Fitness is a fad-driven business; no doubt about that. It seems as if every week a new program, exercise or diet becomes the next best thing to get you in the best shape of your life. And nothing gets more attention than movements that will improve your abs and core muscles.
Planks are receiving their ’15 minutes of fame’ right now and they are appealing for a number of reasons. First of all, you can do them anywhere (like push-ups or crunches). You don’t need to go to the gym and can bang out sets in front of your TV while the commercials are on.
Next, they are pretty easy to do. You don’t have to be flexible or even incredibly strong for planks and there is no movement once you are in place, as this is a static exercise that you use time instead of reps.
Most importantly, though, is that planks actually work and you will feel it right away as proof. Even holding it for a mere 30-to-60 seconds will do the trick and this exercise is more than just for your core; it’s a full body workout all in itself.
Here are 7 tips on how to make the most out of this very useful isometric exercise:
1. BODY POSITION
Keep your body totally straight without any arch in your back like a plank of wood, hence the name of the exercise. Do not allow your belly button to sag and picture pulling it up towards your spine to keep good form. Arching your back will put unnecessary pressure on that area.
2. EYES/HEAD POSITION
Look straight towards the floor underneath you and do not move your neck up or down. Want a simple but smart suggestion? Do not hold a conversation while doing planks because then you will have a tendency to turn your head up to see your bullshitting partner.
3. TOES BENT UPWARD
Put your feet at hip width and balance by the toes, similar to a position when you are doing calf raises with the toes curled inward. This will help you keep your knees and back straight. A good way of keeping this position is by driving your heels backwards towards the ground.
4. HANDS TOGETHER
Make two fists with your hands and keep them facing each other, putting more emphasis on the pinkie side of your hands bracing your weight instead of your wrists or elbows. You have more meat on that part of your body and it is not as bony as either of those two joints. You can also clasp your fingers together and lean on the same part of your hands in that fashion; whichever is more comfortable for you.
5. BREATHE EASY
A common mistake while exercising is either holding your breath or mixing up when you should inhale or exhale. Doing planks does not require any specific breathing technique but you still need to remember to breathe so you do not get lightheaded. Just breathe normally while holding yourself in the position.
6. TIGHT ASS
While you’re in the proper plank position, activate your abs and glutes by contracting them slightly while you’re breathing and time your exhale with this tightening of those muscles.
7. SINGLE ARM OR LEG VARIATIONS
Once you are accustomed to doing the basic plank position, make it a little harder by lifting up one leg or arm. Your body will want to rotate towards the ‘strong’ side and that’s when you will really give your core a beating by keeping everything stable.