The RKC Plank stands for Russian Kettlebell Challenge plank exercise, and is one of the most effective, time-efficient ways to challenge and build your core strength and endurance. This plank variation is a great way to develop your abs and back, and this is also a great way to improve your overall strength.

Even if you’re not a card-carrying fitness enthusiast, you’ll appreciate the benefits of incorporating this move into your routine. It challenges your core, as well as your glutes in a maximum contraction which you don’t get from a normal plank position.

This exercise is a fantastic upgrade when your standard planks no longer thrill your core and you are able to carry the position for a longer duration. This plank variation is also one of the best ways to activate the core and expose it to maximum tension, which will help you to perform more challenging moves and carry on to compound exercises with ease.

To level up on your planking and score an enviable rig, this complete RKC Plank exercise guide will have you engage and squeeze the right muscles to make your move worth the while.

This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:

  • How To Do The RKC Plank
  • Benefits of RKC Plank
  • Common RKC Plank Mistakes To Avoid
  • RKC Plank Muscles Worked
  • RKC Plank vs Normal Plank
  • Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
  • RKC Plank Variations
  • RKC Plank Alternative Exercises
  • FAQs About RKC Plank

How To Do The RKC Plank

What You’ll Need:

  • Exercise Mat or Yoga Mat – although you can virtually plank on any flat surface, a good mat helps you stay in place and observe proper form and alignment while performing the RKC Plank.
  • Bodyweight –  The RKC is an exercise with no equipment required, and it’s easy to perform. This exercise can be performed from various angles, giving you the ability to target different body parts.

Step 1. Start in a plank position

From a standard plank position, clench your hands together, up on your toes, body straight, and resting on your elbows at 90 degrees. Contract your quad muscles to support your knees, and squeeze your glutes as hard as possible.

Step 2. Spread the Tension Further

To increase the stabilizing force from your glutes, squeeze your shoulders towards your toes as if assuming a pike position. Push your shoulder blades away from the floor to increase upward mobility.

Step 3. Hold The Position And Breathe

Maintain the squeezed glutes and overall body tension and hold for 10-15 seconds while you breathe normally. You will feel your muscles start to shake up. You would want that maximum tension on your core, hips, shoulders, toes, and glutes. 

Step 4. Release The Tension And Repeat

Release the tension by lowering down your knees. That is one rep. You can extend the plank duration to 30 seconds. Always pay attention to the form, and keep the tension high.

5 RKC Plank Benefits

1. Improves Lifting Performance

Core strength is essential for those who participate in lifting that requires massive demand on the core, quads, and glutes. To perform these exercises, you can use the RKC to enhance your performance because it improves full-body strength and spinal rigidity and maintains a neutral spine. It also boosts your lifting game such as in Deadlifts where the exercise requires strong hip extensions and powerful glutes and quads.

2. Reduces Injury Risk

The core plays a crucial role in our body’s stability and control over movements. You can improve this by doing exercises that target the core, like the RKC, to enhance stability and keep injuries at bay. Strengthening these body parts reduces the risk of injury because studies have shown that injuries are less likely when reinforcing the core muscles.

3. Increases Muscle Definition

Our muscles are damaged when exposed to training stimuli, making them look more defined. RKC can be difficult for the abdominal area, so it’s not surprising that it’s one of the best exercises for increasing fiber size and possibly improving the appearance of a more defined midsection.

4. Builds Muscle and Improves Strength

The RKC activates a vast array of muscles throughout the body, making it one of the best exercises for developing full-body strength. The most significant improvements in power are likely to be seen with core muscles, but lower and upper extremities will adapt and improve. As detailed in the points following, increasing full-body strength can positively influence athletic performance and injury risk.

5. Strengthens your Hips

Hip tension is crucial for big compound lifts and other similar movements. The RKC teaches you how to control your hip position so that it’s not overextended, which can cause lower back pain during the training. Contracting the glutes helps with maintaining a rigid position while tilting the pelvis.

Common RKC Plank Mistakes to Avoid

Holding your Breath

When you hold your breath during the exercise, it can cause your body to recruit other muscles like your back or neck. Even more importantly, you won’t be getting the most out of this challenging plank if you’re holding your breath. Contract the targeted muscles, squeeze your glutes hard, and breathe normally.

Excessive Hunching of the Upper Back

You can release any tension in your upper back by positioning yourself on planks. It will help build up the area and relieve any pain, but only if you do them right. When performing a plank, make sure your back is relaxed and sits neutral at all times- visual feedback from pictures or videos is helpful.

Shrugged Shoulders

Shrugging your shoulders towards your ears is often avoided in the plank position. It is common to have a very muscular upper back, but you also need mid-back strength. You can fix it by relaxing and placing your elbows under the shoulders. 

Hips too High

The plank hold may make you feel like it is not nearly as easy, but reducing the intensity to this level will not affect your core strength. Try bracing your core and maintaining a straight body position while you get feedback from your midline.

RKC Plank Muscles Worked

The primary purpose of an RKC plank is to work the core, but other muscles get worked in this exercise. These include:

  • Rectus Abdominis
  • Transverse Abdominis
  • External and Internal Obliques
  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Pectorals
  • Deltoids
  • Scapular Stabilizers

The body’s core contracts to keep it aligned, prevent unnecessary movements, and provide stability. Keeping your glutes and quads engaged will help keep your hips in place and enhance full-body stability. The upper back muscles must also be contracted for added support and remain rigid throughout the exercise.

RKC Plank vs Normal Plank

Compared to a Standard or Normal Plank, the RKC plank has subtle changes. The main difference between these two is the position of your pelvis and arms. You are in a neutral position in a traditional plank, but with RKC planks, you should have slightly tilted hips. 

A more noticeable difference between these variations is arm positioning in an RKC plank. There will be greater emphasis on pulling yourself up using your core muscles instead of moving solely through momentum by leaning back or throwing weight forward with stick pushups. 

In the standard plank, your forearms remain parallel, while the RKC involves interlocking your hands to turn them inward. This minor alteration may seem insignificant at first glance, but it’s anything but that. 

These two variations of planks determined that an RKC was better for increasing muscle activation. Furthermore, its rectus abdominis and obliques are activated twice as much with this plank variation when using a regular plank.

Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs:

Our designed program is to help you achieve your desired fitness goals, whether that’s building muscle mass, strength training, or simply being more active.

For General Fitness

It’s best to start small and perfect your form before challenging yourself. When done correctly, it can be a difficult position, so the focus should be on intensity rather than duration. Aim for 2-4 sets of 10-15 seconds per rep. Take 30 to 60 seconds of rest in between sets. 

For Muscle Building

For muscle builders, the RKC plank is a whole-body tension exercise that will work the entire core and challenge the muscles from various angles. The RKC plank works the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, abdominal muscles, and several other smaller muscle groups throughout your body.

Complete 3-5 sets of 20-30 seconds with 30 to 45 seconds rest in between sets. For more advanced training, you can add the plank to total body circuits as active rest periods.

For Strength Training

The RKC plank is a total-body strength exercise because it simultaneously works for several muscle groups. This exercise effectively develops core stability, essential in a wide range of sports training and athletic activities. The RKC plank works the abdominal muscles, the hip flexors, the hamstrings, and the gluteus muscles. 

Perform 2-3 sets of 15-20 seconds per rep, resting 60 seconds between sets. Start with shorter durations and increase the difficulty by extending the time to your plank.

RKC Plank Variations

While the RKC Plank is an isometric movement, you can easily add a dynamic element to the exercise by taking the form to a different challenge. These significant variations allow for various workouts at varying levels of difficulty, so you can continue to make progress. 

Weighted RKC plank

The other effective RKC plank progression is to add weight simply. Some people opt for a partner placing a weight plate on the upper back, but this isn’t always the safest or most effective method. Another safe choice is using weights: like wearing a weighted backpack or vest, it helps you maintain your form and prevents injury while maintaining the effectiveness of the exercise. 

Don’t quickly choose excessive weight because it might make your form lose its stability and increase your risk for injury – instead, start with light amounts and gradually add more over time.

Single-leg RKC plank 

This hardstyle plank is the progression of the one-legged squat to simply get into position and then lift your foot from the floor. It causes instability, requiring more demand on core work to maintain alignment and stability. 

It also places extra demands on lower extremities muscles as you must now support your body with just one leg rather than two during this exercise.

Side RKC plank 

One way to make the side plank more efficient for your core is by adapting it into an RKC variation. Set up in a side plank and then follow the same principles as you would with an RKC Plank. This modification will work on your core muscles while also targeting your obliques. Just be sure to perform volume equally on both sides of the body.

RKC Plank Alternatives

If you don’t want to use this exercise, you can do various other activities that work for you.

Hollow Body Hold

A hollow body hold is an isometric exercise that involves flexing your deep core muscles while remaining in a static position. It is an excellent way to strengthen your abdominal muscles, especially the rectus abdominis. It also helps to improve your posture and takes the pressure off your spine by strengthening the muscles that support your spine.

Bear Plank

The bear plank is an excellent deep core bodyweight exercise that focuses on strengthening the muscles that stabilize your spine. This exercise can be done anywhere, at any time. It’s great for beginners because it’s a shallow impact and is easy to follow. 

The best thing about this exercise is that it doesn’t require any equipment, but having a yoga mat for more comfort might help.

Ring Plank

The ring plank is also an excellent exercise for strengthening your core and improving posture. You will work your abdominal muscles and obliques as you hold this position. The ring plank is a perfect way to start working towards a one-arm plank if you currently have trouble with balance.

Frequently Asked Questions

The RKC stands for Russian Kettlebell Challenge. This exercise was invented by former Soviet special forces trainer Pavel Tsatsouline as part of his fitness program.

  • Rectus Abdominis
  • Transverse Abdominis
  • External and Internal Obliques
  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Pectorals
  • Deltoids
  • Scapular Stabilizers

The RKC plank is an exercise where you contract your entire body, core, and arms as hard as possible. It’s a great way to work on your core strength while incorporating the rest of your body.

Stand-forward planks can become very easy and lose their effectiveness with time.; RKC planks are a more advanced variation. They’re more challenging to perform and increase strength and endurance faster than standard planks.

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