Crunches vs Planks… Which is Better?

Not surprisingly, some exercises are much more efficient and effective than others. One of the exercise superstars is the humble plank.

Research has shown that planks outpace crunches when it comes to creating a stronger core. The secret lies in how many muscles you activate while performing a particular exercise.

Crunches isolate individual ab muscles and in an odd twist of physiology, more attention on individual muscles doesn’t equal more activation. In fact, there is far less muscle activation with exercises like crunches. 

Planks, on the other hand, are considered integration exercises: ab muscles are working with back, shoulder and glute muscles. That collaboration pushes muscle activation off the charts. Each muscle is working harder and you’ll see better and faster results.   

It’s also easier to focus on form with integration exercises like the basic plank, the side plank and mountain climbers because there’s no mistaking what’s happening with your muscles when you do these exercises correctly. Consider the almost immediate muscle activation instant gratification for your efforts. Even better, you’ll spend less time on a good plank with a better payoff than dozens of crunches that never seem to lead anywhere. 

Need a little plank inspiration? Here are 5 plank variations that will fire up muscle activation and heat up your core in just a few minutes.   




  1. Start in plank position, resting on your elbows instead of your hands.
  2. Be sure to keep the shoulders depressed back and down and the neck nice and long throughout the movement.
  3. Keeping your abs engaged, slowly swivel the hips..first to the right and then to the left.
  4. Feel your obliques driving this motion as you swivel from side to side with a slow, controlled motion.* You can modify this movement by resting on your knees instead of full plank position.



  1. Begin on your hands and knees in plank position. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Distribute your weight evenly across your hands.
  2. Lift your right leg up, in-line with your torso and pointing behind you. Keep the abdominals drawn in tight toward the spine.
  3. Draw the right knee toward the right elbow.
  4. Now, gently move your knee until you touch the left elbow.
  5. Return to the starting plank position and repeat on the other leg.




  1. Begin in plank position with your arms extended
  2. Lower yourself down, so your elbows are in a 90 degree angle, keeping your elbows by your side and your abs engaged.
  3. Move into to downward dog, pressing your hips up and back until your body makes an inverted “V.” Sink your feet into the floor as your chest presses toward your knees.
  4. Repeat




  1. Start in plank position, with your hands on the floor just underneath your shoulders. Hold for 10 seconds.
  2. Shift your weight to your left hand as you slowly lift your right hand off the floor, toward the ceiling. Rotate your torso and hips, keeping your shoulders and hips stacked on top of each other.
  3. Repeat on the other side.
  4. You can modify the side plank by resting on your elbows instead of your hands.



  1. Start in a high plank position.
  2. Engage the core and raise right hand and left foot off ground.
  3. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.
  4. Repeat