The Plank Variation That's Much Easier On Your Joints

Planks are one of the most versatile and effective exercises. There are endless variations that work the muscles of the abdominal region, as well as arms and shoulders. But there is one particular position you should incorporate into your routine specifically because it's easier on your joints. It's called the bear plank, and it engages muscles all throughout your body, according to Livestrong.

A proper bear plank is accomplished by starting on hands and knees. Keep your wrists aligned with your shoulders and lift your knees about three to six inches off the ground. You want to engage your core muscles to keep your back straight, and be sure your shoulders don't slump. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds, release your knees to the floor for a 10 second rest, then repeat.

The bear plank will fire up muscles in your shoulders, arms, abdominals, glutes, and thighs. Because it utilizes the quadriceps and interior abdominal muscles, it reduces pressure on your lumbar spine, which is a point of pain for many people when they try traditional planks (via VeryWellFit).

Ways to challenge yourself with the bear plank

There are a few things to watch out for that can ruin your form and make the bear plank less effective. Don't let your lower back sag downward, as it puts pressure on the muscles in that region. Engage your abdominal muscles to ensure you maintain a strong, flat back. Watch out for hips that are positioned too high (mimicking yoga's downward dog position) or too low, like in child's pose. Also, to avoid strain on the neck, don't raise your head up to look forward. Keep you face toward the floor for best posture.

Once you've mastered the standard bear plank, you can up the ante by adding in a resistance band. Stretch the band around your legs, just above the knees, and separate your legs slightly to activate the resistance. Perform the same motion as a standard bear plank while engaging the resistance band (via Women's Health).

Another way to vary the bear plank is to add a donkey kick to it. Get into the bear plank position and raise one leg behind you and up. Keep the knee bent at 90 degrees throughout the move. Alternate legs and perform the plank for repetitions or time.

Experts recommend planks of any form as a way to actively warm up before a workout. The bear plank is particularly useful for this as it activates muscles throughout the body, including the torso and all extremities.