The magical plank is an incredibly simple exercise that, practiced diligently, can give superb toning to the abs and other muscles of the core. This exercise is perfect for both men and women seeking all round fitness and health. The plank is a great body weight exercise that is safer in general for the body than lifting weights; yet don’t underestimate it’s power to develop your core strength. This can be life-changing! A strong core is fundamental not only to a good, elegant physique, but also beneficial for overall health and internal organ support. It also helps tremendously with numerous disciplines including martial arts, gymnastics, swimming and many more!
Almost everyone who is in good general health can do the basic plank – but what matters is how long you hold it, and then the frequency with which you practice it. Do you have the focus to do this exercise every day?
The “gold standard” for the plank is considered to be two minutes – with “perfect form”. It’s not easy to hold it that long. For many people, 30 seconds will feel like a lot – especially to begin with. If you can do a minute, you’re doing well. Start gently – and see if you can extend your time gradually. You are much better off doing a smaller amount but maintaining a regular practice, than you would be by pushing too hard, hurting yourself and giving up. One great tip is to take a magazine, laptop or book and set it in front of you, along with your timer – so as to relieve the boredom. You might as well multi-task while you are getting strong abs!
Putting it into practice: Doing the plank.
To prepare, you will need a soft mat or cushion for your elbows as they will be supporting weight for a period of time.
First, get into a kneeling position and then lean forward as if you were going to kiss the ground. Let your elbows and forearms rest on the ground, set your timer and then move your legs back to straight, keeping your feet together. Ideally, your torso should be absolutely straight – as if doing a pushup with perfect form. Now, simply hold the position, focusing on maintaining good form – for as long as you can. Make a record of your time and don’t push yourself so hard that you risk injury.
If you can do the plank twice per day, you will definitely notice an improvement in your abdominal toning. You may also find that it assists with lower back issues as the spine is better supported by good core strength.
Gentle start:If you are not yet able to do a regular plank, you can build up to it gently by starting with the knees on the ground, thus putting less weight on the core muscles.
Variations On The Plank:
Once you can hit two minutes for the basic plank, there are ways to switch it up so that will give greater gains than just increasing the time.
Side plank: This one is superb for the muscles in the side of the abdomen. For this variation, rotate to the side, with either one elbow or one hand on the ground and the torso straight. You can raise the other arm so that it points straight up. Do one side, then the other. You may find that you can only do a few seconds of this one to start with. That’s ok. Ten seconds of this, twice per day, every day and you will notice benefits.
Upward plank: For this one, start in a sitting position with your legs straight out in front of you. Then place your hands either side of your buttocks and lift your torso off the ground, into the position as shown. You may find also that you can only do a few seconds of this one to start with – but it’s tremendous for the back muscles.
One leg raised: By performing the regular plank with one leg raised, you can dramatically increase the load. This beats extending beyond two minutes. Keep your body straight and resist the urge to rotate!
One arm raised: Lifting one arm is an even greater challenge. You will need to shift your weight so that you are balanced – but the extra effort required to not rotate the body in this position will give a super extra workout to the core.
One arm and one leg raised: Lift one arm and the opposite leg at the same time, then switch over. You’ll feel this one!