The plank has become the cornerstone of abdominal strengthening and core stability exercises
. It helps to activate all the deep muscles in your torso and stablise the spine.
Planking is a better investment of your time compared to doing sit ups. It strengthens a broader group of muscles, defending your spine against unwanted twisting and jolting movements to prevent back injury.
It also enables the movements you want, helping to boost athletic performance
How to do the plank
Lie face down on a matt, resting on your forearms and toes (curled up). Your feet should be shoulder width apart, and elbows under your shoulders
Raise your hips and stomach off the ground into a plank so you're balancing on your toes and forearms. Your body should be straight from the neck to your ankles.
Suck your belly bellybutton in towards the spine (also known as engaging your core).
Hold until fatigue, but remember to breath throughout, and stop if you feel any pain in your back
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7 ways to do the plank
Make sure you can hold a basic plank for at least 60 seconds before adding these more challenging moves.
1. The single foot plank
Start in a basic plank position, then raise one foot just off the ground. Try not to raise your opposite hip to compensate, and make sure to do this on both sides to balance things out. The wider your feet are, the harder this exercise becomes.
2. The timed plank
Position a smart phone timer or clock nearby, and perform a basic plank till you can plank no more. Gradually work on increasing the duration of your planking over time. This is a good test of your core strength and endurance.
3. Feet elevated plank
Perform a basic plank with both feet on a step, bench or coffee table. You can also put your feet into TRX suspension straps. The higher foot position changes the focal point of gravity on your trunk, targeting a different part of your core.
4. The side plank
Lie on your side, with just one foot and one forearm touching the ground. Your upper foot can rest on your lower foot, and the elbow should be directly below your shoulder.
Contract the core and lift your hip up so the body is in a straight line. Try not to sink down into your shoulder. This helps to strengthen the side muscles of your core, known as the obliques.
5. The dynamic plank
The dynamic plank involves moving the upper torso forwards and backwards while you plank. You will need to use a small handle with wheels, or put your wrists in TRX suspension straps for this exercise. The movement only needs to be small, but it trains the core in a way that is more relevant to athletic performance.
6. The fit-ball plank
Place your forearms on a small fit ball or inflatable device. This introduces an extra level of instability while you plank, and adds a higher degree of difficulty. The closer your feet are together, the harder the exercise becomes.
7. The reverse plank
Sit on a matt with your legs straight out in front, and your hands by your side and a little behind your hips. Lift your hips and torso up off the floor so there is a straight line from your head to your heels. Squeeze your core and hold. The reverse plank targets the muscles at the back of your body.