today we are talking about planks.
not to be confused with planking.
you can find out more about planking here.
i’m talking about my favorite total body exercise, next to a burpee, of course.
today i’m sharing my top 5 (+1) current favorite ways to plank.
you use so many muscles with this simple body weight exercise!
it works your local core stabilizer muscles: the transverse abdominis, pelvic floor muscles, lumbar multifidus (in your back), diaphragm, and your internal obliques. these muscles are part of your deep core musculature, provide support from vertebra to vertebra, and help with postural support.
these muscles are pretty important.
it also works your global stabilizer muscles: the adductor complex (in your legs), gluteus medius, quadratus lumborum and psoas major (both in the back), portions of the internal obliques, external obliques and rectus abdominus. these muscles are the outer layer of muscle and are visible on people with six packs…and incredibly toned tummies. and they provide stabilization and control during movements.
and, it also works your core movement muscles: the latissimus dorsi, hip flexors, quads, and hamstrings. these muscles provide dynamic stabilization during all functional activities.
plus, it’s an isometric hold, as your muscles are contracted, so it builds muscular endurance. which will help give you a strong core.
basically, this is one of the best exercises, in my opinion.
plus, there are TONS of variations you can do to make this move more fun and challenging.
i love doing a 5 minute plank for my warm up. i pick 3-5 variations and switch them out every few minutes until i get to 5 minutes. sometimes 3 minutes. the variations below are the one’s i’ve been using lately.
#1: elbow plank.
elbows should be inline with your shoulders. forearms flat on the ground. palms flat on the floor. you should look like the Sphinx. shoulders should be away from your ears. upper part of your back down and shoulder blades slightly contracted. it should be nearly a straight line from your head to your feet. you heels should be pushing towards the opposite wall. your spine should be neutral, meaning you should tilt your pelvis under, slightly. contract or tighten your glutes (your tushy), quads and hamstrings. someone should be able to place a ball on the small of your back and it shouldn’t move.
#2: plank pikes
come into that plank position. clasp hands together lightly, so your arms/hands form a triangle. recruiting your lower abdominal muscles, your transverse abdominis and lower pelvic floor muscles, push your butt into the air. your body should form an upside down V. pretend there is a string around your hips and someone is pulling you up, but your feet and arms are glued to the floor. keep your mind on your lower ab muscles and you will feel it.
#3: seesaw plank
come into that elbow plank position again. keeping everything tight, you are going to push off the balls of your feet and push yourself forward and back. this provides an unstable environment, which helps you use your abs for stabilization.
#4: plank jacks
you know the drill, elbow plank position (although i demoed this one in a hand plank). keeping that core extra tight and those glutes contracted, jump both feet out to the side at the same time. jump back in. you are moving your feet like a jumping jack, but keeping your upper body stable.
#5: single arm balance
you have jeanette jenkins to thank for this one. when i first got the nike training app, i tried this move for months and was so stoked when i finally got it. now, i use it to test my core strength. in elbow plank position, keeping everything tight, lift up one arm and then the opposite leg. reach each limb out to the side. pause 1-2 seconds. return to the start. then drop arm/leg back into plank position. this creates a very unstable environment, a proprioceptively enriched environment if you will.
+ 1: plank knee taps
start in an elbow plank. keeping your core, glutes and quads tight, tap your right knee, then your left. think of marching with your knees. make sure to keep your butt down and use your lower abdominal muscles and side obliques to move your knees. you can thank my body works + abs teacher, anne, for this move.
* you can most certainly do these exercises on your hands. this is great for beginners.
* breathe. it is really easy to hold your breath as you are holding the plank and contracting all your muscles. tell yourself to breathe if you have too. with each breath out, contract those abs.
* try not to put too much pressure on your elbows. you want to have your weight distributed throughout your body or else you will get sore arms. work on keeping everything tight. if you notice your elbows getting sore, focus on pressing down through the forearms and the hands.
* if you are doing a plank for time, click the start button and then turn the timer over. hold until you think you are going to fall, and then hold a little longer. this can help establish your starting time. as you build, add 10-15 seconds every few days.
* when you feel like you are going to fall, hold 30 seconds longer. this is has been one of the most helpful tips for me. because after holding 30 seconds longer, i want to finish my time for the next minute. and i end up increasing my time!
keep a lookout for future posts with my new favorite ways to plank, more tips and even some cool variations.
p.s. what is your favorite way to plank?