The Best Cardio-Focused Plank Exercises for a Killer Core

Your core and abdominal muscles are so important for keeping your body healthy—and when activated, these muscles fire up to support your whole body in terms of posture, strength and flexibility and mobility.

That’s why a basic plank (where you have both arms extended, palms on the floor, to hold your body up, with spine long and straight, chest up, and neck relaxed in a straight line with eyes and head looking forward), is such a critical move that can work the whole body in one swoop. However, you can take this basic beginner pose up a notch by adding up different variations that remove the stillness and get your heart rate up, with a cardio boost.

By adding in cardio you’re turning this plank exercise into a more HIIT style, where there’s a cardio and high-intensity component that elevates the metabolism to yield a burn in calories. And don’t forget those endorphins—you can then boost mood and enjoy that after-burn effect and its calorie-torching perks, too!

Here are the best plank exercises that have cardio applied to increase the challenge on your body to blend both muscle-defining strength and aerobic exercise in one.

Mountain Climbers

After getting into basic plank pose, you can go into mountain climbers, which are a form of HIIT exercise that fuse both strength and cardio. These climbers get your heart rate high fast, as it’s a form of a sprint. This move targets your core and abdominal muscles, but also your whole body, including arms and back.

“This will help target and strengthen your triceps, deltoids, abs, back, hip flexors, quads and hamstrings, which are needed for boat pose,” Jennifer Gullang, RYT-500, certified yoga instructor and founder of ThePiEproject in Chicago, a non-profit organization in Chicago tells LIVESTRONG, as she demonstrates the move.

Up and Down Planks

While this move really focuses on building strength in the core, as well as back, forearms and shoulders, it does have a cardio aspect. To increase cardio further, go fast! Shift from forearm plank to straight-arm plank like lightning speed—time yourself to get in a specific number of reps in a minute, for example. Speed manipulation can help you burn more calories through cardio.

Plank Jacks

You can go into a basic plank or forearm plank for a greater challenge, but keep your spine straight as you then start to “jack out” those straight legs, in and out. This hones in on your core and abdominal region and it fires up your metabolism and heart rate to blast calories. You can even do a combination—do 10 plank jacks and then one push-up, with a few reps per set. You’ll be sweaty by the end!

Clap Push-Ups

This is quite the advanced move—so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t nail it just yet. Do a push-up in plank position, but when you come up clap your hands together before going back down to do another. It is hard! But, it’s good to have goals, right? This one really spikes your heart rate with that clap and it can shock your body. Make sure to keep your core muscles tight and breathe!

Too hard? Do speed push-ups instead! Go as fast as you can and bust out a high number of push-ups in 30 seconds or a minute flat. Test yourself—make it a challenge and see how far you can get each week!


Shoulder Taps

This one is all about speed too, so hold yourself in a straight-arm plank and go for a speedy round of shoulder taps. The cardio is all in how much effort you put in, but you can really break a sweat, here. Make sure to stay strong in your stance and maintain straight posture, without swinging your body side-to-side as you tap each shoulder. You can prevent this by engaging your core muscles and locking them in.


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