Variations for Beginners to Advanced Exercisers
The plank exercise is fast gaining popularity as a good way to strengthen the body's core, which includes the abdominals, the muscles of the hips, back and pelvic floor. Strengthening the core work great for improving stability, which in turn develops better posture, cures back pain and reduces the risk of injuries.
Even the most basic position, the Plank, has been hailed as one of the best and safest ab workouts for anybody.
The Basic Plank PositionThe Plank The basic plan position requires exercises to lay flat face down on a mat on the floor with the body resting on the forearms, torso and legs. Head should be relaxed, elbows should be directly under the shoulder, hips should not be lifted and the back should not be arched. The entire body should be positioned a straight line from shoulders to toe. From this relaxed position, lift the body away from the floor, shifting the weight from torso and legs to forearms and toes as if doing a push up. Tighten the abdominal muscles and keep the body rigid but breathe evenly. Hold this position for 10 seconds and rest by lowering torso and legs to the floor. Repeat the basic move several times, gradually working up to holding for 20, 30, 45, 60, 90 and finally 120 seconds for subsequent sessions. Being able to do this core strength exercise for two minutes is a sign of having achieved exceptional level of strength and endurance for the core muscles. Check out this article from About.com which gives instructional information about the Plank Exercise.
Video: The Plank
The Modified Plank
Easier Options for Beginners The Modified Plank is a good option for beginners who are just starting to exercise again after years of being sedentary or for anybody having a difficult time holding the basic plank exercise position for even ten seconds. The modification is a simple one. Instead of having to balance on forearms and toes, exercisers can start with trying to balance on forearms and knees. This is significantly less challenging important thing here is to continue to contract the abdominals. Once the exerciser is comfortable doing the modified plank and can hold it for about a minute, the next step would be to shift to doing the basic plank exercise.
Moderately Challenging Modifications
One Arm One Arm - One Leg Planks
For a little bit of a challenge when doing plank exercises, additional moves may be added to the Plank. Some of the easier ones include Plank with Arm Lift and Plank with the leg lift. Both requires exercisers to start with the basic plank position with forearms and toes on the floor. For the arm lift, begin in the basic plank position. Next, shift the weight to the left forearm and lift right forearm by extending it in front of the body. Hold for three seconds, keeping the arms parallel to the body. Lower and switch to the other arm. Do this for eight reps for each arm. For the leg lift, simply raise one leg five to eight inches of the floor and hold for three seconds for lowering. Do the same for the other leg. Keep switching until each leg has had eight repetitions. If this is too difficult, the Modified Plank with Leg Lift is an easier option. Instead of doing the leg lift with the basic plank, switch to the modified plank position while doing the leg lifts.
More Advanced Variations
Side Planks, Stability Ball Planks, Weighted Planks and the Human Flag Plank
The side plank is a great plank exercise for targeting the lateral part of the core, the obliques. For this advanced variation, exercisers try to balance while on their side with their weight resting only on one foot and one arm. Begin by lying flat on the floor on the side. Elbow should be under the shoulder like with the Plank. From this position, lift the body away from the floor and hold for three seconds. Lower the body, rest and repeat three times. Repeat three times for the other side as well. For an even more challenging variation, add a leg lift by lifting the unsupported left leg. Side planks slims the waist, tones biceps, triceps, deltoids and pectorals. Just remember to keep abdominals contracted during the lift.
Any of the plank exercises variations can be made more challenging by adding weights or doing them on a stability ball. For instance, a training buddy can add weighted plates such as a weighted vest during the plank exercise. These weighted planks levels up the benefits by adding resistance.
Stability Ball Plank. Byusing stability balls is another way to raise the difficulty level of any plank exercise. Because the balance ball is unstable, doing stability ball planks requires more muscles to maintain correct posture during the exercise. This adds more challenge and raises the intensity of any simple routine.
Human Flag Plank is the most difficult of all the plank variations as it requires exercisers to hold on to a pole and keep the body horizontal using only the hands for support. Called the ultimate bodyweight exercise, this requires years of strengthening the core muscles to such a level that it can be kept completely rigid and horizontal during this most challenging plank exercise. Plank Exercise Routines Plank exercise routines should be customized to the fitness level of the person doing it.
For beginners, it is best to start with the modified plank position, holding for only 10 seconds to start with and working up to easily holding the position to a minute. Once this is mastered, the next stage would be to master the basic plank position and to try holding for up to 60 and ninety seconds.
Arm lifts and leg lifts may be added for a moderately challenging routine. Finally, exercisers can move on to doing more advanced variations such as weighted plank and stability ball planks for more challenge and intensity.
The most important thing is to prioritize safety by starting slow and doing the plank exercise variations with correct form. Even a slow and safe start will eventually be rewarded with stronger core muscles that are also streamlined, toned and sleek.