I've been a certified personal trainer for almost six years, but my personal experience with exercise goes way back to college, really. That's when I first got into it. And when I think back to all of the workouts I've done, there is clearly a short list of go-to exercises that always get the job done. Today, we'll talk about one of them: Planks.
A few weeks ago, she was telling me about an article she read in Muscle and Fitness Hers. (Good choice, lady! A shout-out because I know she reads Daily Dose.) It was a 30-day plank challenge that provided, you guessed it, 30 different planks. She brought the article in and I photocopied it.
Seriously, if you're not doing planks, you should! They literally engage almost every muscle in your body. And no, it doesn't matter how long you can hold it. What matters more is that you try, and that you're doing so with the right form.
Here's what you need to remember: Keep your head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in one straight line. Tighten your abs and breathe deeply. Spread your fingertips apart to create a nice, solid base below your wrists. And finally, do your best to relax into the position without losing form.
10 seconds, 10 minutes...start where you can and build from there.
I promise you can do it, unless you have one of these contradictions:
• Wrist, shoulder , elbow or toe issues
• Low back pain
• Pregnancy in the second or third trimester
Should any of the above apply to you, you'll need to proceed with caution. I'm not saying you CAN'T do planks, but you might want to ask for guidance before you try. Consult with your physician or a certified personal trainer. Both will be full of information.
If you don't have any of the aforementioned contraindications and you want to give planks a try, start with the basic plank position (shown above). Once you've mastered that pose, consider one of the following plank exercises:
1) Balancing Plank
It's as easy as lifting the opposite arm and leg at the same time. But it's not so easy to hold. Too much? Start with one arm. Or one leg. Gradually build up to both at the same time.
2) Tree Plank
Essentially, it's a side plank with your knee up in tree pose. You can also grab your leg. This, however, would be an advanced move that requires strength and flexibility. It's also known as a star side plank:
Oh, the exercise ball! Such a simple piece of equipment, and yet, it makes core exercises so evil! If you reference the picture above, it looks like a simple forearm plank on an exercise ball. But really, you're in motion as you "stir the pot." Translation: You move your forearms in a small circle.
4) Full Plank on Ball
So much harder than it looks! To progress, start with a BOSU (dome side down). Or maybe a medicine ball. Both of which put you closer to the ground and give you a slightly more stable surface on which to rest your hands.
5) Toe Tap Plank
Planking with your feet on the exercises ball can be a challenge in and of itself. But if you've mastered it, you might start toe-tapping the ground. Alternating sides, of course. Again, much harder than it looks because you can't lose control of the ball. You can do these without the ball to start, then move up to a BOSU (dome side up), then finally move up to the exercise ball.
Seriously, though...there are so many plank variations out there. More than 30, for sure. Some of them get tricky, so you need to be careful. Never work beyond your fitness level—that's where injuries happen. Push yourself, but don't push yourself over the edge.
Oh, and—don't forget that it's #wildworkoutwednesday!
Click the hashtag for more fitness inspiration.
Question: What's your favorite plank variation? What do you think is harder: Forearms or straight arms?