Hey Angels and Alphas,
The plank has long been one of the gold standards in core training and core movements, regardless of whether you’re training for weight gain or weight loss. With that being said, it can be safe to say planks, as a foundation for all movements and spinal stability, deserve a spot in your workout routine.
But what if you’re not sure how to plank correctly? What if you want to get better at planks? What if you realize the basic plank variation isn’t a great option and you’re looking for other, more effective plank variations?
Let this serve as your plank workout checklist – whichever question you have about planks right now, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s talk about planks for a bit. First off, there are three things you should be thinking about when you’re holding a plank.
Proper alignment: As you are in the basic plank position, take a moment to do some basic body checks. Are your ears, shoulders, ankles, and hips, all in one long straight line? Are you always driving your heels backward? Are your eyes staring at the floor for neutral neck alignment?
Brace your body: When in the basic plank position, think of systemically squeezing all muscle groups in your body. Start with your calves, then your quads, hamstrings, glutes, core and then finally, press your arms into the floor so you can engage the muscles behind your shoulder blades. Throughout your plank exercise, you should continue to check yourself and brace your body whenever you catch yourself slipping.
The 10-second hold: If you want to ensure the highest level of contraction we mentioned above, you should hold planks for 10-seconds which is followed by a 2–3 second rest, after which the cycle repeats until you can’t maintain proper form.
With all of the basics out of the way, let’s talk about a basic plank exercise routine you can do next time you’re at the gym… or sitting at home!
This workout works up from the standard plank on the ground to move into crawling and then walking upright with a stiff yet strong core.
Let’s get into the workout.
#1 THE SIDE PLANK
How to perform: Place one of your elbows on the ground directly below your shoulder, making sure your shoulders are basically square to the front. Your shoulders should be aligned with your hips and heels. With your very tight, braced core, you push the ground away from you, staying as active as possible in the shoulder joint.
Your feet can be stacked or you can place your top foot in front of your bottom foot, with the blades of your feet pressing directly into the floor. Perform 5 sets of 10-second holds followed by a 3-second rest between sets. Repeat on the other side.
#2 REACH PLANK
How to perform: Start in a basic hand or forearm plank position, with your body placed in a tight, straight line and your feet about shoulder-width apart. With basically minimal movement in the rest of your body, make an effort to extend one arm in line with your shoulder. Hold for a count of three, set it down, and then repeat on the other side of your body. Do 3 sets of 15-20 reaches.
#3 LEG RAISE SIDE PLANK
How to perform: While you’re holding a side plank, try to lift your top leg up about 4-5 inches, and with that, slightly back to engage your glutes. Then lower your leg to the starting position. Do 3 of 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat. One modification you can make here is to drop your knees to the ground and then lift your top knee off your bottom knee if you want to make this exercise easier.
#4 LATERAL CRAWL
How to perform: Start off on your hands and knees and your core braced as tightly as possible. Then elevate your knees about 2-3 inches off the ground. Then move your left hand and left foot to the left in a crawling motion, keeping your hips lower than your shoulders. Then, move your right hand and right foot to the left so you can reset before your next rep. Do 3 sets of 10 and you’re golden.
#5 STIRRING THE POT
How to perform: Place your elbows on one of the stability balls at the gym and try to find a balanced, straight plank position. Make sure your shoulders are placed directly above your elbows and pulled down and away from your ears. While keeping the rest of your body as still as possible, try to draw a circle with your forearms in a clockwise motion. When you’ve completed one full circle, stop and draw a circle in a counterclockwise motion. Do 3 sets of 10 in each direction.