The Frogger Is the Perfect Middle Ground Between a Plank and a Burpee

POPSUGAR Photography | Chaunté Vaughn

High planks are often considered the crème de la crème of core exercises. It makes sense: the move can help improve posture, enhance core stability, and work practically the entire body. But holding a plank for a solid minute can be, well, boring. And everyone knows that when you’re bored, time drags on, which is why that 60 seconds can mentally feel like hours.

One way to spice up your core workouts? Practice the frogger, a dynamic movement that gives you all the perks of the traditional high plank and then some. Here, the benefits you can gain from performing the frogger exercise, plus tips on how to do so safely as a beginner.

What Is the Frogger Exercise?

Think of the frogger exercise as a partial burpee: You’ll start in a high plank position on the floor, then hop your feet forward, next to your hands. Keeping your feet planted on the ground, you’ll lift your hands off the floor, elevate your chest, and gaze forward. Instead of powerfully jumping toward the ceiling, as you would with a burpee, you’ll pause in this low squat position, then reverse the movement to return to the start.

What Are the Benefits of the Frogger?

Even though the frogger exercise nixes the quick vertical jump included in a burpee, it’s no walk in the park. It’s a full-body exercise that relies heavily on your core, says Denise Chakoian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the owner of CORE Cycle.Fitness.Lagree in Providence, Rhode Island. The core, consisting of muscles on the front and backside of your trunk, supports and stabilizes the spine. During a frogger, the muscle group lights up to keep you stable in the high plank position, protect your spine as you hop your feet forward and backward, and transfer the force generated from your lower body during the hop to your upper body as you lift your hands and chest.

Core aside, the frogger exercise works your leg muscles, which engage to keep your hips from dropping in the plank and power the hop, Chakoian says. Also at play: your chest muscles, lats, and anterior and posterior deltoids, which activate to support your body weight in the high plank and as you transition out of the “frog” position, she adds. The small stabilizer muscles in your feet also work to keep you steady in the high plank, she says.

The exercise also challenges lower-body mobility. When you hop your feet forward to meet your hands and crouch down like a frog, your hips will need to externally rotate (that’s why your feet and knees turn slightly out to the side), Chakoian explains. Similarly, you’ll call on your ankle mobility (specifically dorsiflexion) so that your feet rest flat on the floor when you lift your hands and chest, she says. In turn, you might feel like your hips are opening up and experience a little stretch in your calves.

To top it off, the frogger tests and builds power – the ability to generate force quickly – when you hop your feet forward and out of the high plank. Training your muscular power can enhance your sports performance (think: you’ll be able to jump faster in a rec volleyball game) and your daily life (you’ll be able to leap out of a bicyclist’s way on the sidewalk more quickly). Plus, research presented at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology shows that muscular power is strongly related to all-cause mortality; in the 2019 study of nearly 3,900 people, participants whose maximal muscle power was above the median for their sex had the best survival after a 6.5-year follow-up.

What to Know Before You Try the Frogger

One of the most common mistakes Chakoian sees beginners make when performing the frogger is allowing the hips to dip toward the floor after hopping out of the low squat position and into the high plank.

“The correct way is to jump out and hold the plank in a solid position [with a] neutral spine,” she says. “If the spine goes out of neutral, the hips drop and we’ve lost the essence of the actual exercise…[You] lose the control of the center of the core.”

By the same token, you’ll want to avoid pushing your hips up toward the ceiling in the high plank, almost as if you’re in a downward dog. Your goal is to try to maintain a relatively straight line from your head to your heels. Activating and “pulling up” your quads can help you do just that, Chakoian says.

When you’re in the low squat, make sure you’re sitting up nice and tall, with your chest lifted. Hunching over can lead to strain in the lower back, Chakoian says. You’ll want to plant your heels on the ground before you lift your hands off the floor and elevate the chest, which can also reduce the risk of back discomfort.

Since the frogger requires adequate hip mobility, Chakoian recommends warming up with hip-opening and core movements before performing the exercise. “It doesn’t matter whether they’re beginner, intermediate, or advanced – the more the blood can flow, the more the hips can open prior to this, it will make this exercise better,” she says. “Also, you would not want to do this exercise cold because the spine is not prepared … If somebody tries to jump out, they could potentially do something to their lower back if not prepared correctly.” Treat your body to dynamic movements like hip 90-90s, hip CARS, bird dogs, and dead bugs before you try the frogger.

How to Do the Frogger

  1. Start in a high plank position on the floor with your feet hip-width apart, your shoulders stacked with your wrists, and your gaze forward. Your body should form a relatively straight line from your head to your heels, allowing for the natural curvature of your lower spine.
  2. Engage your core by bracing your trunk as if someone is about to punch you in the gut. Hold this engagement.
  3. Simultaneously hop both of your feet forward, placing them flat on the ground on the outside of your hands. Your toes and knees should be turned slightly outward. Ensure your heels are pressed into the floor.
  4. While holding the low squat position, simultaneously lift your hands off the floor, raising them in front of your shoulders, and lift your chest so it’s pointing toward the wall in front of you. Allow your gaze to follow. Avoid hunching forward.
  5. Pause, then reverse the movement. Gaze down at the ground, place your hands on the floor in between your feet, and quickly hop your feet back into a high plank. That’s one rep.

Frogger Modifications

If the hop into and out of the high plank doesn’t feel great on your body, slow down the frogger and instead step your feet forward and backward one leg at a time, Chakoian suggests. This option is also helpful if it’s your first time performing the frogger; start your set with a few reps of the modified frogger to practice the transition from the plank to the low squat – and the necessary core engagement – without having to worry about generating power or moving with speed.

To accommodate limited ankle or hip mobility, Chakoian recommends raising the height of your squat. Instead of sitting low in the frog position, press through your feet to lift your butt a few inches higher. And if you’re worried about losing your balance, there’s no shame in temporarily nixing the chest lift, instead keeping your hands glued to the ground after hopping your feet forward.

Alternatively, you can gently hold onto the handles of a TRX strap throughout the movement; they’ll keep you from toppling over if you feel unsteady after raising your hands. No matter your experience level or abilities, the frogger can be tweaked to meet you where you’re at today.

Megan Falk is an experienced health and wellness journalist and editor whose work has been published by POPSUGAR, Shape, Livestrong, Women’s Health, Well+Good, mindbodygreen, Wide Open Spaces, and other outlets. She has served as an editor on Equinox’s content team and at Shape, where she primarily covered exercise tips, fitness modalities, workout trends, and more. Megan is also a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise.

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