We are going to enjoy our fitness Friday with a plank workout. When I was studying for my personal training certification I learned that a lot of people have insufficient core stability. Proceeding with an exercise routine without core strength is a little bit like going on a road trip and forgetting the map. Sure you might make it to your end goal but you’ll probably have to turn around more often than you’d like. These turnarounds and fitness are unfortunately injury.
Those injuries come from not having proper technique or stability and not having adequate core strength. I always used to tell my fitness classes “There is nothing cute about being injured”. Another great reason to do planks, they help stabilize your spine, which can help reduce lower back pain!
So what is the core anyway? I know you immediately pictured a six pack right? Well actually the core is comprised of the abdominal muscles, muscles in the lower back and the muscles in your hips. The core is responsible for keeping your spine stable and you use it in everyday activity without even realizing it! The core keeps you upright, helps you bend over and rotate.
So today’s workout is going to be a combination of planks and some high intensity cardio. The cardio is there to get your heart rate up so you will burn some major calories during this work out. You can choose whatever move get your heart rate up for me it’s going to be Burpee’s and mountain climbers. Don’t act surprised.
This workout is pretty simple, you’re going to do one of the planks for 30 seconds, followed immediately by 5 burpees (10 if you are a beast). Once you get through the first round, push to hold these planks for 1 minute each! I promise you can do it! Between these I did mountain climbers, which were actually not that terrible, I think I was just happy to get a break from planks! Again, you can choose any cardio exercise here, high knees or butt kicks would also be great. You want to do 20 reps of mountain climbers between each plank. Once you get through this round, go back to the 30 second planks with burpees! Yup you will get through 60 burpees and 12 minutes of planks with this workout! You totally got this!
We are going to do five different variations of plank today. Yeah I know you’re excited, I’m excited. Let’s talk about each move:
Standard plank: Start by getting into a push up position, bend the elbows and rest on your forearms. Brace your core (draw your navel up and in) while squeezing your glutes. Your elbows will be directly below your shoulders, and your body will be in a straight line from head to toes. You should be able to literally place a plank of wood on your back (unless you have a bubble butt like me). When I started doing planks, I would not squeeze my glutes or engage my legs at all, so I was dumping into my shoulders, which meant I couldn’t hold my plank very long. After attending a few yoga classes, I realized this is a full body exercise, all your muscles from head to toe should be engaged! If being on your forearms is too difficult, you either raise up onto your hands (see the midlife picture above) or drop down to your knees (the one on the far right above). Either way, make sure the back of your body is flat as a board!
Plank Jacks: Start in modified plank position, up on your hands. Brace your core and keep the back flat, jack your feet out to the left and right at the same time. Return to start. This will help get your heart rate up! If plank jacks are not in your practice you can lower down to your knees. Slowly jack your legs out one at a time while still on your knees.
Side plank (each side): Starting by laying on your right side. Draw your elbow in beneath the shoulder and lift the hips and straighten your legs so you are propped up onto your right arm, forearm on the ground, legs out straight, feet stacked on top of each other if possible. Brace your core and engage your right obliques to pull your hips up in line with the rest of your body. Be sure to engage your glutes and legs trying to distribute the weight of your body between your arm and your feet. Hold here or if you are more advance, you can thread the needle by threading the top arm down between your grounded arm and your ribs. Keep the hips up in line with the body the entire time!
Plank hip dips – start in standard plank. Bracing your core and contracting your glutes, drop your hips to the left then to the right in a fluid motion. Be sure to keep the back flat!
Plank punches – start in standard plank, and extend your legs out wider than usual for counterbalance. Keeping your core braced and back flat, punch out one arm at a time, challenging your balance and stabilization even more!
During any of these moves, you can always drop down to your knees to lower the intensity! If you need to take a break, take one! This is about building strenght and endurance. If you are a beginner you might want to start with 15 seconds for the first round and 30 seconds for the second round!
Remember a plank is full body exercise so make sure you are working to your maximum potential! You are working your core, your shoulders and if you squeeze your butt like you’re supposed, to your getting some glute work in as well.
What about you?
- What’s your favorite way to engage the core?
- Do you have a favorite plank?
- What’s the longest you have ever held a plank?