Try these exercises to engage your core muscles and improve your plank workout.
By Amina Daniels
The plank is an isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a position similar to a push-up. It is one of the most fundamental movements you can perform. The standard plank is beautiful in its simplicity, and the basic position is the foundation of so many movements, exercises and activities.
The plank recruits all muscle groups and can be surprisingly difficult. But it can also be fun to play around with and incorporate lots of unique challenges.
First, let’s take a look at the correct positioning of the standard straight-arm plank.
Your hands should be on the floor, right beneath your shoulders. Keep your neck and head aligned, with your gaze on the floor slightly in front of your hands. Your feet should be a little farther than shoulder-width apart behind you. Your body should literally form a plank or straight line. Activate your glutes so that your spine is in a neutral position — not swayed or curved at all. Be mindful that your butt and hips should not drop lower than your shoulders or lift higher than your back and shoulders.
When planking, think about engaging your core as if you are about to take a punch. If you lock down your abs, it will steady your body and keep you aligned. Remember to breathe.
Once you’ve perfected the standard plank, try these variations. Then, try putting them together for a continuous plank exercise series. Look out abs!!
High to Low
This exercise takes you from a standard straight arm plank to a forearm plank, and back up. Start with the plank position described above. “Step” yourself down to a forearm plank by first dropping one arm down to rest your weight on the forearm, immediately followed by the other arm. Then, reverse it to take yourself up to a straight arm plank.
Side to Side Switch
Begin in a standard straight arm plank. Shift your weight to one side while lifting and raising one arm out and straight up above your head. Let your gaze follow your hand. Lower your arm and return to start. Repeat on the other side.
Begin in a standard straight arm plank. Without shifting your hips or raising your butt, simply bring your left hand off the floor to “tap” your right armpit/shoulder, then return your hand to the floor. Repeat on the other side.
This time you get to use your legs for some great cardio! Start in a standard straight arm plank. Jump your feet out wide, so that if you are performing this exercise on a mat, your feet land off to each side of the mat. Then jump your feet back in (like a jumping jack). This can also be done on in a forearm plank position.
Here are some fun facts that may even motivate you to try for your own personal record!
- The world record for a front plank, resting on elbows, was set by Chinese policeman Mao Weidong, who formerly held the record and regained it by planking for 8 hours, 1 minute and 1 second in May 2016.
- The previous record was set by former Marine officer and retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent George Hood with a time of 5 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds in April 2016.
- The longest time in a forearm plank by a woman is 3 hours, 31 minutes and 0 seconds by Maria Kalimera of Cyprus in September 2015.
- The longest time in an elbow plank by a woman with a 100-lb pack is 4 min 41 sec by Paddy Doyle of the United Kingdom in 2016.
Amina Daniels is a high energy fitness professional, who champions her studio, Live Cycle Delight, based in the West Village. Amina will also open Hot LCD this Spring, which will offer yoga and Pilates. She holds fitness certifications in RYS200 from Kripalu, Group Strength, Personal Training, TRX Camps, TRX Group Fitness, TRX Rip Trainer and Indoor Cycling by Schwinn Bikes and Real Ryder.