Being in the fitness industry for almost two decades, I have come across a million different abdominal exercises and techniques. I have experimented with reverse crunches, pike-ups, basic sit-ups and slow motion bicycles. I’ve tried machines, bands, balls and kettlebells. During my boxing years, I trained my abdominals everyday and now my yogi years, I practice keeping them engaged at all times. However, despite all my phases, there is one exercise that stands out as the best.
Any idea what it is???
You may be surprised to learn but it is……the plank! Please don’t be too disappointed that one of the best ab exercises is so simple and fundamental. (Isn’t that true for most things?! )
Plank is an isometric strength exercise that requires maintaining engagement of the core muscles for an extended period of time. The most common plank is the front plank which is held in a push-up position with the body’s weight distributed onto the arms, legs and toes. Plank can be found in yoga, Pilates and bootcamp classes. It is definitely a favorite among trainers and instructors alike.
I find plank to be so amazing is because:
It requires complete concentration and focus.
Plank strengthens the lower back, rectus abdominis (your 8-pack) and the transverse abdominis (the corset of muscles that hug your middle).
It also builds strength in the stabilizer muscles of the back (traps, rhomboids, rotator cuffs), all three parts of the shoulders, chest muscles, biceps, triceps, butt, quadriceps and calves.
Plank doesn’t require any fancy or expensive equipment.
It promotes good posture and prevents back injuries by teaching your core to stay contracted in a regular standing position.
Not only that, but there are so many variations of plank that 1) you can never get bored and 2) you can always try a new way to challenge yourself. Such examples include side plank, single leg plank, single arm plank, TRX plank, revolving plank and the list goes on…..
Want to try it? Here is a step-by-step guide:
1 – Come into a narrow push-up position with your shoulders directly over your elbows and your elbows directly over your wrists. Arms are perpendicular to the floor and torso is parallel to the floor.
2 – Spread your fingers and press the bases of your index finger deeply into the floor.
3 – Squeeze the muscles of the triceps. Press your outer arms inward.
4 – Firm your shoulder blades against your back and spread your collarbones away from the sternum.
5 – Press your quadriceps or front thighs towards the ceiling. Push into the ground to help lift the body up.
6 – Keep your spine in a neutral position and your back flat. Picture your body as a long straight board or plank with hipslevel with shoulders.
7 – Slightly tuck tailbone down and lift the pubic bone up. Keep the navel in. Contract the abs towards your spine.
8 – Lift your head away from your neck and gaze down towards the floor.
9 – Breathe. Smile 🙂
10 – Hold as long as you can. Aim for 20-30 seconds in the beginning and work your way up to one minute or longer as you get stronger. Repeat two to three times.
What is your favorite thing about plank? What is the longest you have ever held it? Please comment and share below!