There are certain exercises that have become known as a staple for fitness building. If you’re looking to build a stronger core, planks may be right for you. Planks may seem easy since they are a bodyweight exercise, but this isolated position, when done correctly, proves to be challenging.

How to Do a Proper Basic Plank

Before tackling some of the harder planking styles, it’s important to know basic planking form in order to ensure you’re taking the proper steps to avoid any unnecessary injury to your lumbar spine (lower back).

Step 1: Align your body into the position it would be in if you were going to do a traditional pushup. Make sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulder joint, not in front!

Step 2: Make sure that your arms are shoulder width apart, your palms are pressed flat against the floor* and that you are strongly holding yourself up, without feeling like your arms are going to give out.

*You can also choose to bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms to hold yourself up while you hold your palms together.

 

Step 3: Make sure that your neck is parallel with the ceiling. Imagine a string going from your head to your toes, perfectly aligned. Your eyes should be facing the floor so that you don’t strain your neck.

Step 4: Engage your entire core by doing an anterior pelvic tilt (bring the tailbone down and try to tuck your bottom under). By pelvic tilting, your hips align and put you into a neutral spine position (no lower back curvature).

Step 5: Hold for as long as you can while squeezing your core and glutes.

Benefits of Planking: 

  1. Planking helps train and strengthen your core abdominals, shoulders and triceps.1
  2. Planking may help better your lower back posture by strengthening the muscles that keep your bones in proper alignment.2
  3. Better posture can help reduce back pain. When your core is strong, you are able to sit tall for longer periods of time, resulting in less pain in your neck and shoulders.3
  4. A stronger core helps your body with stabilization, resulting in better movement and overall coordination.4

Different Types of Planking

There are a large variety of planking styles that can help keep things fun and fresh if you’re getting tired of the same traditional planking form. Below is a list of 7 planking variations that may help you achieve a stronger core and tighter tummy.

1. Plank with arm/leg lift

Lift your right leg and left arm in unison. Hold and then alternate with the opposite sides.5

2. Side plank 

Press your left hand into the mat and turn your body so your weight is on the outer edge of your left foot. Imagine a big medicine ball underneath you. Press your torso up and away from the imagined medicine ball, and extend your right hand towards the sky – keeping your core engaged.6

3. Side plank with twist

Lie on your left side with your forearm directly under your shoulder. Raise your right arm towards the ceiling, keeping it perpendicular to your body. Lift your hips so that your body is in a straight line from head to toe. Reach down, scoop your right arm in front of your body, and reach in the space between your chest and the ground. Twist from the waist up. Do desired amount of reps and then switch sides.7

4. Plank out

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Reach down and touch the floor with your fingertips. Without moving your feet, walk your hands forward until you reach planking position. Reverse the movement, walking your hands back towards your toes while keeping your core engaged.8

5. Side plank with hip dip

Begin in a side plank, with arm of your choice reaching upwards toward the ceiling. With control, dip your right or left hip (depending on the side you’ve chosen, down towards the mat. Hover just above the mat and then push your hip back up into your original side plank position.9 Do desired amount of reps and then switch sides, dipping the opposite hip.

6. Stir-the-pot-plank

Use a stability ball to balance your forearms on with elbows positioned under shoulders. Feet should be extended behind you in a planking position. Move forearms in a counterclockwise direction for desired amount of reps then switch to rotating in a clockwise direction.10

7. Plank to pushup

Get into a basic plank position with your elbows on the ground, at 90 degree angles. Push yourself up, one arm at a time, into a push up position. Then lower yourself back down to your elbows on the ground, one arm at a time. Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout.11

How long should you hold a plank?

It’s important to note that you should never push your body to a point where you are feeling pain that is not a soreness associated with muscle use, such as shooting pain or straining that you cannot control. It’s been said that being able to hold a plank position for 2 minutes can be a sign that you’re fairly fit.12

Did You Know?

The World Record for the longest time held in abdominal plank position is 8 hours and 1 minute, held by Chinese police officer Mao Weidong. He accomplished this incredible feat in Beijing, China on May 14th, 2016.13

How long have you managed to hold a plank position for? Do you have a fitness goal or accomplishment you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it! Comment below.

Sources:

  1. Cespedes, Andrea. “What Are the 4 Main Benefits of the Plank Exercise?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 19 July 2016, www.livestrong.com/article/500440-what-does-the-plank-exercise-benefit/.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. Medeiros, Michael De. “The 1 Exercise That Makes You Better in Every Workout.” POPSUGAR Fitness, 29 Mar. 2016, www.popsugar.com/fitness/Benefits-Planking-40741612.
  6. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20813896,00.html#view-all#
  7. Ibid
  8. Matthews, Jessica. “10 New Ways to Do Planks (And Score Serious Strength!).” Shape Magazine, 8 Dec. 2015, www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/10-plank-exercises-score-sexy-abs-fast.
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid
  11. Goldman, Alison. “7 Ways to Make Planks Harder.” Women’s Health, 14 Apr. 2017, www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/plank-exercise.
  12. “5 Health Benefits of Doing Plank Exercise.” Mercola.com, fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2014/12/05/5-plank-benefits.aspx.
  13. “Longest Time in an Abdominal Plank Position.” Guinness World Records, www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/longest-time-in-an-abdominal-plank-position.


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