Planks are a staple exercise that doesn’t just work all muscles in your core but recruits the muscles in your legs, lower back, shoulders and glutes. When done correctly planks are a true full body workout!
Planks will get you far better results than the traditional crunch and you will benefit from the additional total body stabilization and strengthening of your muscles – not to mention the numerous variations on offer combating the painstaking boredom.
Before we get started let’s look at some of the fundamentals of the plank:
1. Engage your glutes – yes squeeze those butt muscles
2. Maintain upper back tension – no spaghetti back.
3. Switch on your abdominals – may be difficult at first but becoming conscious of those lower abdominal muscles and engaging them will put you in good stead for rapid progression with your planks.
Where are your lower abdominal muscles? Let’s do a quick exercise to help you find them:
• Lay flat on your back
• Place your hands 2 inches or so in from your hip bones
• Now cough!
Did you feel that? That them kicking in.
Now that’s all cleared up, let’s have a look at some plank variations.
1. Standard Plank
Lie face down, extend your legs and raise up onto your elbows so they are bent directly underneath your shoulders (your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle). Tuck your toes and lift your body up keeping your forearms on the ground. Your body should be in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Don’t forget to engage your core – and breathe!
2. Single Arm Plank
Get into your standard plank position. Raise one arm out straight in front of you so that it is in line with your head and back. Then repeat on the other arm, careful not to lose your form.
3. Single Leg Plank
This is similar to the single arm plank but with your legs. As you raise you leg keep your hips even (or square) and leg straight. Your foot should be a few inches off the floor. Don’t forget to engage your glutes. Alternate legs and repeat.
4. Stability Ball Plank
Get on your knees with a stability ball (exercise ball) in front of you. Assume the same position as you would a standard plank, with forearms on the ball. Remember to maintain that straight line though your body, engaging that core.
5. Bird Dog Plank
Get onto all fours, knees and palms of hands in contact with the floor –hip width apart. Make sure your arms are straight and your weight is balanced. Raise your left leg straight behind you and your right arm straight in front of you. You may feel a little off balance at first so find your core and centre your weight.
Variation tip: Try doing the same on your hands and feet vs your elbows and knees.
6. Plank Crunches On a Stability Ball
Place your shins on the stability ball with your arms straight underneath you on the ground in the plank position. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes as you tuck your knees in and then roll back into your plank position. Be sure to maintain that straight line from your shoulders to your tail bone.
7. Plank Rollout
Much like the above, however with the stability ball under your forearms. Push your arms out rolling the ball away from your body a few inches and then back.
Variation tip: Try making small circles with your forearms, clockwise and anti-clockwise.
8. Plank Jacks
Get into your standard plank position but on your hands. Engage your core and then jump your legs out and in as if you were doing star jumps. Be sure to return to your starting position each time, maintaining good technique.