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The plank is a standard core training exercise, one that fires up abs and glutes and lower back. But let’s be real: Once you’ve held it for, oh, 30 seconds (maybe a minute), it gets, well, boring.


But it can be far more challenging than that, especially when something’s working to pull you off-center. That changes the balance demands of the move, pushing your core to the limit, and it’s a next-level idea that Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. uses frequently. He does it again with the mixed-style elevated plank row series, which will leave your abs on fire while layering major muscle and strength onto your back, too.

“This move is all about ever-changing demands on your abs,” Samuel says. “No two reps in this series are the same back-to-back, and that means every part of your core — from abs to glutes to obliques and smaller stabilizers — must repeatedly make microadjustments in order to keep your hips and shoulders square throughout. Your core winds up on fire.”

You’re leveling up the plank in vicious fashion, and neither body and mind ever get to rest. It’ll keep you focused and building muscle. And that’s not it. “We’re also attacking the back from multiple angles,” Samuel says. “As far as horizontal pull (rowing) moves go, this move is as complete as it gets.”

You also wind up patterning strong row mechanics, says Samuel. “Your goal on the iso-holds is to continue pulling upwards, not just to barely survive them,” he says. “You’re working to pin the dumbbell to your chest, and doing so will feed good, clean, strong row reps.”

You’ll need a dumbbell and a bench (or a chair, or some other surface where you can place your elbow) to do work through this series. If you need a dumbbell, check out this adjustable set from Bowflex.

You wind up destroying your abs, says Samuel, while also perfecting your rowing technique. “We’re eliminating any chance of creating rotation or using jerky technique because our core winds up super-focused on staying in good plank position,” he says. “So you’re focusing on your back.”

Use the move as a back day finisher. It’s also a perfect move to do in a hotel or home gym when you’re working with limited resistance. “You can’t quite load this up like you would a dumbbell row,” says Samuel, “although I do want you pushing the weight as high as you can with good form. The heavier you’re working here, the more your abs will face great challenge on those elbow-flared rows.”

For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program.

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