The plank exercise is an extremely effective way for fitness and sports enthusiasts to improve core abdominal muscle strength in a simple way.
Planks have the added advantage that they are of great benefit to other areas of your body such as lumbar areas, glutes, spine, neck, shoulders and chest.
Done regularly for 5 to 10 minutes a day and with a good focus on technique, the plank and its variations can be a great building block for balance, performance and overall posture.
Other benefits associated with plank workouts are:
- A toned stomach
- Fat loss
- Increased flexibility
- Reduced chance of back problems
Learn How to Do the Full Front Plank Exercise
The full plank exercise will develop the rectus abdominis muscle, the abdominal oblique muscle and the quadratus lumborum. The key to a good full plank exercise is to aim for the straight alignment of feet, hips, back, neck and shoulders all in a straight line.
In the prone position rest on your forearms and keep your legs straight and slightly apart. Form a straight line with your body.
Pay particular attention to position your elbows in a straight line with your shoulders as this helps avoid an overload on the shoulder joints. Hands should be relaxed and out in front. Focus your gaze just ahead of the hands.
Voluntarily contract the muscles of your torso. It is very important to mentally focus on all the muscles of the torso whilst trying to contract them.
Hold the full plank position for 15 seconds, Focus on your breathing throughout the exercise..
After the holding period, relax the torso muscles and return to the resting position.
Common mistakes associated with the plank exercise are:
- do not arch your back – hold a straight back throughout.
- do not lift your backside
Plank Workout Recommendations
If you are a beginner hold the plank for 15 seconds and repeat 3 times
For those with intermediate levels of fitness, aim for a 30 second hold and repeat 3 times
For advanced and very fit athletes, you should be able to achieve a 60 second hold and repeat 4 times.
Elbow Plank Exercise
The elbow plank is very similar to the full front plank. The only real difference is that you are on your elbows as opposed to your hands.
The same concepts apply to the full plank in that the focus should be on a level shoulder, back, hip and leg line.
Further Plank Exercises to Try
Once you are more comfortable with the main plank exercise you may want to progress to some of these other plank options.
All of these can be incorporated into a longer plank workout once you have built up your abdominal, back and shoulder muscles. Only progress to these exercises once you feel you have the core strength to do so.
Side Plank on the Right and Left Arms
These exercises allow you to focus on your oblique (side stomach muscles). This pose is easy to transition to from the elbow plank position.
Try this position with both the right and left elbow on the floor. Remember to engage the ab muscles throughout and do not drop or sag the side of your body towards the floor.
Single Leg Plank Exercise
Let one foot take all the weight by placing the other foot on top of it. Hold each position for 15 to 30 seconds before alternating the foot.
Arm Raise Plank Exercise
This plank option requires you to also have strong arm strength. Incorporate this exercise one you are comfortable that both arms can take your body weight.
Contralateral Plank Exercise
The Contralateral plank is for advanced plank practitioners and requires excellent all-round body strength.