One of the most fundamental abdominal exercises you can incorporate into your training is the plank. This isometric exercise works the abdominal muscles while also strengthening the lats and engaging the glutes and hamstrings. It allows the athlete to work the abdominals without having to perform any twisting or crunching movements that sometime agitate the lower back. However, like any exercise, performing the plank incorrectly can cause the movement to be ineffective and cause pain to some of the joints.
Want to incorporate the plank into your routine? Here’s your how-to on this incredible core exercise!
Step one: Upper body
The plank can be performed with the upper body in one of two positions: with the elbows and forearms on the ground, or up higher with just the hands on the ground. Both positions are effective for working the plank position, but each position offers different relief of certain joints. Having the forearms on the ground will relieve any tension felt in the wrists, and holding the plank from the hands will relieve some of the tension in the shoulders and elbows. In either case, it is pivotal that the shoulders are directly over the elbows (or wrists, if you are bearing your weight on your hands) to ensure that the upper body is being supported safely and efficiently.
Step two: Legs
The plank can be worked from two different positions with the lower body: the knees can be on the ground, or the knees can be up, with the weight of the lower body supported on the toes. By placing the knees on the ground, you can decrease the amount of initial strength needed to perform the plank while still strengthening the entire core section.
Those who are new to training the plank position can opt to start with knees on the ground first and work up to having just the toes on the ground to support their body weight.
Step three: The Abdominals / Core Section
The body’s midsection is arguably the most important aspect to think about when performing the plank. Regardless of the positions of the upper and lower body, the abdomen must be actively engaged.
The belly button should be pulled up toward the spine, creating a hollow sensation in the abdomen. This keeps the hips from dropping down and creating an arch in the back, which can send unwanted pressure to the area. The glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs should all be active and engaged to help lock in the isometric hold.
Step four: Putting it all together
Once the position of the upper body and lower body have been determined, and the engagement of the core section has been understood, you’re ready to work the plank! Begin by holding the position for a short duration, such as 15 to 20 seconds at a time, for two to three sets.
As the position becomes stronger, increase the amount of time in the position and decrease the amount of rest in between sets. In no time, your whole body will feel stronger and more stable, and you’ll notice an increase in your balance that carries over to other exercises and daily activities.
Lauren Weiss is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor based out of Long Beach, CA. She specializes in kettlebell training and unconventional workouts and has been working with both types of fitness for over a year. Lauren has her BOLT Kettlebell Sport Certification through the USA Kettlebell League and has expertise working with kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells and several unconventional fitness tools. Lauren received her BA in Journalism and uses her writing expertise to craft thought-provoking articles about trending fitness, health & wellness topics. Follow Lauren on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Main Photo Credit: diignat/shutterstock.com