Today, we are showing you the single best exercise you can do for your core --the plank. This probably comes as no surprise to the more experienced athletes. In it's simplest form, a plank involves maintaining a challenging position in which one's bodyweight is help up by the forearms (hands) and toes for an extended period of time. While it may look easy at first glance, anyone who has held the plank for a minute or more knows differently.
So say sayonara to crunches and sit-ups! A crunch or sit-up goes against the natural curve of the lumbar spine. Planks top the list of effective core exercises because they maintain the stability of the core muscles, promoting proper posture and proper alignment of the spine. And planks work the abs isometrically -the way they're suppose to function (meaning that your muscles don’t change in length and you’re simply holding a static position.).
Here's how to do a proper standard plank:
- Lie face down on the floor
- Raise up onto your toes and rest on your elbows or your hands (if you're a beginner, you can start with your knees on the ground)
- Make sure your back is completely straight (aka don't let your butt pop up)
- Make sure to brace your abs (pretend that you’re about to get punched in the stomach)
- Hold until the timer beeps! (try 30 - 60 seconds to start, but set your goal ahead of time)
If you are looking for more of a burn, of course there are more challenging variations on the plank:
- Side Plank - Bring your legs together until your heels touch. Lean to your left while lifting your right arm up toward the ceiling until you are balanced on one hand and your body is now perpendicular to the floor
- Plank with Shoulder Touches - from a standard plank, reach your right arm to touch your left shoulder and then switch
- Plank Rows - from the plank position, grab a weight in one hand and raise the arm directly up past your back as you bend the elbow at a 90 degree angle
- Extended Plank - walk your arms out as far as they can go while maintaining your plank position to give your shoulders and extra burn
- Plank with Opposite Arm and Leg Lift - raise your right arm straight out in front of you as you lift your left leg up a few inches, now switch
- Knee to Elbow Planks - Take your left arm and bring it in towards your stomach as you take your right knee and draw it in, then alternate sides
Now remember, doing a few planks won't get you a six pack all on its own. If you’re holding a lot of body fat, then your abs will never show no matter what. You need to follow a strength training routine to achieve a low body fat percentage. Once at a low enough body fat percentage, the plank will help tighten your entire ab region and will help give your abs a really tight and sleek look!