There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing straight arm planks, what will the effects be?
Straight arm planks, also known as high planks, are a variation of the plank exercise where you stand on your hands with straight arms instead of leaning on your elbows.
Compared to elbow planks, straight arm planks are harder on your wrists and a tiny amount easier on your core muscles. The regular elbow plank is harder on your elbows.
Choosing between these two variations is mostly whether you want to put more pressure on wrists or elbows and personal preference.
Straight arms are typically done to grow and strengthen core muscles like your abs and obliques. For other fitness goals, there are likely many better exercise options. Even for this goal, more dynamic core exercises can be more effective.
If you do decide to do straight arm planks you may need to do them weighted soon to keep seeing muscle growth and strength progress.
Whether you should add straight arm planks or alternatives to your routine depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.
How to do a straight arm plank
If you want to make the exercise easier on your wrists you can put your hands on a soft yet sturdy surface. To do a straight arm plank take the following steps:
- Sit on your hands and knees.
- Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line. This means that your knees will be off the ground and that you are resting on your feet and elbows. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched and your hands under your shoulders.
- Hold this position for an extended period of time.
The main attention point when doing a straight arm plank is keeping your body straight. Do not lower your hips too much but don’t raise them too much either. Besides that, keep your head and neck in line with your body.
If straight arm planks are currently too hard for you, you can start with knee planks or other core exercises.
On the other hand, straight arm planks can also become too easy. At this point, you can do straight arm planks while wearing a good weighted vest or with a weight plate resting on your lower back to keep seeing muscle growth and strength progress.
Additionally, there are many plank variations to target different muscle groups or focus on different fitness components.
Muscles worked with straight arm planks
With any exercise you will almost always make a variety of different muscles work, especially with a compound core exercise like straight arm planks. Even so, there are a few muscles that will have to work the hardest for moving and keeping your body in position.
Some of the primary muscles worked with straight arm planks include:
- Abs, obliques, and other core muscles
Some of the secondary muscles worked with straight arm planks include:
- Erector spinae
- Variety of upper back muscles
Compared to elbow planks, straight arm planks mostly engage tricep and forearm muscles a bit more. Additionally, the exercise becomes slightly easier on your core muscles.
The straight arm plank is a type of isometric exercise. This means that you engage your muscles in a more static way, without moving a lot. On the other hand, you have isotonic exercises where you engage your muscles in a dynamic way, by moving.
Isotonic exercises are generally more useful for building muscle. That means that other core exercises are likely better for building a lot of core muscle. That being said, there are still ways to get more muscle gain out of a regular bodyweight straight arm plank.
The way you build muscle in places like your core is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.
If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.
By adding extra resistance to exercises like a straight arm plank you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time. If you don’t overdo it, give your body enough nutrients, and give your muscles enough rest this can in turn lead to faster and more core muscle gain.
Straight arm plank benefits
Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding straight arm planks to your routine can offer you some amazing benefits.
While straight arm planks do focus on a few additional muscles, most of their benefits are similar to regular planks. Some of the most important ones include:
- Stronger muscles: Straight arm planks are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your core muscles.
- Can help with losing weight: Doing straight arm planks likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss. Keep in mind that there are better exercise choices if weight loss is your goal.
- Improves mood: Exercise like straight arm planks promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
- Can improve posture: When doing straight arm planks you engage muscles that can be helpful for improving your posture.
- Improves sleep: Exercise like straight arm planks can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
- Slows down aging: Straight arm planks won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Core strengthening exercises like straight arm planks can reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). If you currently have back pain you do want to be careful and talk to an expert before implementing this exercise.
While inevitably many workouts are better for some of these benefits than straight arm planks, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
The main thing to keep in mind is that straight arm planks can be hard on body parts like your back, hips, elbows, wrist, shoulders, and neck even if you implement the right technique.
If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back or wrist pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before implementing straight arm planks into your workout routine.
If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that straight arm planks are not (yet) for you.
Straight arm plank alternatives
While straight arm planks can be a great addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your core muscles. Some of these straight arm plank alternatives include:
- Ab wheel roll-outs
- Compound core exercises
- Other plank variations
- Reverse crunches
- Bicycle crunches
- Leg raises on the captain’s chair
- Flutter kicks
Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.
Many people will benefit from adding straight arm planks with the right technique to their routine. You may need to make the regular version more challenging soon to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.
That being said, for goals besides strengthening your core muscles and making them stand out more, there are likely many better exercise options. Even for this goal, more dynamic core exercises may be more effective.
You also need to remember that straight arm planks can be hard on body parts like your back, hips, elbows, and neck even if you implement the right technique.
If you are sensitive or weak in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back or wrist pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more straight arm planks.
Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing straight arm planks is a workout you love, great. If not, plank alternatives and other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.
If you do decide to implement more straight arm planks make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.