There is no denying the plank is a kick-butt multi-tasking exercise! Forget doing an endless amount of crunches and add some planks to your workout routine. The primary muscles involved are your abdominal muscles and your back muscles. But hold on … not only does the plank target your abdominal and back muscles, you also will be working your shoulders, chest, glutes and legs. That’s right my friends, it’s a multi-tasking, effective exercise and it doesn’t require any equipment! All you need to perfect your plank is your own body weight.
Benefits of the Plank
If you don’t know already, here are some reasons why you should plank:
• Improve your posture
• Sit and stand straighter
• Walk taller
• Flatten and tone your abs
• Increase your power and stability
• Reduce lower back pain
Your body position should be straight, like a wooden plank.
Start in the standard push-up position: face down, hands shoulder-width apart directly below the shoulders, balancing on your toes with your abs contracted.
Be mindful not to let your chest or low back sag.
Keep your body straight from head to heel. Don’t drop your head down or crank your neck back.
Use a mirror to check your form.
Go for quality of form over quantity of time. The more your core muscles improve, the longer you will be able to hold this position. I go crazy when I see people in the gym holding their plank with atrocious form. I remind my classes every day to perfect their plank form in order to benefit. If your back is sagging, your hips are lifted, or your neck is dropped, you are wasting your time. Once you have the form thing down, start with 15 seconds and build up from there. Work up to holding it for one to two minutes.
Once you can hold your plank for a minute or two with good form, try adding a challenge. The plank has several variations with different levels of difficulty. Regardless of the variation, the basic movement is the same.
To modify to make it easier …
Start on your forearms instead of your hands and/or drop your knees to the mat. Most important thing is to keep your body straight from head to heels, or knees if modifying.
To increase the intensity …
Try lifting one leg, creating a balance challenge.
Try moving your feet “out out in in ” while maintaining good form.
Try reaching your opposite arm and leg at the same time. (This is a toughy!)
To mix it up, try a side plank …
Lie on either side balancing on one arm with your legs straight and the top leg stacked directly on top of the bottom.
Align your head with your spine and keep your hips up and your abs contracted. Your side muscles, the obliques, are working hard in this position.
To modify to make the side plank easier …
Start on your forearm instead of your hand and/or drop your bottom knee to the mat.
To increase the intensity of the side plank …
Try lifting your upper leg off the lower leg for an intense balance challenge.
Try moving your hips down and up, calling upon your obliques.
Try circling your top arm while maintaining good form.
The plank can be one of the keys to developing your core power! Proper form can make all the difference, so make sure you follow these tips to perfect your plank. Remember, any type of plank is a great addition to your weekly core routine!