The plank used to be my least favorite exercise. I dreaded the floor work and abs portion of my classes at the gym because inevitably, we’d be told to get in plank position. I struggled with it for a while, dropping to my stomach after only a few seconds. Eventually, I got to the point where I could hold plank position for about 2 minutes. I now appreciate the many benefits of the plank and understand why so many instructors & trainers consider it a must for any workout routine.
Here’s the scoop…the plank is one of the most effective ab exercises you can do. It tightens, tones and strengthens your core and abdominal muscles, working multiple muscle groups at the same time. Added benefits are strengthened back muscles and improved balance and posture. Doing the plank often allows you to hold it longer, making your muscles even stronger.
To get in plank position, start by lying down on your stomach. Keeping your forearms to the floor and directly beneath your shoulders, press down to straighten your legs, lifting at the torso. Support yourself on your forearms and the balls of your feet. Keep your body in a straight line, being mindful of your rear. Hold the position for as long as you can, contracting your abdominal and core muscles to keep form. Don’t forget to breathe!
VARIATIONS ON THE PLANK
Advanced Plank – make your plank more challenging by:
- extending each arm to support yourself on your hands, then lower back down to your forearms, one arm at a time. Alternate between your hands and forearms, repeating several times.
- lifting one leg off the floor slightly while holding plank position. Switch legs halfway through to work both sides evenly.
Side Plank – use your core to hold you steady while working on your obliques:
- start by lying on your side, supporting yourself on the forearm and the outside of the foot of the same side
- lift at the torso, keeping your hips, shoulders and feet aligned
- squeeze your abdominal and core muscles
- hold for as long as you can before switching to the other side
- advanced – lift the arm not being used to support your plank into the air, opening the chest
Advanced Side Plank
There are many, many variations and modifications to the plank exercise. Start with the basic plank and advance if and when you can. Hold each position for as long as you can to help strengthen your core and abdominal muscles.