Today begins a new weekly series on the blog and I am pretty excited about it! Each Monday I am going to highlight a new exercise move but even more exciting than that is that all the highlighted moves will be complete body weight exercises!! That's right...this means no excuses people! All you need is your own body and a ready and willing attitude! Check out the exercise each Monday, show up for yourself and try out a new move! I'll do my best to share some additional insight about each exercise here on the blog as well!
To start us off on the right foot, or rather both feet (and arms!) let's talk about one of the BEST core/abs/back exercises ever, hands down...the PLANK.
Full Body Strength Not only are planks good for the core front and back of the body, but you also get a great workout for your neck, shoulders, chest, and back and I am all about a multi-functional move that works more parts of the body in one single move!
Improved Posture Because you are working much more than your core and engaging muscles from your neck to your hips, you'll build strength making it easier for you to maintain a neutral spine when sitting and/or standing. The isometric hold in a plank is strengthening your entire core which will help you stand more upright in your posture.
Improved Flexibility While it might not feel like it when your abs are on fire during a plank, you also get a nice lower body stretch during the move. Setting up in plank position is a great stretch through the hamstrings and during the pose itself its a nice stretch for the arches of the feet.
Anyone Can Do Them Planks are great because they are easy to modify working for all fitness levels. If you are new to planks, starting on your knees might be a great first step then move to your toes as your core gets stronger. Another way to modify is by doing a full-arm or forearm plank. As you get stronger in any type of plank, you can work on increasing intensity just be adding more time in the position itself.
You Can Do Them Anywhere No equipment is needed to get your plank on. Find a good solid surface like the living room floor, the rug on your deck or grass in your backyard and you can do a plank.
So Much Variety! There are so many variations that can be done in the plank position to keep your core firing and your muscles guessing. From knee drops to hip dips, side hover and toe taps, the options for changing up your plank are endless. In fact this article linked from Greatist has 47, yes 47! ways to change up your basic plank.
Now that you have several great reasons for adding planks to your weekly workout routine, let's quickly review the basic moves to get you started right!
For a high plank, set up like you are going to do a pushup. Keep your arms straight and positioned directly under your shoulders, your toes on the ground, back straight and core tight. You want to engage your glutes so your hips do not dip or sag towards the floor but also don't raise up high in the air. For low plank, the set up will be the exact same except where the high plank your arms are straight, in low plank you will be on your forearms. Once settled into position, all you have to do from there is hold AND breathe. Breathe and hold. For a little more tutorial and ways to set up alternate plank modifiers check out this article from Greatist.
I like to have a predetermined time to hold plank because it gives me a number to work towards but keep in mind, quality over quantity. If you are just starting out, you might choose to hold your plank for just 20 seconds slowly building over time by adding a few additonal seconds each week. If you are a veteran planker, maybe you'll start out with 45-60 seconds and work towards two minutes or add intensity by adding the aforementioned knee drops or toe taps. If at any time during plank, your form starts to suffer, it's time to modify and ease off increasing time.
Now that you're equipped with the benefits and basics, it's time to get to work on that core! Grab your phone, set the timer and hold! You'll be gaining a ton of strength in your core and upper body the each time you hit the deck for a plank.
Until next Monday's new move....happy planking!!!