and keeping your body parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch hands.

Toe Lock Plank


toe-lock-plank-720x320Start from the plank, and rest your right foot on top of your left by taking the space between your big and second toe of your right foot and clipping it around your left Achilles heel. To engage your core further, pull back with your heels. Again, hold this one for about 30 seconds.

Extended Plank


extended-plankStart in a plank then walk your hands forward 10 to 12 inches in front of you. It’s more difficult than it looks! See if you can hold this one for 15-30 seconds.

Tree Plank


posse-plankFrom the standard plank, bring your left heel to meet your right inner thigh. Turn your left knee to open up to the side. Hold for 30 seconds on each leg. This is a great butt toner!