The plank is an excellent exercise that strengthens your back while protecting it. It’s a popular exercise among many fitness enthusiasts and athletes as a core-strengthening move that also conditions abdominal muscles. Your core comprises of the abdominals, obliques and back muscles. Therefore crunches alone aren’t going to do the trick.
You need an all-rounder exercise that strengthens all muscles in your core and stabilizes it. All movements originate from the core. In addition, it also supports the spine, your posture, and internal organs. Practice performing a classic plank and its variation on most days of the week and increase the amount of time you hold a plank position as you progress.
Always warm up before starting any exercise routine. Start with 5 to 10 minutes of any light exercise such as jogging in place. This will boost blood flow and oxygen supply to your muscles, thus improving performance throughout your whole workout.
Lie down with your face first on the floor and position your elbows right under your shoulders. Press your hands to the floor, keeping your arms directly under your shoulders and close to your torso.
Tighten your thigh and core muscles and raise your legs and upper body off the floor. Support all your weight on your arms and toes, making sure your back is neutral and your neck, butt and legs are in a straight line. Think of yourself as a plank of wood. You’re calm and steady.
Maintain the plank position for as long as possible, we suggest you try 10 seconds first and increase the length as you progress. Breathe naturally and keep your back straight throughout the exercise. When you’re done, slowly lower your body, relax and breathe deeply.
If the regular plank is too boring for you, you can try its variations which are fun and more challenging:
This one is a killer. Bird dog is a great exercise to prevent instability. Get into a basic plank position and lift one arm off the floor and reach out. Next, lift the opposite leg and hold. If this is too challenging for you, lift your arm and leg separately but make sure you switch sides. Keep your core tight and back straight throughout this exercise.
If you want to work on your core’s stability and strengthen it even further, add some external instability. One great way is to use a Swiss ball. Place a Swiss ball on the floor and place your feet on it and maintain a regular plank position with arms under shoulders. Keep your core tight and back neutral.
Side planks are excellent exercisea great way to work your obliques. Get into normal plank position, squeeze your butt and abs, lift one arm off the floor and place one foot on top of the other so that you’re facing one side. Stretch your free arm towards the ceiling, point your fingers and look up.
Hold in this position for 10 seconds. To make this more challenging, add in a crunch! Bend your free arm and your top knee and bring your elbow or top arm towards your knee to form a crunching motion. Return to your initial side plank position and repeat.
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