The plank is an awesome exercise. Not only does it strengthen your abs, but also the core stabilizer muscles in the trunk and legs. Even your arms are engaged in this fairly simple exercise! There are numerous variations, such as lifting one leg or one arm (or both), or starting from a push up position (as pictured). The plank is an isometric exercise that helps build endurance throughout your core – including the rectus abdominus, obliques, lower back and stabilizing muscles. Since it is an effective but simple exercise, my friend Karrie Ryan, who is a personal trainer, loves to tell clients that the plank is one of her favorites for when time is limited and you need a “bang for your buck”. I don’t do crunches too much (see 9 Kid Fitness post called Ladies Beware of Crunches), and so the plank is my standard ab exercise…but it is truly so much more! No matter what you are training for, or if you are simply trying to improve your fitness, the plank should be a part of your workout reperatoire!
Lie face down on mat resting on the forearms, palms flat on the floor.
Push off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on the elbows.
Keep your back flat, in a straight line from head to heels.
Tilt your pelvis and contract your abdominals to prevent your rear end from sticking up in the air or sagging in the middle.
Hold for 20 to 60 seconds, lower and repeat for 3-5 reps.
Make sure you hold it!
Form is very important…so if you feel that you cannot hold good form, try a variation that makes it a little easier. If you don’t have the core strength yet to do a regular plank, you can build up to it by doing a bent-knee plank. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these more challenging variations:
Lift one leg up. By simply raising one leg in the air, you dramatically increase the demand on your core to fight your body’s natural urge to rotate.
Lift one arm up. Again, your body will want to fall to one side. Don’t let it!
Use a Swiss ball. Rest your forearms on the ball and you’ll have to stabilize your body and stop the ball from rolling out from under you.
Do a side plank. From a straight armed plank position, turn onto one side, opening up your chest and resting on one side. You my shake a little, which is fine. Stay here for 20 seconds and then go back down to two arms. Then do it on the other side.
Do you like the plank? What are your favorite variations?