Reverse Plank: Simple But Brilliant

By on May 18, 2021

The reverse plank is simple, yet brilliant. This is an easy movement that anyone can perform, at any level, anywhere. Yet it has the potential to benefit even the strongest athletes.

Reverse Plank

How to Reverse Plank

The reverse plank involves supporting your weight on your hands with your belly button pointing upwards (adults say “navel,” right?) and your heels resting on the floor. Nothing else should touch the ground, and your body and legs should form a straight line. In fact, you can even add a slight hip thrust and back extension if you like!

Optionally, you can also use this as an opportunity to train straight-arm strength, by locking out the elbows and keeping them perfectly straight. This will help to get you ready for moves like l-sit.

Reverse Plank Benefits

Either way, this isometric hold is perfect because it allows you to practice anti-flexion in the core. This means you’ll get better at resisting forward pulling movements and straightening your back out again. In short, this strengthens the erector spinae, alongside the glutes and hamstrings. It’s literally the opposite of plank, which is an anti-extension movement. 

This may be the missing link.

Because SO many of the exercises we use involve flexion or anti-extension, this may be the missing link. (This is also why plank may be redundant for people with a basic level of core strength.) It’s even more important, seeing as many of us spend the entire day in a slightly hunched-over, flexed position (while at a computer, for example). This can straighten us back out and restore balance, perhaps improving posture AND preventing injury.

Reverse Plank Benefits

Reverse plank is even more optimal for for preventing injury, seeing as it strengthens these muscles without adding a lot of compression of the vertebrae. This is something that Dr. Stuart McGill (The Back Mechanic) talks about a lot. He recommends against movements like the Superman, or back bridge, as he believes training the back should revolve around preventing movement.

See also: Why You Should be Doing the Bodyweight Row

I personally believe that thoracic mobility can and should be trained, but it’s certainly not suitable for everyone and this is a win all-round, with no compromises. Another great option that is similar, is the bodyweight row, but the reverse plank is far more convenient and versatile.

Finally, the reverse plank even offers some shoulder mobility, especially if you try and lift your chest higher. This translates to movements like the handstand and the overhead squat. You’ll also improve your hip extension (especially if you use some of the variations and alternatives listed below)!

For Athletes

And lest you think that this is just about injury prevention, it also has a lot of useful transfer for boosting performance. In particular, strengthening the glutes and erector spinae in this way can be helpful for performing cool calisthenics skills that involve holding the legs out behind you (such as the back lever, or planche) and, thanks to the involvement of the glutes and the hamstrings, it could also improve running speed – just like the glute bridge. Of course, the glute bridge involves more of a hamstring curl, so it will more directly translate to better athletic performance; but reverse plank is still a great way to ease yourself into better glute activation.

Variations

Crab Crawl

Variations involve adding a leg raise, or adding weight onto your lap to increase the challenge. You can also place your hands or legs on an incline to alter the angle and increase or decrease the difficulty.

A very similar movement with a lot of the same benefits is the crab crawl, or table-top. This is the same movement, but with your legs bent. In the crawl version, you then walk your hands and feet forward, making it a contralateral, locomotive movement. The crab reach is a table-top position followed by a reach with one hand over the opposite shoulder. This adds even more mobility benefits AND thoracic rotation. This one is courtesy of Animal Flow. It’s also a perfect precursor to a macaco.

Crab reach
Crab reach

And, of course, if you want to make this into a flow, then you can do so easily. Lift yourself from the ground into reverse plank, raise one leg at a time, move into table-top position, crab crawl a bit, then do some crab reaches and repeat!

All these variations can be added easily into any workout. They’re suitable for any level, they require zero equipment, and they offer massive benefits. Time to reverse plank!

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

6 Comments

  1. Kak says:

    What about bridges? You said Dr. Stuart McGill is against it, but what do YOU think about that exercises?

    Thanks

    • I’m a fan! I think they’ve been done by some extremely athletic individuals for thousands of years and that the body is highly adaptable to mild amounts of stress. They can do wonders for mobility and performance. Of course, it’s pretty ballsy of me to disagree with McGill, but I’m far from the only one on that specific point! What I would say, is that you need a decent amount of shoulder mobility before attempting the full bridge, otherwise the lumbar spine will extend, rather than the thoracic (which is what you want). While you work on shoulder mobility, the half-bridge is just fine 🙂

  2. Jernej says:

    my girlfriend strugels with a few physical limits and i designed a simple stretch/joga routine for her (i find myself using it regulary too) and this reverse plank has been in it since the begining. we do it just a slice differrently though, we place hands on the flor in the way that palms are completly turned (shoulders open, shoulder blades together), fingers pointing in the same direction as head (eyes looking in that direction too), hips lifted as much as posible, legs completly straight and toes out (balerina style). she does call me different names, mixed with curses, while we’re doing this stretch/joga (:D), but i did noticed her back hurts less since we started doing it.

  3. William Koch says:

    We actually discussed this movement in an Injury Prevention And Rehabilitation class I was taking last semester, and it’s nice to see someone discuss it more in depth outside of the context of rehab.

  4. Wesley Chisler says:

    I’m so glad to see this because I literally added this in Yesterday to my push workouts as a form of agonists-antagonistic core work

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