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Copenhagen Plank Guide | How-To, Mistakes, and Variations

The Copenhagen plank is an adductor exercise that looks similar to a side plank, however, the outer leg will be extended and placed on the ground or on a bench to train the adductors as they work to support your body weight.

The Copenhagen plank is an adductor exercise that I think every lifter and athlete could do more of. I love this exercise because it trains the adductor from a lengthened position and can also give you some passive core work.

Oftentimes, when we think about improving our big lifts like the squat and deadlift, we jump straight to using major variations. However, training muscles like the adductors that support the big lifts can be equally important.

In my Copenhagen plank guide, I’m going to cover how to properly perform these, some mistakes to avoid, and some benefits that come along with them.

Copenhagen Plank Form

How To Copenhagen Plank

Perfect your setup

The first step to nailing the Copenhagen plank is to get your setup right. This is an area that I see lifters constantly butcher as they start with a progression that’s too far along for their capabilities.

How To Adductor Plank Step 1 Beginners

If you’re a beginner, then you’ll want to start on the floor with your Copenhagen plank as it will be less demanding on your adductors which will help you nail your positioning better.

For intermediate and advanced lifters, you can set up on a bench. Place the inside of your leg on the bench and think about keeping enough surface area so you can maintain a strong leg position.

How To Adductor Plank Step 1 Intermediates

I like to generally place a few inches above my ankle on the bench and that’s how I coach most athletes to do so. This also then limits how much thought you have to give your ankles so you can fully focus on your adductors.

Lift, squeeze, and breathe

Whether you’re performing your Copenhagen plank on the ground or on a bench, you’ll want to make sure you’re placing the forearm in the correct position.

Ideally, you want your elbow to line up with the rest of your body so your elbow, shoulder, hips, knees, and ankle are all in a line. This will help you get more out of the adductors and obliques.

How To Adductor Plank Step 2 Lift

Lift the hips up and think about squeezing the oblique and the glutes slightly. You want your hips extended and not overly flexed and you’ll want to ensure you’re keeping them square. Don’t forget to breathe as you perform these.

Copenhagen Plank Muscles Worked

The Copenhagen plank is relatively simple regarding the muscles it’s going to train. Plus, depending on the variation you use can also dictate the ebb and flow of how much you “feel” your muscles when performing Copenhagen planks.

What Muscles Does the Copenhagen Plank Train?

Copenhagen Plank Muscles Worked

Copenhagen Plank Muscles Worked

  • Adductors
    • Pectineus
    • Adductor Brevis
    • Adductor Longus
    • Adductor Magnus
    • Gracilis
  • External Oblique
  • Internal Oblique

*bolded indicates a higher degree of involvement

If you routinely use Copenhagen planks in your program, where do you feel them the most, and where have you seen the most improvement and carryover for your sport and lifts?

Copenhagen Plank Benefits

When clients ask, “Why are we doing Copenhagen planks?”, I usually give them two key reasons and benefits for performing them. While there are more benefits than the two provided, these are my two favorite Copenhagen plank benefits.

Benefit 1: Useful for Injury Prevention

The first benefit of training more Copenhagen planks is that they can be awesome for injury prevention. Any time you can strengthen muscles in an eccentric or lengthened position you can help them become more resilient to injury.

Granted, training, in general, is one of the best injury preventatives around. However, research has suggested that training Copenhagen planks consistently could help mitigate potential hamstrings strains. (1)

Testing the Adidas Dropset Trainer 2 for Sprints

The above makes sense when you consider the role the adductors play in pelvis control and orientation along with how they assist with gait and the stabilization of the legs when running, walking, and jumping.

Now, will a Copenhagen plank completely limits hamstrings strains based on one study? Not necessarily, but they’re looking like a fantastic tool for hedging your bets from an injury in lifting and sports context.

Benefit 2: Strengthen the Adductors

The second benefit, which stems from the benefit above, is that the Copenhagen plank is that they can be awesome for strengthening the adductors. Research has highlighted how Copenhagen planks can help improve the thickness and architecture of the adductors. (2)

There are a ton of ways to train the adductors so working them through shortened and lengthened environments can be incredibly useful to ensure you’re building resilient and strong adductors.

Testing the Nike Metcon 8 for squats

The adductors can play a major role in knee stabilization and can support how the pelvis is moving through space and time, which will indefinitely have carryover to your big lifts and when you’re moving through deep hip and knee flexion.

That all said, I’m in the camp of always wanting to give the adductors more love and exposure to different stressors. For training the adductors in a lengthened position, the adductor plank is an awesome tool.

Copenhagen Plank Mistakes

When it comes to Copenhagen planks there are two that I see lifters constantly make with this exercise. This exercise is relatively simple so it’s important to not overlook their form and nail your mechanics with them.

Mistake 1: Starting to “Progressed”

The first mistake that I see lifters make is starting with a variation that is too far progressed for their current strength capabilities. Basically, I’ll see lifters who should be starting with a modified floor variation going straight to the bench.

Copenhagen Plank Mistakes

What ends up happening when the Copenhagen plank’s stress exceeds a lifter’s capabilities is a lot of form compensation. For example, you’ll see beginners holding their breath and bracing way too hard or constantly flexing their hips to balance.

The Fix: Start slow and progress accordingly. Once you’ve selected the variation that feels best for you, use time as your main training variable to create progressive overland. Perform your current variation for 3-4 weeks then progress from there.

Mistake 2: Flexing the Hips Too Much

The second and biggest mistake that I see lifters of all lifters making is flexing the hips too much. When we flex the hips in a Copenhagen plank we’re going to shorten the adductors slightly and change the load we’re placing on them.

Copenhagen Plank Mistake Flexing the Hips

While this isn’t necessarily the biggest deal and it’s not going to nullify all of the benefits of your Copenhagen plank, it will take away from your ability to get the most out of them. Why perform an exercise with sub-optimal form?

The Fix: No matter how you’re setting up for your Copenhagen plank, think, “Keep tension in the glutes.” If you do this and bring your hips through extension or close to it then you’ll be able to get more bang for your buck regarding training the adductors in a lengthened context.

Mistake 3: Not Breathing In Sets

The final mistake that I want to cover is breathing, and not doing so in this context. You should always be breathing when performing planks, side planks, Copenhagen planks, and the list goes on.

Far too often, lifters and athletes brace and hold their breath while hitting planks and that’s sub-optimal for what most are trying to get out of them. Also, you don’t need to brace so hard for a low-threshold exercise like a Copenhagen plank.

Copenhagen Plank Mistake Not Breathing

The “over bracing” is something that can then carry over to other exercises where your breathing should be more relative. Remember, you only need to brace as hard as you need to for the demands at hand. In layman’s terms, let your work intensity dictate your brace.

The Fix: If you find that you can’t breathe at all when performing your sets, try scaling back the variation that you’re using. You can also focus on taking shallow breaths to start then working to deeper breaths to get used to breathing while doing static strength work.

One of my favorite tools for clients who have trouble breathing in their sets is to use their breaths as a means of tracking progress. For example, on week 1, we’re going to hold each side for 10 breaths and you can come down once you’ve hit them all.

Copenhagen Plank Variations

The Copenhagen plank variation that you should use should be based on your current capabilities. The two variations below are some of my favorite Copenhagen plank progressions to give to my lifters.

1. Copenhagen Plank With Dip

The first variation entails setting up for a Copenhagen plank like you normally would. However, for this variation, you’re going to let the hips dip to the ground and lift them back to neutral consecutively.

Copenhagen Plank Hip Dip Variation

A dip down and up counts as one rep. This variation can be great because you’ll get a little more of an oblique stimulus with your adductors as you work through lateral flexion and extension.

2. Copenhagen Plank With Reach

The second variation that is the most advanced is a Copenhagen plank with a reach. This variation is awesome for multiple reasons and it can give you an awesome oblique, adductor, and core burn in general.

Copenhagen Plank Reach Variation

I also really like this variation because it can be a great exercise for passively focusing on the mobility of the shoulder and thoracic while also allowing to work through some hip internal rotation when reaching through.

If you’re on the road traveling and need another exercise to add to your bodyweight workouts or a mobility routine, I highly recommend trying these out if you have the strength capabilities for them.

Copenhagen Plank Reach and Extend Variation

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a Copenhagen plank good for?

Copenhagen planks are great for training the adductors in a lengthened position. This can be useful for building general adductor strength and stronger adductors can support injury resilience.

What is Copenhagen plank?

A Copenhagen plank is an exercise that looks similar to a side plank and will focus on training the adductors while passively working the obliques.

What do Copenhagen side planks work?

Copenhagen planks primarily train the adductors and will also give you a nice oblique stimulus.

Takeaway Thoughts

If there’s one thing that you’re taking away from this article, hopefully, it’s that your adductors could always use more love. We love to train the glutes, hamstrings, and glutes and often overlook giving direct attention to the adductors.

The Copenhagen plank can be a great exercise to program when you want to train the adductors in a lengthened position. Doing this can be useful for building your adductors’ strength and resilience to injury.

If you have additional questions on the Copenhagen plank, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).

Works Cited

1. Schaber, M., Guiser, Z., Brauer, L., Jackson, R., Banyasz, J., Miletti, R., & Hassen-Miller, A. (2021). The Neuromuscular Effects of the Copenhagen Adductor Exercise: A Systematic Review. International Journal Of Sports Physical Therapy16(5).

2. Alonso-Fernández, D., Fernández-Rodríguez, R., Taboada-Iglesias, Y., & Gutiérrez-Sánchez, Á. (2022). Effects of Copenhagen Adduction Exercise on Muscle Architecture and Adductor Flexibility. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health19(11), 6563.

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

2 thoughts on “Copenhagen Plank Guide | How-To, Mistakes, and Variations”

  1. Any thoughts on an ideal bench height? Mainly can it me too high? Or does it really matter?

    Im 5×9″ with an 18″ bench at my home gym

    1. Hey Collin — I generally suggest having a height that puts your body parallel to the floor. If it’s a little higher or lower it’s not the biggest deal, but you’ll def want to play with them and see if you find one more comfortable!

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