The plank is a standard core training exercise, one that fires up abs and glutes and lower back. But once you master the plank, it’s also a recipe for boredom, with little variety and little new way to challenge your core.
Spice it up — and send your abs and your mid-back into serious overdrive — with the plank row hellset, a deadly workout finisher from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. Here, you’re not just merely holding a plank. You’re mixing in plank row reps and plank row iso-holds, a deadly combination that keeps your mind engaged and constantly changes the responsibilities of your abs.
“Your goal in this is to keep your hips and shoulders square the entire time,” says Samuel, “but that’s easier than it looks because we’re constantly changing the demands on your core in this series, alternating between row holds and row reps. That means your abs must constantly adjust exactly how aggressively they’re creating tension and fighting against anti-rotation.”
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 the plank row hellset. If you need a dumbbell, check out this adjustable set from Bowflex.
Your lats and rhomboids will get plenty of work, says Samuel, but it’s your abs that may wind up more smoked than anything. “You’re battling ever-constant time-under-tension for your core,” says Samuel, “but facing it in a bevy of different ways and getting very little chance to breathe.”
The Plank Row Hellset works perfectly 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’re rowing a lighter weight than you would on a standard dumbbell row,” says Samuel, “but we’re drilling perfect form so it’s worth it.”
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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