The plank is one of the most inclusive exercises for all the main areas of the body. Plank exercises engage the abs, back, core, glutes, and hamstrings. It puts strength and endurance to the test while improving posture and flexibility. Beginners can hold the plank position for 10-20 seconds at a time, doing three sets with up to a minute of rest in between each set. Increase the time that you hold the plank position each week. These variations on the plank will help you target those trouble areas and get rid of the flab—fast!
Before you start finding variations to the classic plank, it's best first to get a handle on this one. Make sure your body forms a straight line—that you are not sinking at the hips, or sticking your bum in the air. To do the classic plank, get into push-up position, with your hands directly below your shoulders. Push up so that your body forms a straight line. Make sure your hands are still directly under your shoulders, squeeze your glutes, and engage your core. Remember to breathe. Hold the position for 20 seconds, increasing time with each workout. That's a rep!
This is another classic plank position that may be easier to perform than the "push-up position" plank. Beginners may prefer starting with this plank instead. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows directly under your shoulders. You may keep your palms flat on the floor or clasp your hands together. Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line and hold the position for 20 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Do three sets.
For those who have difficulty performing the classic plank or the forearm plank, this variation is an easier version, allowing you to build up the strength to eventually perform the classic plank. Place your forearms on the ground with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. With your knees on the floor, raise your hips off the ground so that your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold for 20 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and repeat two more times to complete three sets.
The side plank is undoubtedly harder than the standard plank. It engages smaller core muscles and obliques and requires more strength and endurance than the standard version. Don't expect to be able to hold the side plank for as long as you can hold the standard plank. Start with 10 seconds on each side and work your way up. The side plank may be performed either with a straight arm or with your forearm on the ground. Start off lying on your left side with your legs extended and your right leg stacked on top of your left leg. Prop yourself up on your left hand (for a straight-armed side plank) or your left forearm (for a forearm side plank). Squeezing your glutes and core muscles, raise your hips off the floor so that your right hip is in line with your left hip, and your legs are still stacked. Make sure your hips don't rotate or drop. Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side.
This variation on the standard plank is difficult because it removes a contact point from the floor. This plank requires more balance and stability than the standard plank. To perform this plank, get into classic plank position or forearm plank position. Engaging your glutes, lift one foot off the ground and hold for 5-10 seconds, then switch legs. Keep switching legs until you complete the set.
The reverse plank will give you an entirely different view than the classic plank. In the reverse plank, you're facing the sky instead of the floor. This plank will be challenging even for those who have mastered the standard plank. It engages the anterior muscles even more than the standard plank does. You'll really feel it in the lower back, obliques, glutes, and hamstrings. To perform the reverse plank, start in a sitting position with your legs extended in front of you. Place your palms on the floor next to your hips, fingers spread wide. Pressing into your palms, lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line. Squeeze your core and your glutes and hold for 10-20 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat two more times until you complete three sets.
This variation on the side plank is more challenging and requires advanced precision and balance. This plank is for masters of the side plank. The starfish plank has two contact points on the ground. Get into side plank position on your left side and lift your right arm straight up in the air so that your arms form a straight line. Then lift your right leg in the air so that your legs form a 45-degree angle. Hold for 10-20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
This variation on the standard plank is also challenging because it involves only two contact points with the ground. It requires balance and strength, and it combines cardio training and strength training. To perform this plank, get into a standard plank position. Lift your left arm off the floor and extend it straight out in front of you so that your left forearm is parallel to your left ear. Then lift your right leg off the floor and extend it straight back, squeezing your glutes. Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat with the opposite arm and leg until you complete one set of 20 seconds. Rest for one minute and repeat two more times to complete three sets.
This plank exercise starts from the straight-arm plank. Like other plank exercises, it requires balance, endurance, and strength. From the straight-arm plank position, twist your body to the left and bring your left knee to your chest, holding for 2 seconds. Repeat on the other side to complete one rep. Perform 20 reps for one set.
To further challenge your core muscles and test your balance and strength, perform the standard straight-arm plank with a stability ball. Place your shins and feet on a stability ball with your hands on the ground and get into plank position. Squeeze your core muscles and glutes, and hold for 20 seconds, working up to one minute with each work-out.
A perfect plank is a sign of a strong, healthy body. If you can perform a perfect plank for two minutes, you are probably in good shape. If you can't perform a plank for very long, don't be discouraged! You'll be surprised how quickly you can work your way up to holding a perfect plank for a full minute.
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