What is a plank exercise?
You know the plank I mean, the one that gets you right in the core, the one that you just hold and hold until your abs can’t take it for any longer?! Yep, that guy. The plank exercise is one of the most common core exercises and there’s good reason for it to be. We say it’s a core workout because it primarily targets that muscle group, sculpting the abs one sweaty second at a time. After a while you’ll also feel it in your glutes too, which is always a bonus and it has been said that working on your plank hold with the right technique can help prevent lower back pain.
Ah the plank technique, it looks so simple, yet it’s a tough one to master perfectly. A lot of the time when we think our body is aligned it is in fact a bit all over the show.
1. For the plank hold to work in all the right places, your body does need to be in a straight line, so that means no arching or curving of the back, no bent legs and your head shouldn’t be tucked into your neck – see images below
2. Once you’re aligned squeeze the glutes (they’re the BIG muscles in your bum)
3. Tighten your core as if you’re getting ready to be punched in the stomach (nice, I know!)
4. Press your elbows into floor
5. Always make sure your hands stay relaxed too – when you’re contracting other muscles in your body your hands may have a tendency to tense up, so just keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t
Aside from just holding the plank challenge position there are few other variations that I like to add to my workouts. Check them out below and give them a go.
Plank knee walk outs
Whilst in a plank hold drop alternate knees to the floor, but don’t quite touch it – this will feel like a walking motion. I like to hold plank for 20 seconds and do 20 ‘knee walk outs’ (10 on each leg), then repeat 3 times. It’s a killer!
Plank leg lifts
This can be done in two different ways, either as a hold or as multiple lifts. The key when doing this is to make sure your don’t lose form and arch your back. If doing a hold, you can lift one limb at a time – try to hold each limb off the floor for 15 seconds each to begin with, without dropping your body in between. To make it even harder hold plank with one leg and the opposite arm off the floor. Yikes!
I love these and I just don’t know why! Starting in plank position push up on your hands one at a time, lifting yourself into push up position. Once you have lowered back into plank, repeat the move. Up and down = one rep. Be sure to try and keep your hips straight at all times!
Another favourite of mine, as it targets the obliques so well. Once you have mastered the side plank hold with your body in a straight line (see posture below), move on to holding for 20 seconds and then do 20 hip dips… and repeat on the other side of course!
Rob and I currently have a plank challenge going on – it’s pretty simple: Drop down and hold it for as long as possible everyday to try and get your time higher. It’s great to do it with a partner, as your competitive side will come out and you’ll push your body to work even harder. Rob always seems to beat me, but my record is 2 minutes and 32 seconds so far, so I’m not doing too badly.
How long can you hold yours for?
Happy Planking! x