In the world of exercise, one area of the human body seems to get endless attention the abdominal area or “abs”. There is so much attention devoted to this area that we tend to see information which is all over the board as far as accuracy, efficiency, and safety.Then there’s all that marketing all the gadgets all for just “four easy payments!” Well, there’s good news! If you want to work your abs, you already have great equipment you!
Yes folks I’m talking about the plank. It is finally getting its due, and it’s about time. Problem is they can be very difficult to perform, particularly in the beginning.
So here are some tips for getting you going on the plank thing:RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
First thing is simply being able to hold a plank position for ample time. Most can hold for maybe 15 seconds before feeling like they will collapse. So I recommend doing just that 15 seconds. Next time go for 20, then 25, then 30 seconds. Once you reach that amount of time you should be able to move upward to 60 seconds without fail.
Next thing is form. Most people will tend to keep their hips elevated too high, so here’s how to start out properly: Position yourself face down on the floor as in a pushup. You will be resting on your toes, however rather than the upper body resting on outstretched arms and hands, you will instead be resting on your bent elbows and forearms, hands pointing forward with a soft grip, palms facing inward at each other. This is a good solid foundation.
Now, lower your hips until they make contact with the floor, then raise them up about 4’—6”. Now your body is straight and rigid. While you are holding this form you can occasionally repeat this lowering to the floor, then raise back up (the hips just tend to raise up a little and this will “reset” the straight form alignment). Once you reach the point where you can hold this for 60 seconds, you will want to start varying the plank.
First variation is to be able to lift one leg off the ground for approx 5 seconds, return to floor. Wait another 5 seconds the raise the opposite leg for 5 seconds, then back to the floor. Wait another 5 seconds and repeat this pattern.
Second variation is to be able to do this leg lifting without the 5-second interval in between. In other words just lift one leg for 5 seconds, then the other, back to the first leg, then the other and so on.
A third and final variation is to perform this with a much wider foot stance. The wider the stance, the greater the contraction in the abs, including the obliques toward your sides. Start with the same first then second variation as above. It’s just more demanding with the wider foot stance.
There are other more advanced variations, including marching, side planks, etc; however we will discuss that in future articles. For now, try out these ideas and you will definitely feel the abs working. And remember, you will indeed master the plank…it just takes a little time. Once you get the hang of it, you will find that it is a very safe and time-efficient way to get really good activation of the abdominal muscles!