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How to do the perfect plank

All of your movement stems from your core—including your abs, back and hip muscles—which means it’s key to keep this area of your body strong. Planks are one of the best core moves you can do because they’re incredibly portable, gentle on joints (involving only isometric contraction), and easy to change, so you can increase your difficulty and challenge yourself in new ways as you build your strength. Here’s how to perform a classic plank, and a few ways to mix things up.

To start, kneel on a mat, the floor or even some grass outside and place your hands on the ground. Step your feet back until your legs and body are straight, keeping your toes on the ground, about hip-distance apart. Next, bend your elbows and release your hands one by one, placing your forearms on the mat or ground. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, and your hands can be in fists, facing each other, or flat on the ground. Pull your abs in toward your spine to stabilize your body and help keep your back flat. Your spine should be in a neutral position. Slightly squeeze your glutes and hips to help keep your body still. Now…hold your position for 10 seconds to one minute.

How to make it easier

As with push-ups, you can ease up with planks by doing them with your knees on the mat. Follow the same directions but drop your knees down and walk your arms forward so that your elbows rest beneath your shoulders. You may want to shift your body forward slightly, too, so you’re not resting directly on your kneecaps.

Planks are static, however—unlike push-ups. Once you’ve mastered pulling your abs in toward your spine and staying stable for ten seconds, it’s wise to try the classic plank. Simply adjust the amount of time you hold the move. Start with just a few seconds and add a few for each time you perform the exercise.

How to make it harder

There are plenty of ways to create plank variations and you may even recognize them from your regular yoga class. To start, you can try them with one leg elevated straight behind you, for an extra thigh, glute and back burn. You can perform High Planks with your arms straight and hands on the mat, and then release one arm in front of you, with the opposite leg off the floor behind you. (Release and switch sides.)
One favorite is the Side Plank: To do it, get into a High Plank, with your arms straight and abs pulled tight toward your spine. There should be a tiny bend in your elbows, so you’re not hyperextending the joints. Next, pull your abs in tight and slowly lift your hand off the mat, opening it up to the side and rolling your body with the movement. Allow your feet to ‘stack’ one on top of the other (in this case, your left foot is on top, with the right side of your right foot on the mat). Open your left hand up toward the ceiling, keeping your body completely straight with eyes gazing straight ahead. (If this is too difficult, you may bend your bottom (right) knee and place your right thigh on the mat.)
To increase the difficulty you can add the Wellness Ball during the exercise by placing it under the legs or under the arms and maintaining the position. Wellness Ball makes training all your muscle groups fun; helping you to perform bodyweight exercises and develop flexibility, balance, coordination and correct posture. The destabilising effect created by the shape of the ball will help you challenge stability through simultaneously involving all the muscles in your body.

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