How to Do a Reverse Plank

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

woman doing reverse plank exercise

Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Ana Alarcon

Targets: Lower back, gluteus, hamstrings, abdominals

Level: Intermediate

The reverse plank exercise is an often-overlooked exercise that is great for the core. It targets the posterior muscles (those along the backside of the body), but when done properly, it also engages the abdominal muscles. Although this exercise is most commonly seen in yoga classes, it's a nice addition to any basic core workout routine. Beginners should start with learning the regular plank. Progress to holding the reverse plank for just a few seconds at a time with good form.

Benefits

Your core is more than just your abdominal muscles. The core includes the hip abductors, hip adductors, hip flexors, and the lumbar spine. When done correctly, the reverse plank engages all of these muscles, as well as the glutes and hamstrings, for a challenging full core workout. The reverse plank exercise can also be used as a rehab exercise to improve core and spinal stabilization.

A strong and balanced core can help you maintain good posture and have ease of movement in your daily life. It also helps with performance in a wide variety of sports and physical activities.

Step-by-Step Instructions

This is a bodyweight exercise that requires no equipment other than an exercise mat. You will need space enough to fully extend your body.

woman doing reverse plank exercise
Photo: Ben Goldstein
  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Place your palms, with fingers spread wide, on the floor slightly behind and outside your hips.
  3. Press into your palms and lift your hips and torso toward the ceiling.
  4. Look up to the ceiling, point your toes, and keep your arms and legs straight.
  5. Keep your entire body strong and form a straight line from your head to your heels.
  6. Squeeze your core and try to pull your belly button back toward your spine. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds.
  7. If your hips begin to sag or drop, lower yourself back to the floor.
  8. Perform up to three sets of 30-second holds.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you can get the most from this exercise and avoid strain or injury.

Sagging

Once your body begins sagging, it is time to end the reverse plank. It's better to hold the correct position for a shorter time than to go for a longer time in an incorrect position. You may need to begin by holding the position for only a few seconds as you build your strength. You might begin with three sets of 10-second holds.

Hyperextending

Be careful not to hyperextend the elbows and knees. Your limbs should be straight but don't force it. Use your back and gluteal muscles to take the pressure off of the knees.

Neck and Head Position

Do not tilt your head forward or back. Keep your head and neck in line with your torso to avoid neck strain.

Modifications and Variations

The reverse plank is an intermediate level exercise. As you are building your strength you can use easier versions. Then as you master it you can make it more challenging.

Need a Modification?

If you have wrist problems, you could do this exercise with your elbows and forearms on the floor.

Beginners should hold the reverse plank only for as long as they can with good form. This may just be a few seconds at first. Do three sets at the amount of time you are able to hold correctly and end each time you feel your body sagging.

You may need to go back to the basic plank pose to develop your core strength:

  1. Kneel on a mat or the floor, and walk your hands out in front of you. Extend your legs behind you, and place your forearms parallel to each other.
  2. Lift your belly up away from the floor as you extend your spine.
  3. Try to keep your shoulders from slumping by focusing on keeping them away from your ears.
  4. Keep your head in line with your spine.
  5. Hold your plank for 10 breaths or 30 seconds. Eventually, work toward holding the plank for a full two minutes.

Up for a Challenge?

Once you have mastered the reverse plank with excellent form, you might try some variations. Wear a weight vest while doing the reverse plank to add difficulty.

You can do one-legged reverse planks, with only one foot on the ground. For another variation, in the one-legged reverse plank you lift the raised leg as far up as you can.

Safety and Precautions

Talk to your doctor or physical therapist if you have had an injury or condition involving your back, wrists, or shoulders to see if this exercise is appropriate for you. You will feel your muscles and core working during this exercise, but stop if you feel any pain.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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