Ahh, the plank. We love to hate it. Yet for many reasons it is one of my favorite core exercises.
The plank not only requires core strength, but also incorporates your shoulders, arms, and glutes.
How to do it? – Get into pushup position on the floor or on a mat if using. (this is also a straight arm or high plank position)
Then bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly below your shoulders and you want to try and keep your body in a straight line from you head to your toes. (my shoulders are a smidge too far forward in the photo)
We’ll call this low plank.
Planking Tips –
1. I would suggest when learning and practicing your plank to only hold your plank for a short time. For example, hold your plank for 15-25 seconds, come out, and rest for a few seconds then resume your plank. Many people think that the longer you can hold your plank the better, which holding a 5 minute plank takes incredible strength, however when you are first starting out it is best to hold it only for a short amount of time so that you can feel your abs and core working to hold your body in a straight line, rather than using your arms or shoulders to do the work.
- try this: Hold your plank for 15 seconds, come out, rest for 2 or 3 seconds, and then hold it for another 15 seconds. (as you get stronger repeat 2, 3, and then 4 rounds of this)
2. Also, when building up your strength to do a plank I would suggest starting out on your knees rather than feet to hold your plank. In this method you will do the same as you would to do a modified pushup, but the weight will again be on your forearms as shown in the plank picture above. (this is a modified pushup but you get the idea)
3. Once you are feeling strong in your plank try holding it for 1 min. If at any point you feel your belly starting to drop down and extra stress on your arms and shoulders, come of the plank and rest a few seconds, then resume.
Plank Variations –
1. Plank with alternating leg lift – while holding your plank lift your right heel a few inches into the air and hold for a few seconds. When you bring it down repeat on the other leg. Keep alternating for duration of the plank.
2. Side plank (also with hip drops) – start in a straight arm plank, twist your entire body so all of the weight is on your left arm. Lift your right arm into the air and stack your feet. Hold; return to plank and then try on the other side. To do the hip drop – in the plank drop your hips to just above the floor, then bring them back up.
3. Plank bringing knee to elbow with a hip twist – bring your right knee to your left elbow twisting your right hip down. Return to start and repeat, left knee to right elbow. Alternate for duration of plank.
4. Plank jacks – in straight arm plank jump your legs out and in like you are doing jumping jacks. Keep your abs tight and your body straight.
5. Up and Down Planks – (not pictured) start in straight arm plank then bend your right elbow dropping to your right forearm, repeat on the left side. Then push up one arm at a time to straight arm plank. Keep going up and down keeping your body straight for the duration of the plank.
6. Plank with hip drops – (not pictured) In low plank with your body tight drop your right hip down to right above the ground then lift up. Repeat on the left side and continue alternating hip drops for the duration of the plank.
7. Plank with alternating leg and arm lift – (not pictured) Like number 1 except when you lift your left heel also lift your right arm out straight in front of you. Return to plank and then lift your right heel and left arm at the same time. Alternate.
8. Plank with shoulder tap – In high plank lift your right hand to tap your left shoulder, then back down. Next tap your right should with your left hand, etc.
Plank Workout Challenge
Once you feel strong and are holding a plank for 1-2 minutes at a time try this workout:
- Pick four of the above plank variations and set a timer for 2 min. Hold the first variation for 30 sec. moving into the second variation immediately, completing that, move into the 3rd variation, and then the 4th all without rest. Remember, keep your body straight and your abs/core tight the whole time!
Fit Question: Have you “planked” before? How long can you hold a plank? What other fit moves would you like featured on Friday Fit Focus?