We last saw boards from Copenhagen in our overview of the best bodyweight exercises that actually build strength. But it is an underestimated exercise, and deserves special attention. The Plank of Copenhagen looks a bit like a side plank :YYou lean on your hand or elbow with your other arm away from the floor, 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 place a leg (your top leg) on a bench. This means you have to use the inner thigh muscle on that upper leg to stand up. It’s a killer leg exercise, and it has benefits beyond just adding variety to your routine.
What are the benefits of the Copenhagen Plank?
This exercise gets its name (and slight popularity) from research conducted in Denmark that showed it helps prevent groin pain in athletes. Our inner thigh muscles, called hip adductors, are responsible for pulling our legs together. Many muscles in this group are thin and can be prone to tearing or straining (“pulling”), which is why researchers used this exercise to strengthen the adductors.
It worked 😛programs including this “Copenhagen adductor exercise” has strengthened the adductors of male footballersand while it’s not a magic bullet to prevent groin strains, it does seem to help.
In addition to strengthening the adductors, the Copenhagen plank also contains the elements of a normal side plank, which means it has the side effect of strengthening a variety of core muscles, including your obliques. Even your abductors, the muscles on the outside of your hips, seem to get a bit of a workout from this exercise.
(And yes, those two words are very similar. Abductors bring your leg away from your body, just like an alien abduction takes a person away from Earth. Adductors bring your legs in toward your midline; the two letter D’s in the middle may help you remember that they bring the legs together.)
How exactly do I do a Copenhagen plank?
The basic idea is to support your upper body on your forearm or hand, while your leg is supported on a bench or another object. In team practices, a partner can stand up and hold your leg while you’re doing the exercise.
Start with as much of your leg on the support as possible. In order of easiest to hardest, the progression goes:
- Knee or thigh on the bench
- Shin or foot on the bench
- Dipping the hips toward the ground and back up, repeatedly (This can be done in either position.)
While planks are often done for increasingly long periods of time, you don’t have to take that approach to get the benefits out of the Copenhagen plank. Try a 10-second hold, repeated three times with rest in between as needed. When that gets easy, try a harder variation.
What if I can’t do a Copenhagen plank?
If you can’t do any of the versions above, even the one with your knee on the bench, one way to modify is to keep your free leg on the ground. Lift your hips mostly with the top leg, but use some support from the bottom leg to help.
If you’re still not comfortable with that, you may need to do side planks (from the knees is fine) to build up your core strength, and look elsewhere for adductor exercises. This bandaged adductor exercise is a good place to start, and you can also do single-leg movements like step-ups to work the adductors alongside other leg muscles.