Plank – awesome to the core

You have heard so much about a strong core that it might seem cliché – but having that strong core is an essential component of fitness. Core muscles are responsible for proper posture, fluid movement, protecting your back and enabling you to play and move throughout your day. Neglecting your core muscles could result in back problems and poor balance, as well as limit your athletic potential. Want amazing abdominals? Work those core muscles hard enough, and your bonus prize could be a ‘six pack’ – and who doesn’t want that? But while a six pack is a nice perk, the primary goal in developing core muscles should be function.

Plank is one of the best exercises for the core. It works muscles from the hips to the abdominal muscles, as well as muscles in the back and in the shoulders. From a practical perspective, it is a quick and easy exercise that doesn’t require extra equipment. From a trainer’s perspective, you can go crazy with plank variations, different modalities and progressions so anyone can do them.

Today’s fitness challenge is to hold plank for 15 seconds. Plank is an isometric exercise that uses gravity to charge up your muscles. Essentially, your abdominal muscles are the bridge between the shoulders and legs and they have to work against gravity. Distinct from its distant cousin, the crunch, the plank requires that you hold a position to stabilize. The plank is easy in its design, but paying attention to the details is the key to a safe and effective plank. The plank can be a safe exercise for those suffering from a back injury or back pain as well.

There are a few variations to this challenge so we hope you choose the one that works best for you.

The plank how-to guide

Basic High Plank
Start on the floor on your hands and knees.
Place your hands directly under your shoulders. Be sure your hands are open and pressing evenly into the floor. (Variation: use your forearms if you have wrist problems.)
Tuck your toes under and walk your feet back.
Strengthen your legs and lift your knees off the floor so your legs are straight. Be sure you are creating a long line from your ears down to your shoulders, thru your hips, and to your heels.
Engage your quads onto your femur bones and your glutes. Draw your navel toward your spine and feel your waist long and strong.
Squeeze your shoulder blades down into your back. Some people hold plank incorrectly, sinking into their shoulders, while others puff up. Try to be right in the middle. Think “light as a feather, stiff as a board.”

Is this your first time in plank, or are you recovering from a back injury? Start on your hands and knees. Walk your hands forward and drop your hips until your body makes a straight line from your ears to your knees.

Want a challenge? Here are 3 more variations to add spice to your plank
Start in the basic plank position. Drop to one forearm and then the other, and then back up to hands again. Move back and forth from hands to forearms in this way for 15 seconds. Be sure your hips stay level – keep them from dipping up and down.
Start in the basic plank position. Bring your right knee to touch your right elbow. Switch legs. Try to do that 5 times on each leg. (This can be done on your hands or forearms)
Create an unstable surface. This one may require some equipment! If you have a stability ball, place your elbows on the ball and hold plank. Or try to put your feet on the ball and hands to the floor. This can get challenging fast.

Click here for more variations –

Cynthia Miranda

About Cynthia Miranda

Cynthia Miranda has been in the fitness industry over 20 years including a degree in Sports Medicine, certifications with spinning, yoga, TRX, CrossFit and even Zumba! She has worked and is working with clients with all different levels of health & fitness from cardiac rehab patients to athletes to workaholics. Cynthia is an avid mountain biker and loves to be outside hiking and camping when she can. She is a mother of three girls ranging from 9 to 16.