Hopefully, this guide will lead you to master this effective exercise. The plank is a very popular ab exercise, as it is very simple and easy to perform. It is great for strengthening and defining the core muscles.
These muscles are very important because they play a role in supporting the spine as well as the pelvis. These muscles form the foundation on which you move and do things every day. In order to get the best results, you will have to learn to perform the exercise correctly.
The Plank: How to do it correctly
First, get onto your hands and knees. Move your forearms so that they are on the floor, with the elbows under the shoulders. The hands should be positioned shoulder-width apart. Next, move the feet back and form a straight line with your body, from your head to your feet. You should now be looking at the floor, activate your core muscles (tighten abs). Now hold this position.
The Plank – What mistakes should you avoid?
Do not be tempted to look forward or up, as this puts a strain on the neck muscles and can ruin your entire form. The aim is to look at the floor, a good tip is to imagine holding a tennis ball under your chin. This neutral position will make sure you avoid any injury.
Another mistake, many tend to drop their hips. This is only natural as your core muscles do get tired. But, if this does happen, it will put a strain on the lower back. The whole exercise will also then be less effective. You will notice, if the hips start to drop, the back will automatically begin to arch. Your arms will now be taking most of the weight, which can put a strain on the shoulder and spine. All of this takes the focus off the core muscles and then makes the exercise ineffective.
You can easily correct yourself, by tightening your glute muscles and moving the hip back into alignment. To make it easier, you can also shift the feet a bit further apart and move them back when you feel stronger.
When starting out with this exercise, you may not feel all that aware of your body position. If you can, try to do the plank in front of a mirror, in order to correct form. You can also get somebody to check that your body position is correct.
Making the Plank a part of your routine
Once you are comfortable with the plank, you can eventually challenge yourself some more. Other strengthening exercises usually have reps, but for the plank, you will only require time. You will hold the plank for a certain time and then break. The hold will just increase in time between breaks, which is your set time.
Perform 3 to 4 sets and when you have successfully done this with perfect form, you can increase your hold time. Try increasing the time by 15 seconds and resting for 60 seconds in-between. To get results, you don’t have to do this exercise every single day if you don’t want to. Professionals suggest doing the plank three times every week.
There are some great variations to the plank you can try out:
Lateral Plank – Foot Tap
Begin by getting into the original plank position. Now, lift your right leg and move it a few inches out from the start position. Return the right foot and repeat the same movement for the left leg. Once you have done each leg, this is considered one rep.
Plank Walk – Lateral
This is basically doing the plank and walking sideways. Begin by getting into the plank position. Move your left foot and hand to the left, then move your right hand and leg to the left. You should now be back into the start plank position. Now, move right hand and leg to the right, followed by the left hand and leg. The entire move to the left and then to the right is one rep.
Plank – Push-up
Get into the plank position and activate your core. Push yourself up, one arm at a time, onto your hands, which is the start position for a push-up. Hold, then return to the plank position, with the forearms on the floor. Make sure your body is in a straight line while performing this movement. This is one rep.
Plank – Knee taps
Begin in the plank position. You will be taking your right hand and touching the left knee. In order to do this, shift back on the balls of your feet. Touch the knee and move back to the start position, repeat the movement with the left hand and right knee. Once you have done both sides, this is one rep.
Plank – Sweep
Begin by getting yourself into a push-up start position. Arms straight, shoulder-width apart with legs stretched out to the back, body straight. Bring your right knee towards the left elbow and then ‘sweep’ over to the right elbow. Hold for a second or two and then move back to the start position. Repeat the movement with the left leg. Left knee towards the right elbow, ‘sweep’ out towards left elbow and then back to the start position. This is one rep.
Plank – Jack
Again, begin in plank position. Simultaneously, move/jump both feet to the side, try not to rotate your body in the process. Jump back again to the start position. This is one rep.
Plank – Dumbbell
Begin in plank position. Place a dumbbell on the outside of the left arm. Once ready, take the right hand and pick up the dumbbell bringing it to the right side. This whole movement should be done with a straight body. Continue, now grab the weight with the left hand and move it over to the left side again. One rep.
Plank – renegade Row
Begin in a push-up start position, with legs a bit wider than hip-width. Your hands should be holding some weights. Lift the right arm with the weight up to the chest and return to start position. Then lift the left arm with the weight up to the chest and return to start position. This is one rep.
Plank – Shoulder Tap
Begin in a push-up start position. Bring the left hand up and touch the right shoulder and return to start position. Follow by bringing up the right hand toward the left shoulder and back again. Make sure the hips are stable throughout the movement.
Plank – Rotate and extend
Begin in the push-up start position, arms straight and core activated. Move your weight onto your right arm, then rotate the body to the right. Lift the left arm straight up or place onto the hips, you will notice the body will be in a T-shape. Hold this position for at least 3 seconds and return to the start position. Repeat this movement to the left. This is also known as the side-plank.