I’m a big fan of planking. It’s not only an incredible core workout but really a full body workout. However, planking is uncomfortable. There is no movement to take your mind off of it – it’s just you and your pain. Staring you straight in the face (or hip flexors, abdominals, quads, and shoulders). Even though I know how incredible it is, I don’t do it enough – because it’s hard!
We plank A LOT in Pilates. We rarely just hold a static plank which makes it a lot better. Since we use the reformer, we can do additional exercises that wouldn’t be possible on the ground which keeps it interesting. It’s painful but goes by quickly. I always find myself dreading the plank in class yet I feel so much more powerful after it’s over.
Maria adds short (15-30 min) strength sessions to my weekly runs and spins about 3-4 times a week in addition to Pilates. About a month ago, a plank showed up on my list of core exercises and I decided to time myself to see how long I could go. I was pretty shocked when I was able to hold a plank (forearms) for 3 minutes 30 seconds! I didn’t try again until last Sunday after my 2.5 hour workout (1.5 hours on the bike, 1 hour elliptical) and I was still able to hold 3 minutes despite fatigued legs. A fellow Oiselle teammate I follow on Instagram has been trying to get to the 5 minute plank and has been posting photos of her progress and it inspired me to start planking more and going for that 5 minute plank!
If you’re interested in joining me for a plank challenge, below are a few moves that you can do to work your way up and to help beat boredom in the process. To get stronger, you don’t have to stay still the whole time – you can add variety. But of course when you want to time yourself, stay still and FOCUS! A bonus – this is a great challenge for mental toughness (and I need all I can get!)
How to do a Standard Plank
First, time yourself doing a regular, forearm plank with good form. Correct plank form is esssential. Here’s how to:
- Lay on the mat, face down and then push up on to your forearms and toes with your elbows aligned below the shoulders. Your forearms should be slightly wider than shoulder width and you can either place your hands straight out of you or into a V formation so that they touch (I prefer the latter).
- Ground your toes into the floor and squeeze the glutes to stabilize the bottom half of the body, being careful not to lock your knees. Legs should be as wide as is comfortable for you (but not too wide!).
- Neutralize the neck and spine by looking at the floor about a foot in front of the hands. The head should be in line with the back. Engage your core and hold on!
- Do not collapse your lower back, reach your butt up to the sky , let your head drop or forget to breathe! You should be a long beautiful line.
A straight arm plank incorporates the same principles as the above, but with both arms straight and hands on the floor, like you are about to do a pushup.
Do these variations several times a week to increase your plank endurance! Beware, I made some of the names up but they are real moves (also: I’m not an expert – if you are unsure of any moves, ask a certified professional).
Forearm to hand plank: Start with a standard plank on your elbows. Starting with your right hand then moving to your left, work your way up to a hand plank. Then, move the right hand back down to the forearm and let the left follow. Repeat with left first and alternate. This one really gets my heart rate up and will work your obliques as well.
Side plank: Do either a forearm or straight arm plank on on side with your legs stacked on top of each other. You will not be able to hold this type of plank as long.
Mountain Climbers: Get into a straight arm plank and then alternate bringing your right knee in and your left knee in under your body toward your chest while still maintaining good form. For more cardio, increase the pace and you will be sweating in no time!