Progressing tension exercises?


Level 5 Valued Member
Hey everyone

A quick question regarding your own frequency and progression of plank/total body tension work.

As an OS coach I don't frequently seek out movements that require total body tension. Very often we move in and out of movements and allow tension to flow. This is not better nor worse than alternative just a bit different.

I dont frequent KB swings etc so holding onto full body tension in my training is not something I spend a great deal of time on.

I have recently acquired a one arm pushup and feel an ability to generate more force and tension would improve the quality of these.

My question is - how have any of you progressed the use of planks and/or side planks?

I have incorporated some Stu McGill big 3 (namely bird dog/speed skaters and some planks) into my sessions for experimentation purposes.
I like the 10 seconds on 10 seconds off. I have been doing them for 5 reps then, 4, then 3.

If lengthening time of hold isn't ideal given the inability to create the required total body tension, then how are you progressing these movements?



Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Other than the basic progressions of:
  • Generate more tension
  • Increase the time of the hold
  • Increase the reps
You can also:
  • Elevate one arm (don't move or shift)
  • Elevate one leg (same)
  • Elevate one arm and one leg
I hope you're already doing a hardstyle plank. Also search for "Hartle plank" you'll find a few more tension tips to crank it up.

Beyond that, it's hard to progress a plank, although in a side plank you can hold the top leg up also. So then you can go to hollow hold and hollow rocks. Progress with hands down, then hands above head. For more abdominal strengthening: hollow hangs, hanging leg raise with various assistance, hanging leg raise with no assistance... etc.


Level 8 Valued Member
I think static holds of progressively harder plank variations helped me a lot with generating tension and body position towards the one arm push-up.

Treat it like strength work though. Full body tension for 10 seconds, rest for MINUTES. Two sets is really all one needs, and reducing the sets psychologically opens the flood gates to go all out on tension (no thought of Sheesh! Five more rounds of this???).

Start with the easiest variation (my progressions, probably stolen, are below). Start out at your COMFORTABLE maximum time (could be just 2 seconds to start). Progress length on set two before progressing set one.

Round 1, 2
Day 1 2s, 2s
Day 2. 2s, 3s
Day 3. 3s, 3s
Day 4. 3s, 4s
........and all the way to....
Day X. 10s, 10s
Then move to the next harder variation and start back over.

I progressed something like....

Regular plank
(top of push-up)

Plank with thumbs touching
(Top of diamond push-up)

Thumbs touching, one foot off the ground
(Alternate which foot raised each rep)

One hand plank, feet apart
(Top of one arm push-up)
(Alternate which hand)

One hand, one leg plank
(Top of one arm one leg push-up)

One arm push-up plank at 1/4 way down
(Lower 1/4 rep from top of OAP and hold)

OAP plank at 1/2 way down

OAP plank at 3/4 down

OAP plank at rock bottom

OAP lower to bottom, raise to 3/4 and hold

OAP lower to bottom, raise to 1/2 and hold

OAP lower to bottom, raise to 1/4 and hold

OAP with pause and holds at...
1/4 down
1/2 down
3/4 down
Then all the way up with no pauses

OAP with pause holds at.....
All the way down no pause

OAP with pause holds at each station down and up

Full OAP.
Top Bottom