Oh so many ways to plank

Today I would like to discuss the ever so effective, yet incredibly fundamental plank. The basic plank is something that most people are incorporating for a comprehensive workout, but do you really understand all the benefits that it holds. For a number of years  now, “core strength” has been a buzz word in the fitness industry, however it has been my experience that many people do not understand exactly what is meant by this term. Core strength refers not only to the strength of the abdominals, but also the muscles that surround and support the spine. The core is the basis for all movement and thus extremely important to any activity. Although traditional crunches or sit ups will help strengthen the abdominals, they do little for the rest of your core. The plank is by far the most effective exercise for core strength and has many variations depending on your fitness level. When properly executed this simple exercise incorporates work for the core, chest, shoulders, triceps, glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings.

Basic Plank- Begin by lying face down on the floor, then lift up on to your elbows and toes. Engage the core, keeping your hips in line with the rest of the body. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute depending on your current fitness level. High Plank– Hold the same position only come up on to your hands with your arms extended. In the high plank position be sure to keep your shoulders in line over your wrists, and keep the hips held up in line with the rest of the body.Hold 30-60 seconds. Side Plank – This version can be done on the elbow or high on an extended arm for more of a challenge. Begin on your right side and stack your feet one on top of the other, then press your hips up toward the ceiling.Hold for 30-60 seconds & switch.

*There are many, many advanced variations to the plank. If you are no longer feeling challenged by the traditional planking outlined above you may want to try doing one with your elbows on top of a stability ball, bosu or even in the TRX. The basic principles of the exercise are the same…keep your core engaged and breath. If you are feeling discomfort in the lower back at any time, back down and take some time to stretch!

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