What Type of Plank Is Right For You?

What Type of Plank Is Right For You?

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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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Pink for Hope, Support, and Strength

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Pink for Hope, Support, and Strength

October marks the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Each year, this terrible disease is brought to the forefront of our minds with various fundraising opportunities to help find a cure. Yet, sadly we are still awaiting one. About 1 in 8 women, and about 1 in every 1,000 men, will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime.It is a disease that not only affects the lives of those afflicted, but their loved ones as well. The good news is that there is hope.

This hope can come in the form of great organizations like Padres Pedal the Cause that fundraise for cancer research. This year marks the third consecutive year that LA Fitness will support Padres Pedal the Cause by helping to fundraise for its efforts. 100% of Padres Pedal the Cause’s donations fund cancer research projects, including research relating to breast cancer. To help aid the efforts of Padres Pedal the Cause, LA Fitness has designed a few specialty t-shirts (the LA Fitness Shop Pink Shirts) in honor of the event. LA Fitness will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the LA Fitness Shop Pink Shirts to Padres Pedal the Cause.* Make sure to order your limited edition LA Fitness Shop Pink Shirt today before they sell out!

Additionally, if you are an active cyclist or cycle enthusiast, and want to pedal your way to making a difference, Padres Pedal the Cause is hosting a special event from November 11-12th in San Diego. If you would like to get involved, here’s how:

  1. Register as a rider. There are a variety of options, spanning between 5 – 150 miles. The Saturday route even includes a ride over the Coronado Bridge (hope you’re not afraid of heights!)
  2. Register as a stationary rider. This option involves stationary bike classes right on the field at Petco Park! The classes range in time from 1 to 4 hours.
  3. Register as a virtual rider (sounds pretty futuristic, right?) This is perfect if you still want to donate to the cause, but you are unable to participate in person on the event weekend.
  4. Purchase a LA Fitness Shop Pink Shirt here!
  5. Volunteer. Find out how here.

An interview with Ilke E.W.

In order to help learn a bit more about breast cancer and the effect it has on the body, we interviewed LA Fitness Group Fitness instructor, Ilke E.W., who helped explain what her battle with breast cancer was like. (You may recognize Ilke from our previous article this year!)

Q: When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?

Ilke E.W.: First time in 2005. Second time in 2011.

Q: How was the cancer detected? What led up to you going to have it checked out?

I.E.W.: First time I felt a lump in self-examination. My mammogram was clear a few months prior. I had young kids. Second time around I caught it via MMR that I insisted having. The second one was caught at stage 1.

Q: How did you feel when you initially received the news?

I.E.W.: I heard it during my doctor’s visit after biopsy. I felt kind of lost and confused. I was young. I did not smoke. I ate well. I had two kids that I breastfed. I exercised. This was not supposed to happen to me.

Q: Did you have a good support network as you were fighting through it?

I.E.W.: Not at the beginning. I was busy dealing with surgery followed by chemotherapy. Saint Joseph Hospital had a lot of workshops and help groups. I did not attend during my second cancer episode. I had support since I got to know a lot of people in the cancer circuit. I got involved with American Cancer Society and became their high roller fundraiser. I still do fundraising for cancer patients using Zumba®.

Q: Did you use any services or programs to help you through the treatment process?

I.E.W.: I got referrals for wigs from organizations. I got an expensive wig. My chocolate lab was very fond of it and I could not rescue it from her. I ended up using baseball caps with scarfs.

Q: What was your biggest obstacle while undergoing treatment?

I.E.W.: I had complications with surgery. I did not take time off from my full time work. Juggling hospital and doctors’ visits with work was very challenging.

Q: What would you like others to know about breast cancer, who may not know much about this disease?

I.E.W.: Do self-exams. Be your own advocate. Do not take everything your doctor tells you for granted. Understand your treatment and the medications you are taking along with their side effects, complications and their aftermath. Read and read and talk to other patients. Eat well and be knowledgeable about exercise and nutrition. And relax. Breast cancer is treatable and is not a life sentence. Do not freak out. My doctor advised me to do lumpectomy followed by radiation second time around. I opted for radical mastectomy instead.

Q: As a group fitness instructor for LA Fitness, did you find it hard keeping active during treatment?

I.E.W.: I was active during treatment. You do not have energy but you can manage. Reduce your load but do not stop exercising and/or teaching fitness.

Q: What advice would you give to women, and men, battling breast cancer?

I.E.W.: Surround yourself with positive energy. Cut out relationships that are toxic. Do not fall into “poor me” mode.

Q: What advice would you give friends and family of those battling through this disease?

I.E.W.: Ask for help and accept it. Let people help you out.

*Padres Pedal the Cause contributes 100% of all donations toward cancer research projects. To learn more about Padres Pedal the Cause and its cancer research initiatives, click here.  Proceeds donated to Padres Pedal the Cause exclude amounts charged for shipping & handling and sales tax. An amount representing credit card processing fees and the costs incurred by Pinpoint Marketing Group, Inc. (“Pinpoint”) to produce the LA Fitness Shop Pink Shirts shall be excluded from the donation to Padres Pedal the Cause; such amounts shall be retained by Pinpoint and not donated. The responses above reflect the opinions of the interviewee and do not in any way reflect the position of Fitness International, LLC or its affiliates. This article is not meant to be construed as medical advice. Consult with your doctor if you have a health issue or if you are considering beginning a new fitness regimen.

Source:

  1. “U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics.” Breastcancer.org, www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics.

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ASK A TRAINER: Ep. 8 – How Often Should I Do Cardio With Weight Lifting?

ASK A TRAINER: Ep. 8 – How Often Should I Do Cardio With Weight Lifting?

Ask A Trainer: Featured Question of the Week

LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F., helps answer how often cardio should be done with weight lifting – you may be surprised at the answer. Find out below!

Do you have a fitness question? Ask one of our certified Pro Results® trainers here! Your question may be featured in an upcoming Ask Our Trainer video.**

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**Selected submissions will be featured on the LA Fitness blog and possibly other LA Fitness digital media entities & websites. By making a submission, you hereby grant LA Fitness a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable license to use and make copies of the contents of such submission for any purpose and in any medium whatsoever, and you hereby waive and relinquish any copyright or other intellectual property right you may have in the contents of such submission and your right to pursue any claim for LA Fitness’s violation of those intellectual property rights.


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What Can I Do to Gain Weight Fast? | Q+A

What Can I Do to Gain Weight Fast? | Q+A

Question:

What can I do to gain weight fast? I am trying to gain at least 10 pounds in a month or two and I need any advice on what to eat to gain weight.

– Rosalinda V.

Answer:

Your best bets for maximum healthy calories are nuts, avocado, cheese, oils, and pesto, followed by ground beef, tortillas, pudding, au gratin or scalloped potatoes, bisque soups and chowders. Choose dense produce such as winter squash, peas, carrots, corn and bananas, and rich cereals like granola and muesli. To maximize calories, add 1 Tbsp. powdered milk or juice concentrate to each Cup of fluid milk or juice, respectively.  Fried foods and any bakery goods saturated with butter, cream or sauce certainly have more calories per bite than their plain counterparts. Whole-fat dairy foods contain nearly double the calories than the fat-free versions. And, of course, if you are able, simply increase the volume of what you already eat.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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Ask our Dietitian

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Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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Salad Surprises

Salad Surprises

Salads, by nature, are supposed to be healthy, right? Many times they are, like a side house salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber with light vinaigrette meant to compliment a meal. Yet entrée salads can top 1000 calories and include a full day’s supply of fat and sodium! The mixed greens and vegetables aren’t to blame. And while the healthy plant fats (nuts, olives and avocado) can add significant calories, these are preferable to the real culprits* – bacon, cheese, dressing and fried toppings. Sugar can be hidden in there, too! In most cases, it’s the fat that pushes the calories up over a desirably-sized meal of around 600-800 calories.

Menu descriptions are a good indication of where you might find salad surprises. Words like crispy, creamy, glazed and savory are red flags to watch out for.  Portion sizes make a difference, too. While you might fill a bowl with 2 cups of salad at home, a dinner plate piled high could give you twice that much. Note that the quantity of dressing served on a salad is typically 2 fl. oz. and provides 150-200 calories of the below totals.

Let’s take a look at a few examples you might find nationally (from restaurant chains with over 1000 locations in the U.S.). In all cases only the grilled meat option is discussed, as breaded and fried proteins are just a no-no.  Notable high values are underlined. *Can you find these culprits and others below? 

Asian-Inspired Chicken Salad

Greens tossed in a sweet vinaigrette and topped with crispy noodles, toasted almonds and grilled chicken.

1290 calories, 85 gm Fat (59% cals), 2300 mg sodium, 52 gm sugar

Southwestern, BBQ, or Santa Fe Salad

w/ steak — mixed greens, sirloin w/ chimichurri, corn & black bean salsa, cheddar cheese and tortilla strips w/ creamy cilantro ranch dressing.

990 calories, 64 gm fat (58% cals), 2970 mg sodium, 8 gm sugar

w/ chicken (deluxe) – grilled BBQ chicken, romaine and kale, green onion, tomato, black beans and corn, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, cheddar cheese, avocado, bacon and tortilla strips, tossed in BBQ ranch dressing and topped with onion strings.

910 calories, 48 gm fat (47% cals), 2390 mg sodium, 24 gm sugar

w/ chicken (simple) – grilled chicken, pico de gallo, avocado, cilantro, tortilla strips w/ ranch & Santa Fe sauce.

630 calories, 44 gm fat (62% cals), 1680 mg sodium, 8 gm sugar

Specialty Salads

Crispy pecan-crusted chicken breast, romaine and kale, celery, dried sweet cranberries, orange slices, glazed pecans, blue cheese, tossed in balsamic vinaigrette.

1220 Calories, 84 gm fat (62% cals) 1770 mg sodium, 52 gm sugar

Grilled chicken, mixed greens, jalapeno cornbread croutons, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, bacon and green onions w/ ranch dressing.

1090 calories, 70 gm Fat (58% cals), 2620 mg sodium, 17 gm sugar

Grilled chicken, pineapple, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, diced red bell peppers, chopped green onions, cilantro & sesame seeds w/ a honey-lime dressing.

710 calories, 27 gm fat (34% cals), 1140 mg sodium, 70 gm sugar

How to get a healthier salad:

  • Ask to hold, substitute or go light on the items in red above.
  • Request a lunch portion of the salad (if offered on menu).
  • Often, just adding a lean protein and beans or other complex carbohydrate to a house salad will make it suitable as a balanced meal.
  • Ask for dressings on the side so you can control how much you use.
  • Ditch the dressing and opt for oil and vinegar to pare down the sodium by half!

*Culprits listed in order of appearance are: sweet vinaigrette, crispy noodles, cheddar cheese, tortilla strips, cheddar cheese, creamy cilantro ranch dressing, BBQ, cheddar cheese, bacon, tortilla strips, BBQ ranch dressing, onion strings, tortilla strips, ranch, santa fe sauce, dried sweet cranberries, glazed pecans, blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, cornbread croutons, cheddar cheese, bacon, ranch dressing, dried cranberries, honey-lime dressing.

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Sources as of 7/7/2017:

www.Applebees.com/nutritional-info

www.tgifridays.com/pdf/nutrition.pdf

www.chilis.com/docs/Chilis-Nutrition-Menu-Generic.pdf

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