Pilates series 8# on the dynamic plank

Once you have mastered the basic plank, the dynamic plank is a great way to strengthen your obliques. Wendy Davies explains


The hurdle plank (c) Iain Weir

The internal and external obliques are essential in controlling rotation of the body over the pelvis – something that’s key in sweep rowing.

Improving your basic plank

The basic plank is the starting point for the following exercises, so make sure that you have it nailed before you progress.


The plank is a popular exercise which works the abdominal and lower back muscles, shoulder stabilisers and gluteal muscles, so improves core and spinal stability. However, it has disadvantages.

Holding it for a sustained period can overload the neck, shoulders, discs and vertebrae. And, when fatigue sets in, it’s common to lose the quality of the exercise as the hips or shoulders drop, or the bottom rises.

Follow this programme to achieve the perfect plank

Perform one 30-second hold to start with, concentrating on keeping your body in a straight line – it’s a good idea to have a training buddy to check your form.

When you have perfected this, you can move on to two holds and ultimately three. A short rest in between planks allows some recovery time and reduces compression of the spine.

Once you have achieved three holds comfortably, gradually increase the time until you can hold a good quality plank for a minute. You are then ready to move on to the following dynamic variations, which are more specific to rowing.


Don’t let your chest or hips drop, and don’t push your bottom up.

A short rest in between planks allows some recovery time and reduces compression of the spine


Rowing involves a flowing, continuous stroke that conserves energy that can then be used to create power through the blade. It’s not an isometric sport that involves continuous bracing – that’s why these dynamic plank exercises are preferable to the static plank.

Exercise 1: Plank with knee to arm. A lady is in the plank position, lifting her right knee towards her elbow. Step 1: Adopt the basic plank position. Step 2: Take the knee towards the forearm, ensuring you maintain a neutral spine and shoulders. Step 3: Return to the start position in a controlled manner. Do 10 reps on one side before switching to the other. Exercise 2: Reverse plank. Step 1: Lie on your back then raise your hips and press up into a straight line with the fingertips facing forwards. Step 2: Hold this position for 30 seconds, keeping the spine in neutral and the chest lifted. Step 3: Slowly return to the start position. Practise until you can hold the plank for one minute without losing form before you progress.

1 – Plank with knee to arm


Don’t let your shoulders drop forwards.

Increasing the challenge
  • Take the knee across the body to the opposite arm.
  • This will work the obliques more.

2 – Reverse plank

Increasing the challenge
  • In the reverse plank position, tighten your glutes and thighs and slowly raise one leg a few inches off the floor.
  • Keep a neutral spine and don’t let the shoulders drop forwards.

Perform five reps on one side, then repeat on the other.

3 – Hurdle plank

Exercise 3: Hurdle plank. Step 1: Adopt the basic plank, making sure the spine and shoulders are in neutral. Step 2: Take one leg out to the side, bending the knee in a ‘hurdling’ action. Step 3: Slowly return to the start position. Do 10 reps on one side before switching to the other.


Make sure your leg is out to the side.

Increasing the challenge

Wendy Davies

Wendy Davies has over 20 years working with rowers and elite sportspeople, including at five Olympic Games, three Commonwealth Games and many training camps and World Championships.

Move on to performing two sets on each side, and then three.

4 – And rest!

To relax afterwards, why not lie on one side and open the top arm and back. Rotate your head so that your eyes follow your hand. Focus on your breathing and your arm opening.


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