Planks are undoubtedly one of the most effective ab exercises. They are isometric exercises that require you to hold your body in one position and squeeze your target muscles as hard as possible for optimal muscle stimulation.
Since static exercises don’t require muscle contraction and extension, they don’t overburden your joints. Planks help improve your core strength, stability, endurance, stamina, and aesthetics and put you on a fast track to building a shredded six-pack.
Although planks are an incredibly effective ab exercise, most lifters dread them. The reason, you ask? They are boring. We’ll go as far as to say they are the most boring exercise. Holding a plank for 10 seconds can feel like an eternity. In these 10 seconds, you can’t help but think about the things you have been procrastinating on and how these planks add to them. You cut short your plank session, vowing to complete your pending chores, only to find yourself doing cable crunches.
If you can relate to the sentences above and feel like they are written by your soul brother, know this — they are.
What might work for one trainer might not work for the other. In this case, it is clear that isometric exercises are not for everyone. You, however, must not shun planks altogether. We have found the perfect dynamic plank variation that incorporates moving weights — the plank pull-through.
In this article, we cover everything you need to learn about the plank pull-through to get the best bang for your buck. You’ll discover this exercise’s correct form, benefits, target muscle groups, common mistakes, and best variations and alternatives.
What is a Plank Pull-Through?
Plank pull-through is a plank variation that combines dynamic and static exercises. It requires holding a plank while moving a dumbbell under your body from side to side.
If you’ve ever done the conventional plank before, you’d know it is anything but easy. Although you’re not moving in this exercise, you work extremely hard to stabilize your body.
The plank pull-through takes it a step further. This exercise requires moving a dumbbell under your body while holding a plank. Besides engaging your core, the plank pull-through works your shoulders, biceps, back, glutes, and hamstrings.
Like the standard plank, you must not let your hips drop during this exercise. From head to heels, your body should be in a straight line. Furthermore, don’t rush through the reps. Use a slow and deliberate movement and follow a full ROM.
By the time you finish this exercise, you’ll be questioning why you couldn’t contend with the conventional plank and wanted a more challenging variation.
What muscles do pull throughs work? Pull throughs are an effective exercise that primarily targets the posterior chain, which includes the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. This exercise is beneficial in improving hip hinge mechanics, enhancing hip and lower back strength, and promoting overall stability in the posterior chain. Additionally, pull throughs can contribute to improved core stability as your abdominal muscles work to maintain proper form during the movement.
Muscles Worked During Plank Pull-Through
The plank pull-through is a compound exercise that works the following muscles:
Your core is the primary target muscle of the plank pull-through. Besides your abs, this exercise engages your obliques as it requires reaching across your body with each rep. It is like combining planks with Russian twists.
The plank pull-through requires you to move a dumbbell from one side of your body to the other. The catch is that you can’t drag the weight across your body. You must lift it, and it shouldn’t touch the floor during the transfer. Lifting the dumbbell and pulling it across your body will engage the biceps.
The shoulders, especially the rear deltoids, are engaged as you pull the dumbbell across your body. The exercise’s pull-through movement resembles a rear delt fly, stimulating your posterior deltoids. Ensure that you are pulling through your elbows for optimal rear delt stimulation.
The pulling movement engages your lats and rhomboids. As you lift heavier, you’ll experience greater back stimulation. Use a high plank position for more back engagement and limit biceps recruitment.
Glutes and Hamstrings
You must contact your glutes and hamstrings while holding a plank to maintain your position and feel a better core engagement. Holding a plank for extended periods can fire up your glutes and hamstrings.
Benefits of Plank Pull-Through
Adding the plank pull-through to your exercise regimen entails the following advantages:
Makes Planks More Interesting
Planks can get very boring very quickly. Once you’ve mastered the movement and are over the learning curve, you’re just counting the days until you’ve built a half-decent core and can stop doing this exercise. Using additional resistance and a pull-through movement on the plank can reignite your love affair with the exercise and make it a constant in your training regimen.
Improve Core Strength and Stability
Planks are incredibly effective in improving your core strength and stability, which can result in better balance. Since you’ll be moving a dumbbell from one side of your body to the other, this exercise will also help improve your hand-eye coordination.
This variation adds a dynamic aspect to the conventional plank, turning the isolation exercise into a compound movement. Besides the core, the plank pull-through works your biceps, back, shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings. 
Like the conventional plank, the plank pull-through is a low-impact exercise, as you’ll be on all-fours for most of this exercise. This plank variation doesn’t stress your joints, tendons, and ligaments.
Many people spend a good chunk of their day hunched over their phones or computer screen, which leads to a rounded back. The plank requires you to hold your body in a straight line throughout, which can help fix your posture.
How To Do a Plank Pull-Through
This is how to perform the plank pull-through with the correct form:
- Lie prone on the floor.
- Place a dumbbell on your left side so its handle is parallel to your body.
- Place your elbows under your shoulders and lift yourself off the floor.
- Your lower arms should be parallel to each other, and your legs should be extended behind you. Balance your body weight on your toes. This is known as the low plank position.
- Ensure that your body, from head to heels, is in a straight line throughout the exercise.
- Lift your right arm off the floor and grab the dumbbell with an underhand grip.
- Lift the dumbbell and pull it to your right side.
- Place your right arm back in its original position.
- Repeat with your left hand.
- Alternate between sides for the recommended reps.
Plank Pull-Through Tips:
- Keep your hips and core stable while moving the dumbbell from one side of your body to the other.
- Lifting your hips slightly to accommodate the dumbbell movement is expected. The dumbbell shouldn’t graze your body during the exercise. It should move smoothly between you and the floor.
- Avoid twisting your body while performing the pull-throughs, as it removes tension from your core and puts it on your back.
- Ensure that the dumbbell doesn’t touch the floor as you move it across your body.
- Keep your head neutral throughout the exercise. Looking ahead can put unnecessary strain on your neck.
- Beginners can perform this exercise in a high plank position. It will, however, emphasize your back more than the low plank variation, as your lats will move through an extended range of motion.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Abs
- Secondary Muscle Groups: Shoulders, Biceps, Back, Glutes, and Hamstrings
- Type: Strength
- Mechanics: Compound
- Equipment: Dumbbell
- Difficulty: Beginner
- Best Rep Range: 15-20 Reps (Each Side)
Common Mistakes While Performing a Plank Pull-Through
Avoid the following errors during the plank pull-through:
Going Too Heavy
Many lifters let their egos get the better of them while performing the plank pull-through. Using more weight than you can handle will cause you to lose your balance while performing this exercise. Use a weight you can control with the perfect form for the recommended reps.
Turning To The Side
Your body should remain parallel to the floor throughout the exercise. Avoid twisting your torso to move the weight. Turning to your sides will result in greater back engagement and subpar core gains.
Dopping Your Hips
It is a classic planking mistake. A weak core results in sagging hips, which removes tension from your abs and puts it on your lower back. Your body should be in a straight line throughout the exercise.
Conversely, it is okay to lift your hips slightly to make space for the dumbbell to pass; however, you shouldn’t abuse this leeway and form a bridge. Lifting your hips too high will put greater stress on your shoulders.
Many folks rush through the reps while performing the plank pull-through and drop the dumbbell under their chest. You must place the weight under your elbow. Half reps are usually the result of a weak core or lifting too heavy.
Not Locking Out Your Elbows
This is a common issue in the high plank variation of this exercise. Soft elbows can make the movement unstable. You must lock out your elbows to avoid the chances of turning to your sides during the exercise.
Variations and Alternatives of Plank Pull-Through
Use these plank pull-through variations and alternatives to add variety to your training regimen:
Resistance Band Plank Pull-Through
This is a unilateral variation of the plank pull-through that helps keep constant tension on your muscles throughout the exercise. It also aids in fixing muscle and strength imbalances. Plus, the band pull-through significantly enhances the range of motion and stimulates your triceps.
- Tie a resistance band to the bottom of a sturdy object like a squat rack.
- Assume a plank position with your left side toward the pole. You should be about one foot away from the pole.
- Grab the end of the band with your right hand using a neutral grip. When taut, the band should be close to your left elbow.
- Pull the band to your right side by driving through your right elbow. Your right elbow should be parallel to the floor at the top.
- Extend your elbow so your arm is in a straight line.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for recommended reps before switching sides.
Pro Tip: Lifters tend to lose their balance during the triceps extension part of the movement. Avoid this from happening by keeping your core and glutes braced.
The renegade row is an incredibly effective exercise to build a solid back while strengthening your core. It involves performing dumbbell rows while holding a plank.
- Get into a high plank position while holding a dumbbell in each hand; your hands should be under your shoulders and your legs extended behind you.
- Maintain your body in a straight line throughout the exercise.
- Lift the right dumbbell off the floor and row it to your side.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the left side.
- Alternate between sides for the recommended reps.
Pro Tip: Don’t twist while lifting the dumbbell to your side. Keeping your torso parallel to the floor results in optimal back and core stimulation.
Check out our complete renegade row guide here!
The side planks work your core and obliques. You’ll also feel it in your shoulders if you hold it for extended periods.
- Lie on your left side on the floor. Your legs should be stacked.
- Plant your left elbow under your chest and place your lower arm in front of your body, so it is perpendicular to your torso.
- Rest your right arm on your side.
- Lift your hips off the floor. Your body should be in a straight line.
- Hold for the recommended time.
- Switch sides.
Pro Tip: You could take some stress off your side and hold the plank for longer by raising your top arm toward the ceiling.
Check out our complete side plank guide here!
Shoulder Tap Plank
The shoulder tap plank is a plank variation that can help improve your balance and stability. It might look easy, but it will leave you with a nasty pump.
- Get into a high plank position with your hands under your shoulders and your legs extended behind you.
- Your body should be in a straight line throughout the exercise.
- Lift your right hand off the floor and tap your left shoulder.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat with your left hand.
- Alternate between sides for recommended reps.
Pro Tip: Maintain a neutral shoulder position while performing shoulder tap planks. Avoid pushing your shoulders forward or back and down.
The up-and-down planks deliver a full-body workout and will smoke your abs.
- Start in a high plank position.
- Lift your right hand off the floor and place your right elbow in its place.
- Repeat on your left side.
- Return to the high plank position, starting with your right side.
- Repeat for recommended reps.
Pro Tip: Maintain a constant cadence while performing the up-and-down plank for optimal results.
The plank pull-through adds a dynamic aspect to the conventional static exercise, adding to the exercise’s appeal. Beginners should do three sets of 10 reps on each side of this exercise. On the other hand, intermediate and advanced lifters should do 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps on each side. Use a weight that will allow you to complete the recommended reps with the perfect form.
Make your core workouts more interesting using the plank pull-through variations and alternatives mentioned above. You must do at least two core workouts weekly to build a cover page-worthy midriff. Best of luck!
- Gottschall JS, Mills J, Hastings B. Integration core exercises elicit greater muscle activation than isolation exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Mar;27(3):590-6. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2cc7. PMID: 22580983.
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