Plank with Leg Raises: Anatomical Analysis & Benefits

Why should you be doing the plank exercise as part of your training routine?


The plank is a fantastic full-body exercise for building core strength and stability, and you don’t need any special equipment to start reaching your fitness goals with this position.

It’s an easy exercise to do, yet difficult to master. There’s always room to advance –  you can add more time and test different variations to continue advancing your strength training goals.

Strong core muscles can even help maintain and strengthen a healthy posture, improve balance, make daily tasks easier, prevent injuries and more.

How to do the Basic Forearm Plank Exercise

➔ lie down on your stomach.

➔ Lift your body off the floor so that only your toes and forearms support your full body weight.

➔ Brace your core muscles to maintain a straight line from head to heel and a neutral spine.

➔ Keep your neck elongated and look down, not forward. You don’t want to strain your neck or back.

➔ Hold the position and breathe.

Leg Raise Variation

If you’ve mastered the basic plank and you’re ready to take on the next challenge, try out this variation.

While in the plank position, lift your legs off the ground.

The challenge of this variation is to shift the balance and maintain the plank position while holding the body on three limbs instead of four.

Don’t change your position when disconnecting the leg, try to make it look like all your limbs are on the floor even when one is disconnected.

The leg disconnection can last between one second of leg alternation to long holds of 30 seconds, depending on your goal and ability.

Which muscles activate in the plank with leg raises?

The External Oblique is dominant on the side of the lifted leg, and the internal oblique is dominant on the side of the supporting leg.

We chose to color the Rectus Abdominis and the Obliques in red because they are the dominant stabilizers in this exercise. Nevertheless, this exercise is not intended only for the abdominals but for all the core muscles working in coordination.

This exercise is intended to strengthen the core muscles, with an emphasis on the oblique abdominals and hip flexors of the supporting leg.

A common mistake you should avoid

Anterior pelvic tilt (APT) is when the pelvis rotates forward, which creates an arch in the lower back.  It is essential to maintain a neutral back throughout the plank exercise, or choosing to plank in a PPT (posterior pelvic tilt) can also be a valid option.

The reason for this mistake is compensation for weakness in the abdominal muscles or lack of awareness.

It is preferable to maintain a straight back and body alignment, as the core muscles are coordinated neurologically and have maximal ability to stabilize the spine in this position.

Target Muscles

➔ Abdominal muscles

➔ Erector Spinae

➔ Pelvic Diaphragm (male)

➔ Diaphragm

➔ Gluteus Maximus

➔ Iliacus

➔ Psoas major


➔ Abdominal muscles

➔ Erector Spinae

➔ Pelvic Diaphragm (male)

➔ Diaphragm

➔ Iliacus

➔ Psoas major


➔ Hamstrings


Check out our Strength Training app to increase your knowledge, made especially for fitness professionals!

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