How (and Why) to Make Copenhagen Planks
We last saw the Copenhagen plank in our roundup of the best bodyweight exercises that actually increase strength . But this is an underrated exercise, and it deserves special attention. The Copenhagen plank is a bit like a side plank: you lean on your hand or elbow with your other arm off the ground, trying to keep your body in a rigid position. But what makes Copenhagen special is that you don’t put your feet or knees on the ground. No, you put one foot (upper) on the bench. This means that you need to use the inner thigh muscle on your top leg to hold yourself up. This is a killer leg exercise, and it doesn’t just add variety to your routine.
What are the benefits of the Copenhagen Plank?
This exercise gets its name (and mild popularity) from a Danish study that showed it helped prevent groin strains in athletes. Our inner thigh muscles, called the adductors of the thigh, are responsible for pulling the legs towards each other. Many of the muscles in this group are thin and can be prone to tearing or pulling (“stretching”), so the researchers used this exercise to strengthen the adductors.
It worked: Programs including this “Copenhagen Adductor Exercise” strengthened the adductors of male soccer players , and while it’s not a cure-all for groin strain, it seems to be helping.
In addition to strengthening the adductors, the Copenhagen plank also contains elements of the regular side plank, meaning that it has the side effect of strengthening various core muscles, including the obliques. Even your abductors, the muscles on the outside of your thighs, seem to get a little boost from doing this exercise.
(And yes, the two words are very similar. Abductors rip your leg off your body, just like an alien abduction takes a person off Earth. Adductors bring your legs closer to the midline; the two Ds in the middle can help you remember what they are. join legs.)
How exactly do I do the Copenhagen plank?
The basic idea is to support the upper body on the forearm or hand and support the leg on a bench or other object. In team training, a partner can stand up and hold your leg while you perform the exercise.
Start by placing your foot on the support as much as possible. In order from easiest to hardest, the progression is:
- Knee or hip on a bench
- Calf or foot on bench
- Repeated lowering of the hips to the ground and back up (this can be done in any position).
While planks are often performed for longer and longer periods of time, you don’t have to use this approach to get the benefits of the Copenhagen plank. Try a 10 second hold, repeat three times with rest in between as needed. When it becomes easy, try a more difficult option.
What if I can’t do the Copenhagen plank?
If you can’t do any of the above, even with the knee on the bench, one way to modify is to leave your free leg on the ground. Raise your hips primarily with your top leg, but use some support from your bottom leg to help.
If that still doesn’t work for you, you may need to do side planks (from the knees if possible) to build core strength and look for other adductor exercises. This bandage adductor exercise is a good place to start, and you can also do single leg movements like squats to work the adductors along with the other leg muscles.