The Elbow Plank VS Pushup-Position Plank

Note: This post is sponsored by SpecForce Abs.

QUESTION: John, what is your recommendation and/or can you explain the different benefits of the high plank vs. the plank while on elbows?

The Elbow Plank VS Top-of-Pushup-Position Plank

ANSWER: The high plank, also known as the “top-of-pushup position,” is identical to the typical elbow plank, except for the fact that your arms are extended and fully locked out. This accomplishes two things:

1) It decreases the leverage disadvantage, thereby making the pose slightly easier to hold. This is because the closer to vertical/standing that you get, the easier the plank position becomes. For instance, doing a plank with your hands/arms placed on a counter-top or against a wall is much easier than doing a plank on the floor simply because of the angle of your body in relation to gravity. On the flip side, if you elevate your feet in relation to your arms, then the angle will get more challenging as more of your bodyweight becomes distributed onto your arms.

2) The top-of-pushup-position plank also places the bulk of your weight distribution on the palms, instead of beneath the elbows. This usually means that the tricep muscles get some relief, but that the larger muscles surrounding the shoulders have to work a little harder to stabilize the position (as a side note: most top-level plank performers that I’ve talked to have considered the shoulders the weakest link in this exercise).

So, in essence, the top-of-pushup position plank is performed at an easier angle and uses larger muscle groups – making it a more efficient exercise. That’s just a fancy way of saying that it’s easier. Obviously, this could be good or bad depending on your training goals. If the positions themselves are irrelevant to your training goals (ie you don’t have incredibly specific athletic or vocational needs that merit the use of one pose over the other), then the decision of which to use comes down to whether you want your arms or shoulders to be the weakest link. Personally, I think the difference is negligible, and I’d actually recommend using both equally.

This is why I often recommend using a variety of plank positions in your training program – even cycling through them in a circuit fashion, as opposed to doing one long plank in one pose (example here). Of course, there are mental training benefits to be had from just holding one static plank for time. This is also considered much more physically challenging than cycling through a bunch of positions. However, from a physical development standpoint, training your core strength with a variety of positions is going to be vastly superior than specializing in just one position, which comes with the risk of over-use injuries and over-training in general. This is the same reason why I recommend switching up your grip when doing sets of pullups, and including odd object lifting in your program once in awhile.

All that said, if I had to choose one, I’d still prefer the top-of-pushup-position plank because I think this is a more practical posture to strengthen for day-to-day activities, but that’s just my personal preference. Your mileage may vary, and ultimately, I’d recommend using the one that you like doing the most.

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Related Posts:

The Right Way to do the Plank Exercise

30 Days to a 5 Minute Plank and Rock-Hard Abs

The 5 Minute Plank For Core Strength, Stability, and Rock-Hard Abs

How to do the Side Plank Exercise for the Best Results

Another Plank World Record That We Can All Learn From

Training Tips From The 3+ Hour Plank World Record Holder

The Ballistic Plank Exercise for Rock-Hard Abs

The Elbow Plank VS Pushup Position Plank

How Long to Hold a Plank

Beginner Level Core Strengthening Exercises

Note: this post is sponsored by SpecForce Abs

SpecForce Abs

7 Responses

  1. Aaron Everyday

    Does either position work the abdominals more and or differently?

    • Yes and no. The difference between the two isn’t really substantial enough to merit using one or the other for ab-specific purposes. I’d recommend doing both, but if you have a preference, then focus on the one that’s most comfortable for you.

  2. I believe that for core abdominal strength the elbow to the floor position is better because in the “push up position”, arms and shoulders tire before you get a substantial abdominal burn that is needed for the idea behind this core strength excersize. Any thoughts?

    • I think it’s a matter of personal preference. Some people find the elbow plank more comfortable and others find the pushup position plank more comfortable. So, whichever one is most comfortable and allows you to train your core the longest, that’s the one I’d recommend. That said, as I mentioned in the video, the elbow plank is slightly more challenging than the TOPP plank.

  3. Hey Chris,

    I wanted to ask you about the leg position while doing the elbow plank. Should legs be close together or hip wide apart? Does it make any difference?



    Hey John, Very interested! Have been working through the Pull-Up Solution and it has been an enlightening epiphany to an exercise that has frustrated me for too many decades! Would really like to see not only the ab workout but the “John Sifferman Approach” to push-ups and ALL of the basic exercise WITH weights – with all of the minute details that make your approach so valuable. Thanks for all that you have shared and looking forward to more.

  5. The army used to put us in pushup position quite often. I actually would like to start doing, “Plank pushups”, since I get bored

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