The concept of the plank is ridiculously easy. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a powerful strengthening exercise.
If you’re tired of doing sit-ups, you may find that it is a more relaxing pose.
You may see improvements quicker without the strain of other exercises like crunches and its many variations.
One of the greatest benefits of doing planks is that it is a bodyweight exercise. You don’t have to worry about getting any special equipment.
You can do it anywhere there’s enough floor space. That means no excuses for not working out when you’re traveling too.
The move targets your rectus abdominis muscles which run the vertical length of your belly. They help you tilt your pelvis and control the curvature of your spine.
The exercise also engages other muscles in your hips and upper thighs as well as muscles in your chest and upper back. Your arms will benefit from maintaining the position too.
When you work these muscle groups, you help strengthen your back and core to prevent strains and injuries.
However, the doing a regular plank workout will not spot-reduce fat in your tummy. If that’s your goal, you’ll need to add some cardio to your workouts to lose some weight first.
This exercise will help tone these muscles and increase your basal metabolic rate.
How to Do the Basic Plank Move
The plank is essentially a full push-up in which you pause at the top of the move. Begin by getting on all fours on a mat or other comfortable surface.
Then, push forward as you straighten your arms and extend your legs back behind you. You should distribute your weight between your toes and your palms.
Your fingers should point forward. Keep your head in line with your spine and look down at your hands.
Your arms should be perpendicular to the floor. As with push-ups, you should avoid locking your elbows. Keep them soft but engaged.
Start out by holding the position for 10 seconds. Don’t hold your breath. Just breathe at a relaxed rate. Slowly lower your body down.
There are a few precautions. First, don’t try this workout if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Second, keep your bum in line with your spine.
Don’t point it up in the air like a V-shape which would put a strain on your lower back.
You can build a plank workout with the many variations once you’ve mastered the basic move.
With the front plank, you can rest your weight on your extended forearms rather than your palms. The move is identical otherwise.
You can further work your abs by targeting the oblique muscles with the modified side plank.
You’ll begin by lying on your side with your weight on your forearm and your other arm extended down the length of your top leg.
It’s a small move, going from the floor and lifting your hips upward.
You can hold this position for a few seconds like a basic plank or do a series of repetitions and sets.
You could also ramp up the intensity by raising your entire body instead of just the lower portion.
An effective workout plan begins slowly to allow your body to build strength before doing the more challenging variations.
Your first task is to build up the time in the basic plank pose from 10 seconds to a full minute.
For the first two weeks, do the exercise once a day, adding five seconds to each successive day. Rest days are important because it’s a strengthening move.
- Day 1: 10 seconds
- Day 2: 15 seconds
- Day 3: 20 seconds
- Day 4: Rest
- Day 5: 25 seconds
- Day 6: 30 seconds
- Day 7: 35 seconds
- Day 8: Rest
- Day 9: 40 seconds
- Day 10: 45 seconds
- Day 11: 50 seconds
- Day 12: Rest
- Day 13: 55 seconds
- Day 14: 60 seconds
Now that you’ve mastered this move, let’s add some variation to the mix. This workout is more advanced and engages more muscle groups.
Aim for three times a week with a day of rest in between so that your body can recover. On off days, you can add some aerobic activity to your plan.
The recommended amount of exercise is 150 minutes each week.
- Basic Plank: 60 seconds
- Rest: 30 seconds
- Side Plank, Right Side: Begin at 10 seconds, working up to 30 seconds
- Rest: 30 seconds
- Side Plank, Left Side: Begin at 10 seconds, working up to 30 seconds
- Basic Plank: 30 seconds
- Rest: 30 seconds
- Front Plank: 30 seconds
- Child’s Pose: 30 seconds
- Bridge Pose: 30 seconds
This workout includes two stretching moves at the end to help with flexibility. To do the child’s pose, kneel on the floor and sit on your heels.
If you find it hard, place a yoga brick or a folded up blanket between your calves. Then, slide your extended arms as you bend forward in a position parallel to the floor.
Feel that gentle stretch along your back. Hold for 10 seconds.
The bridge pose targets the front of your body. It will lengthen the front of your thighs which have supported the plank moves.
Begin by lying on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Then, slowly lift up your pelvis as you maintain the alignment between your knees to your hips.
You can keep your arms extended at your sides or clasp your hands under your back.
Hold the pose for 10 seconds, but feel free to stay in this position longer if it you find it enjoyable. Support your buttocks as you lower yourself back to the floor.
The great thing about these two moves is that they support the muscles you engage with the plank while helping to prevent lower back pain.
The plank workout offers an excellent way to strengthen your core while engaging several large muscle groups. And it’s easy to do anywhere.
With the addition of flexibility exercise, this series of poses will provide a quick and effective workout for helping you live a pain-free life. It all begins with that first 10-second session.
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