Planking Your Way to a Stronger Core
Planking may appear to be a pretty simple exercise; looking like you are trying to remember how to do a push-up for a minute or more isn’t likely to inspire awe amongst the fitness naÃ¯fs. But it’s a pretty dynamic way to build strength in your body’s core. If you stick with it and build up your ability to hold the plank over time, you should find functional movements easier and feel much stronger overall.
The most common way to start planking is with the forearm plank. From a kneeling position, bring your upper body to the ground, supporting yourself on your forearms. Then straighten your legs back so that you are supporting your weight using your forearms and toes. Make sure that you are engaging your abdominals, glutes, and leg muscles and that your body looks like a flat plank; letting your midsection sag or boosting your butt up into the air is poor form and could lead to injury. Keep your head in a neutral position by focusing on a point on the floor, and most importantly, remember to breathe while you are holding your plank! Record how long you were able to plank with good form, and try to add a little time each day.
If you have a strong upper body, try using your hands instead of your forearms to support you; your plank will essentially look like the starting position for a set of push-ups.
If you are unable to hold the forearm plank for at least twenty seconds with good form, you can start out with a plank from your knees.
If you want to increase the difficulty and target a different part of your core, try performing a side plank. This variation will focus primarily on your obliques. For this exercise, start by lying on your right side, in a straight line from head to feet, and rest on your forearm (or on your hand as shown below). Your left leg will rest on top of your right leg and you will lift your right hip off the ground and continue to hold that position for your given amount of time. Once your right side is completed, you will move to your left side, keeping the same guidelines as before.
If you want to incorporate a little more balance into your plank exercise, place your hands on the outside of a flipped-over BOSU ball while fully extending your arms. This will force you to centralize your body weight, making you tip to a side if you favor it too much.