Looking for an exercise that fires up several muscle groups at once, produces great benefits when done correctly and often, and does not take up much time in your day?

Well then…welcome to the plank!

I can sense some groans in the background.  But yes.  Planks offer all of the above!  And better yet, you can plank anywhere.  No fancy equipment needed.

Doing a plank is an excellent core workout. 

Don’t mistake this for just an abs workout.  Abs and core aren’t the same thing.

The core area includes the abs, glutes, lower back, pelvis, and hips.  In other words, abs just form a part of this. 

What’s more, when planking, not only is the core worked.  Areas such as the shoulders and chest also join in.

I reckon that’s a pretty sweet deal.

Over January, I’ve been disciplined to do a plank almost daily, curious to see what results I’d get.  Within this time, my core has strengthened enough that my maximum holding time doubled from 1m 30s to a whole 3mins.  Visually too, my abs area has toned a little and I certainly feel a difference when working out.

Realising that these changes are happening to me, I felt that I should share with you three different types of planks and fun add-ons to really fire up your core! 

The idea for each type of plank is to keep your body long, suck in your stomach to help core engagement, and breathe throughout.  A good starting mark is to aim for 1 minute.  Then, slowly work your way to increase duration and/or change your plank type.

Beginner

Planking on the knees. This is how I started.

Resting on forearms and knees.  Shoulders should be directly over the elbows.  Elbow joint at a 90 degree angle.

Next level: Forearms

Forearms plank.

Fun stuff to do before, in between, or after a hold:

  • Slightly rocking forwards and backwards
  • Toe taps either side
  • Small leg raises

Next level: Hands

Plank on the hands.

Fun stuff to do before, in between, or after a hold:

  • Mountain climbers (opposite knee to elbow)
  • Shoulder taps (opposite hand to shoulder)
  • Jump in and out (knees towards and away from body)

A quick note

I’ve not made a distinction in the level of challenge between forearms and hands because my research into which is harder has produced mixed results. 

My understanding, at the time of writing, is that on the hands engage the shoulders and triceps more along with the core, and resting on the forearms is more core-centred.  To me, on the hands is more difficult than the forearms.  It may or may not be the same for you.

Watch your form!

Regardless of what plank you choose to do, keep an eye on your form.  I find it helpful to record myself and/or to briefly look back from time to time to check that my backside isn’t raised high or that my hips aren’t drooping too low.  Sometimes, simply feeling isn’t enough.  You need to look and monitor.

I hope this article gives you some planking ideas to use in your workout regime.  If you’re shaking, you’re working! 

Disclaimer:  Train at your own risk. Always consult a healthcare specialist and/or fitness professional for advice before starting a new activity and in situations where you experience discomfort or pain.

Sabrina Mistry

Sabrina Mistry is a certified Personal Trainer, a 2nd Dan martial artist, and a huge animation fan. She started her fitness journey back in 2007 where she was very unfit and overweight. Since then, she's lost 4st in weight by improving her fitness knowledge, trying out all sorts of exercises, and having tons of discipline. Having transformed her life, Sabrina launched Beyond the Dojang to educate and support fitness beginners, enthusiasts and martial artists so that they can optimise their body and get the most out of their training. Get connected on Instagram and Facebook: @beyondthedojang

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