Want an exercise move that will strengthen your core, improve your stability, give you better posture, and can help make you a more efficient walker or runner? Don’t want to bother with bulky equipment? Need it to be “portable” so that you can do it anywhere?
Look no further, let’s get down and do some planks!
The plank is an isometric core strength move that, if done with consistency and proper form, can do all of the above and more. It is most often seen in yoga and pilates classes, but recently many other trainers have adopted the plank and its variations into their programs, such as Tony Horton’s P90X or Shaun T’s Insanity. Many variations exist such as the side plank, the reverse plank, the plank walk, and plank punches.
It’s all about the core
By strengthening your core, you will strengthen your hips and pelvic floor. The only equipment that you need for the plank exercise is your own body and enough floor space to lie down on. Muscles affected are the transverse abdominus, gluteus medius and minimus muscles (abductors), the adductor muscles of the hip, and the obliques. Also getting some work are your gluteus maximus (glutes), your quadriceps (quads), and hamstrings.
A quick how-to:
GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR. Starting with a pushup position is the easiest way to get into the plank.
SUPPORT YOUR WEIGHT. Raise your body off the floor, and try to keep everything in a straight line (head, neck, spine) and your weight on your hands and toes. Palms should be directly in line with your shoulders.
ENGAGE YOUR ABS. Tilt your pelvis forward and pull your belly button toward your spine. Imagine your body is as flat as a board from your heels to your head. This is tricky at first, but you’ll eventually get used to the feeling – don’t let your hips drop or your butt rise.. squeeze your glutes, and remember to breathe!
HOLD IT! Keep your eyes on the floor and keep squeezing and breathing. Once you feel the burn, hold on just a little bit longer. If you do this a few times per week, each time, you’ll get better and better.
Need it a bit easier? Try the “modified plank”. Lower your knees to the ground, so instead of balancing on your toes you are in a plank position with your lower body supported by your knees.
Want more of a challenge? Go for 10 seconds longer each time until you reach 60 seconds. Or, you can raise alternate hands, do a moving push up, or raise one hand and one foot (on opposite sides, of course!).
FUN PLANK FACT:
The current world record (according to Guinness World Records) for the plank position is 3 hours 7 minutes and 15 seconds, set in Newport, Kentucky on 20 April 2013 by George Hood.
How long can you hold YOUR plank?