Our group exercise leaders and devotees have taken over this month, making it a very merry Plankuary. What better pose to celebrate than the mighty plank with its full-body strengthening powers, plentiful variations and zero-equipment requirements?
Planks are excellent for core strength (an excuse to ditch the crunches, if you’d like!) and are also great at engaging your back, arms, glutes and hamstrings. Plus, you can do them anywhere — at the Y, in your living room or behind your desk (maybe while your co-workers are at lunch).
Lie face-down on the floor and bend your elbows 90 degrees (they should be directly beneath your shoulders). Rest your weight on your forearms and clasp your hands together. Zip up your abdominals and tuck your toes under so that your body forms a straight line (like a wooden plank) from head to toe. Avoid arching your back or raising your glutes up in the air. Your feet should be about hip-width apart.
Feel the burn and embrace the shake as you test how long you can hold the pose. Maybe it’s 15 seconds in the beginning — great, work towards 20 next time. Maybe you’ve got a solid minute under your belt — awesome, set your phone timer and try for an extra ten seconds. If a standard plank doesn’t feel right to your body yet, try coming into the full position and then lowering your knees to the ground and holding from there instead.
As you become comfortable with a classic plank, start experimenting with some variations to work your body in different ways and stay motivated with new challenges.
Straight Arm Plank
As the name suggests, do the above but with your arms straight, like at the top of a push-up position. Make sure to keep your body in line from head to toe.
Plank + Leg/Arm Lifts
Try lifting one leg or arm up at a time, making your core work even harder as your body tries to maintain its balance.
From a forearm or straight arm plank, turn to one side and stack your top leg above your bottom leg, or stagger your feet if that feels better. You can also bring your bottom leg down to rest on your knee instead of staying up on the side of your foot. Bring your top hand to your hip or reach high in the sky. Hold this position or do small dips, bringing your hips towards the ground and back up again (your obliques will thank you later).