Just in time for summer!
Core body strength is key for many things; balance, posture and building abs. The plank is probably the first move when you want to do abdominal strengthening in the gym, because it forces you to draw on your core to maintain the posture.
Managing to stay still in a plank position for an extended period of time is a feat alone; but you don’t always need to remain still to make the move effective. Here are some recommended variations of plank from the experts if you want to get building those abs as effectively as possible.
1. Point your toes and flatten your forearms
Create internal load within the muscle by having your toes on point and pressing down into the ground (around 20 percent pressure). Additionally, have your forearms flat and separate your hands. Again, 20 percent downward force in the arms. Lastly, contract the glutes. Focus on technique and not duration.
If you’ve mastered the plank, challenge your stability with a TRX or Bosu ball. Use the TRX to lift your feet off the ground when you hold your plank. This position leaves you more unstable as you are elevated off the ground, which leaves your core fighting against gravity to stop you from swaying. A Bosu ball also has the same effect if you place your hands on the side, with the flat side up.
3. Get moving with the military plank
Plank is brilliant as it can be modified in so many ways. Try to add a military plank [where you alternate from having your arms outstretched to support your body weight, to have your forearms flat on the floor while they support your body weight] into the mix as your core to work harder to stabilize and keep you still as you walk up and down onto your elbows and hands.
4. Tense as hard as you can
Try the RKC plank variation. This plank demands you to generate as much tension as possible throughout your entire body, from the tips of your toes all the way to your fists.
- Step 1: From a regular plank position pull your shoulder back and down. Tip your pelvis into a slight posterior tilt (this will flatten your lower back & allow you to fire-up your glutes better)
- Step 2: Tense your quads and glutes as hard as possible.
- Step 3: Imagine trying to pull your elbows & shoulders towards your toes and your toes toward your head to create more tension.
- Step 4: Because this is a maximum tension drill you will fatigue quickly, aim for 5 rounds of 10 seconds of max tension. The quality of the tension and position is much more important than just trying to last as long as possible.
5. Add in a jump
The favorite variation has to be the plank jump ins. Here, you repeatedly jump your legs in and back out again while holding your arms in one place. They work your entire core and really get your heart rate up.
6. Use a weight
Many are big fan of plate-weighted planks. This isn’t because of the added resistance, but the plate gives you something to brace your lower back against. Queuing a posterior pelvic tilt and helping you to engage your lower core. Give this a go by placing the plate on your lower back above your pelvis. Push your lower back as hard as you can against the plate, whilst squeezing your glutes. Grab a partner and get them to ensure that no light/gaps can be seen between the plate and your back.
7. Use a combination of variations
There are many ways you can add variations to the plank to make it more challenging. You can take one limb off the floor—a hand or a leg—or even two limbs. You can do shoulder taps, toe taps, scorpions and reverse scorpions, knees in, mountain climbers, and more. There are a million different variations to advance the exercise. Pick a combination of a few that you find challenging and put them together into one workout.