Planks — the famously dreaded core exercise that everyone loves to hate.

Planks engage muscles throughout your entire body and require strength, stability, and balance.

And let’s just say that doing them correctly, with proper form, is a challenge.  

If you’re a beginner, start on your knees or plank off of an elevated surface, like a bench, to master the hold. Then graduate to a standard plank, keeping your toes on the ground.

via Gfycat

Once you’re at this level, to evaluate your form and to challenge your balance, try adding a plate.

Nope, not a weighted, metal plate in this instance. Try a paper plate instead!

Whether you’re in a forearm plank (elbows on the ground) or a high plank position (palms on the ground), a plate should rest on your lower back and not move throughout the course of the hold.

If the plate moves, your form is compromised and you need to reset and re-evaluate.

To perform our plate plank, get on all fours and place the plate on your lower back. Then carefully extend your legs into the plank position, ensuring that your core and quads are tight, your hips are lifted, and your spine is neutral.

Once you’ve mastered the paper plate plank, graduate to a weighted plate — like the ones for barbells you see at the gym — to challenge your strength.

Mastered the standard plank? Switch it up with push-up planks and see if you can keep the plate balanced. We’ve got 14 more plank variations where that came from.

Nicole Davis is a Boston-based writer, ACE-certified personal trainer, and health enthusiast who works to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. Her philosophy is to embrace your curves and create your fit — whatever that may be! She was featured in Oxygen magazine’s “Future of Fitness” in the June 2016 issue. Follow her on Instagram.