There’s hardly a stone left unturned when testing the plank variations in Tom’s Guide, but the Commando planks are one of the best we’ve tried. Also referred to as flip boards, flip boards, military planks And Walking boards, the movement burns muscle groups from head to toe.
To do commando planks, simply move from a high plank position to your forearms and back again without swinging, lifting or dipping your hips. Easier said than done, but if you understand your form, this step carries a lot of benefits.
Below, we cover how to do commando planks with proper form and the most common mistakes you’ll encounter when trying them. We also discuss the benefits of commando planks and why a core exercise is so effective at strengthening your core muscles. Also, here are the best yoga mats for doing planks.
Commando Planks: The Benefits
Commando Planks target and strengthen your core, shoulders, back, chest, glutes, hamstrings and quads. Most people notice the focus on the shoulders more than the other variations.
Fixed panels are used isometric contraction, which means the muscles are under stress without flexing or extending, but the Commando Plank adds an upper body movement to challenge the muscles even more. The combination of isotonic and fitness exercises means that some muscles will engage to stabilize your body (such as your core muscles), while others (in your arms) will lengthen and shorten.
The commando plank is technically a compound exercise, which targets different muscle groups, and can improve posture by strengthening the muscles around your spine along with your other core muscles. You can learn more about planks and muscle work here.
Another benefit of commando planks is their ability to raise your heart rate, making them a great addition to your high-intensity cardiovascular workout. You can try the move anywhere without any equipment or weights, which means the plank variation is just as effective as it gets.
Find out what happened when you did 90 Commando Planks every day for a week.
How to do Commando Planks
Here’s how to do this woodwork variation properly.
- Begin in a plank position on your mat with elbows extended, shoulders over wrists, and hips in line with your shoulders
- Squeeze as many muscles as you can and gently suck your belly button in toward your spine
- Lower your left elbow onto the mat under your left shoulder, then your right
- Pause in a forearm plank position, then press up and place your left palm back on the mat under your left shoulder, followed by your right
- Repeat, switching your front arm each time. Lower your knees for additional support if needed.
Commando Planks: Common Mistakes
Commando planks help strengthen your lower back and hamstrings, which encourages better posture and protects your spine. But making a mistake can lead to injury. These are the most common errors we see.
Commando planks require stability, coordination, and balance as you move one side of your body at a time. Whether you’re new to the exercise or have logged hundreds of reps, watch your hips. It should always lie square on the rug, without swaying from side to side. Avoid dipping your hips below shoulder height or pushing your butt up toward the ceiling.
Planks and their many variations are not just basic exercises. Practice contracting as many muscles as possible, including your abs, buttocks, legs, back, chest, and shoulders.
If you are struggling, try creating a mental checklist from head to toe and gently tap each muscle group as you bring awareness to them. We spoke to calisthenics coach Jase Robinson, who created this calisthenics exercise, and he mentioned a compound contraction—muscle contracting simultaneously—using the three B’s: back, stomach, and butt.
By focusing on the conscious contraction of larger muscle groups, you should also be able to subconsciously contract smaller muscles.
Hold your breath
When doing strenuous exercise (especially an isometric movement such as the plank), people tend to hold their breath. Try using diaphragmatic breathing instead, which is an expanding, not a restricted breath. Your abdominal muscles assist your diaphragm, and the dome-like muscle is technically part of your core muscle network.
According to the Cleveland ClinicThe extended breathing method should help strengthen the diaphragm, lower blood pressure, and help with relaxation.
Commando Plank: Variations
You can lift one leg in the air at a time to challenge your balance or focus on building reps. If you program it as part of a resistance session, start with 6-8 reps and 2-3 sets, then gradually increase the repetitions over time.
If you’re comfortable with the exercise and want to mix it up, practice achieving your maximum number of repetitions over a certain amount of time as part of a high-intensity session. For additional resistance, place a weight on the center of your upper back or try a weight vest.
I recommend using a weight jacket to make your body weight exercises harder but avoid adding them to your aerobic exercises, as they put extra load on your joints. If you are having issues with weight-bearing activities, consider missing them out.