For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere Spring has fully sprung and summer is on the way. This means unveiling your fine weather wardrobe baring the flesh and, very likely, exposing that midriff from time to time!

While that opportunity might thrill a few who are very proud of their flat, strong mid section, it is more likely to alarm far greater numbers!

A recent Winter of comfort eating, less outdoor activity than we might have liked and the recent Easter consumption of an irregular quantity of chocolate and general confectionery might well have left us straining against out waistbands more than we should. And now it’s time to shed the layers of clothing and the excess fat as we reach for the crop tops and dig out those bikinis that have been long since put away!

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I’m not going to drop an entire eating programme on you here, or deliver a whole raft of exercises. In fact quite the opposite – just one exercise discipline to concentrate on that will serve to strengthen your core and harden that tummy. The Plank!

Many of you might have heard of it. Granted it does not sound glamorous and it is not a flattering name, but it is fantastically effective, requires no special equipment, footwear, clothing, experience or skill. You just need yourself and the necessary floor space to cater for the length of your body.

So why plank instead of sit-ups? Sit-ups and crunches can be very effective too but their nature means they are more open to poor execution and therefore injury. Rounding the back and driving against the floor increases the possibility of a slipped disk for example. And they also work the hip flexors which are muscles that run from the thighs to the lower back. When these are tight or overly developed they can pull on the vertebrae and actually cause lower back distress.

Planking allows for a much more easily executed discipline and the lack of movement decreases the risk of a collapse in form during the exercise. Planks employ a much better balance of muscles at the front, sides and back of the body in comparison to sit-ups which target comparatively few. The core goes beyond the abdominal muscles and the plank reaches them.

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l.  Start on the floor with your tows and forearms supporting your body weight. Keep torso, back and legs straight and rigid so that you are one straight and flat line.

2.  Relax head and neck and look at the floor.

3. To start with hold the position for 10 seconds and see how you feel. As you progress keep adding 10 second increments, working up to a full minute.

4. By raising a leg and/or arm you can try more advanced variations when your are comfortable at a 60 second conventional plank.

The humble plank also spawns literally dozens of variations to hit the body in different ways and to keep your mid section workouts fresh, effective and fun. These are easy to look up and you can advance at your own rate.

This is not a fat shedding discipline so don’t expect it to burn off the effects of over eating or a poor diet, but it is a superb core strengthener and therefore invaluable to functional strength, fitness and posture.

 

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