- 13 Ways to Get the Most a Workout, According to Research
- 3 Plank Variations That Will Improve Your Practice (and Your Abs)
- When You: Want to get better at standing poses (or get serious about weightlifting)
- When You: Want to ace lower-body engagement in Chaturanga (or get a killer burn in your lower abs)
- When You: Get a full-body pump, fast
- Read Next..
- 3-Minute Plank Challenge
- The Best Plank Variations for You
- Dynamic Planks: 9 Bodyweight Exercises for a Strong Core
- What is a forearm plank?
- 1. Plank to down dog
- 2. Side plank oblique crunch
- 3. Side plank knee to elbow
- 4. Low plank twist
- 5. Extended inchworm
- 6. Side plank taps
- 7. High plank shoulder taps
- 8. Ultimate plank jacks
- 9. Reverse inchworm
- 10 Plank Variations to Challenge Your Core | Fitness
13 Ways to Get the Most a Workout, According to Research
No one hits the gym hoping for so-so results. You go in wanting to get 100% every rep, run and hard-earned bead of sweat. Fortunately for you, scientists and researchers want the same thing. Here, 13 incredibly efficient strategies, courtesy of the latest research, to get the biggest benefit every one of your workouts.
1. Lift weights
“If you just do cardio, you’re sabotaging yourself,” says Jacob Wilson, Ph.D., certified strength and conditioning specialist and associate editor of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. “Your metabolism will actually go down, making weight loss more difficult.
Resistance training, however, builds muscle to increase your metabolic rate.
” That explains why, in one Harvard School of Public Health study of 10,500 adults, those who spent 20 minutes a day weight training gained less abdominal fat over the course of 12 years (compared to those who spent the same amount of time performing cardio).
Listen to music
Everyone knows that your favorite tunes can fire you up for a workout, but in one Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology of 30 men and women, people who listened to music (especially slow music) after their workout recovered faster than did those who went sans tunes.
“Music boosts the body’s levels of serotonin and dopamine, hormones that are known to foster recovery,” says Perkins . Try listening to a few of your favorite, most relaxing tracks as soon as you finish your workout. It will help your blood pressure and heart rate get back to normal and recovery happen ASAP.
Watch how best to motivate yourself with music:
3. Swap stretching for a dynamic warmup
Don’t stretch in vain. In one Austin State University study, people who warmed up with light leg extensions and squats were able to squat with 8.36% more weight during their workout than if they had performed typical “bend and hold” stretches.
Their lower bodies were also 22.7% more stable. “Think of a rubber band,” says Wilson. “If you stretch it around a lot and then pull it back to shoot it, it’s not going to go as far. The same thing happens with your muscles and tendons.
” However, dynamic bodyweight moves—ones that mimic the workout you’re about to perform—increase blood flow and improve your range of motion without compromising your muscles’ and tendons’ elastic properties.
So for instance, if you’re about to go for a run, it’s a good idea to move through about five to 10 minutes of lunges, knee raises and leg swings before hitting the treadmill.
Read more: Kayla Itsines Answers Once and for All: What’s the Quickest Way to Get Fit?
4. Preface your workout with carbs
You might think of carbo-loading as something you do to run a better marathon. But eating carbs before your workout can also help you during those intervals, according to 2013 research published in Sports Medicine.
“Carbs are your body’s primary fuel for any high-intensity workout, and when your body is fueled, your body is going to put forth a better effort and get a better value, both in terms of caloric expenditure and muscle growth, than it would if you were in fasted state,” says Wilson.
So even if you your morning workouts, make sure to eat some toast or oatmeal before you head the door.
5. Do intervals
Minute per minute, high-intensity intervals—periods of all-out effort interspersed with short, low-intensity “breaks”—come with more cardiovascular and fat-loss benefits than any other workout, says Wall.
For instance, in one study from Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, people who performed a 20-minute interval workout with exercises including pushups, burpees, squats and lunges burned an average of 15 calories per minute—nearly twice as many as during long runs.
To burn similar calories, follow the workout’s protocol: Perform as many reps as possible for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat for a total of four minutes. Rest one minute, then repeat for a total of four rounds.
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Losing just 2% of your body weight in fluids—some gym-goers sweat out 6 to 10%—can make your workout feel harder, reduce your exercise performance and reduce your body’s ability to recover after you leave the gym, according to a review from the University of North Carolina. Unfortunately, “we find that many people are dehydrated when they show up to the gym,” says Amanda Carlson-Phillips, M.S., R.D., vice president of nutrition and research at EXOS. She recommends everyone drink ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of bodyweight per day. To make sure you’re drinking enough water during your workout to replace any fluids you lose, weigh yourself both before and after a sweat session, says Carlson-Phillips. You shouldn’t be losing more than 2% of your bodyweight.
7. Use free weights
Weight machines are great for helping gym newbies learn correct form, but once you’ve got it down, it’s time to move to free weights.
Exercises using free weights dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells lead to greater hormonal responses compared to similar exercises performed on exercise machines, according to a 2014 Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research study. That’s largely because free-weight exercises tap a wider range of muscles.
“Whenever you have to move a free weight and you don’t have anything guiding or supporting you a machine, all of your synergistic muscles have to fire to help you,” says Holly Perkins, certified strength and conditioning specialist, author of Lift to Get Lean and founder of Women’s Strength Nation.
Read more: ‘We Need to Change the Way We Think About Feminism’
8. Get a better night’s sleep
Quality shut-eye is vital to getting the most your time spent in the gym. And that goes for every night of the week.
According to one 2015 Sports Medicine review, poor sleep hinders not only your exercise performance (and the number of calories you burn), but also your body’s ability to come back stronger after every workout. “Sleep drives the hormonal shifts that promote the body’s recovery to exercise,” says Carlson-Phillips.
Without appropriate sleep, symptoms of over-training, including fitness plateaus, set in. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every single night.
Watch this explainer video on whether you really need eight hours of sleep every night or not:
9. Indulge in a massage
That post-workout massage does more than just feel good. According to research from McMaster University in Canada, it influences genes in your muscle cells to decrease inflammation and increase their number of mitochondria, which help power exercise and recovery.
It’s important to remember that your muscles don’t get fitter during your workout; they do so between your workouts as they recover and adapt to exercise, says exercise physiologist Anthony Wall, M.S., director of professional education for the American Council on Exercise. “Massage helps this process along.
10. Drink chocolate milk
A recent Journal of Exercise Physiology study found that cyclists who drank low-fat chocolate milk after their workouts recovered just as well as those who drank commercial recovery beverages.
That’s largely due to its 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. The protein stimulates muscle repair, while carbohydrates replete your energy stores and even help protein get into your muscles, says Carlson-Phillips .
After high-intensity or long duration workouts, try drinking a glass as soon after your workout as you can.
11. Switch things up
It won’t just keep you from getting bored. In a 2015 East Tennessee State University study, exercisers who performed both deep and full squats reaped greater fitness gains than those who performed only deep squats. The same holds true for any exercise variation.
Performing multiple variations of an exercise changes the muscles recruited and the amount of weight you can lift, leading to greater gains than if you did the same exact movement month after month, says Wilson.
While you can include multiple variations of the same exercise in a single workout ( planks and planks with one leg raised), changing those variations every month will also keep your body guessing.
Read more: Ariel Winter: Breast Reduction Surgery Changed My Life
12. Get a cardio buddy
In one Annals of Behavioral Medicine study, cyclists who exercised with a partner pedaled almost twice as long as those who rode solo. Having someone else around pushes you to perform at your best and even makes workouts feel less difficult, says Perkins . The results: You can exercise longer and harder and get more every trip to the gym.
13. Eat protein before bed
Protein helps your muscles build back up after a workout, and for optimal fitness results, that shouldn’t stop when you’re snoozing.
Luckily, research from Maastricht University in the Netherlands shows that a nighttime snack rich in casein, a slow-digesting protein, keeps amino acid and muscle protein synthesis rates elevated all throughout the night.
To get the casein protein you need, Carlson-Phillips recommends eating Greek yogurt or cottage cheese after your workouts and before you turn in for the night.
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3 Plank Variations That Will Improve Your Practice (and Your Abs)
If you practice yoga or have ever paused at the top of a pushup, congratulations, you have performed a plank.
Getting into that static position—holding your stiff-as-a-board body low to the ground with your hands planted beneath your shoulders and toes grounded into the floor—is easy. That is, until the clock starts.
Most people can hold the full-body tension for about a minute, but generally not without setting off a muscle-quake in their shoulders, arms, glutes and, especially, the core.
As agonizing as quivering muscles sound, there are lots of good reasons to work a plank or two into your fitness routine. First, it’s a crucial move for building core strength and stability.
Second, you can perform a plank just about anywhere, including in front of the TV.
But perhaps best of all for yogis, the move can seriously improve your practice, and not just when you’re flowing from Forward Fold to Upward-Facing Dog.
Planking for a minute or longer isn’t the only way to get strong.
On the contrary, you can get more benefits much shorter holds, according to Dean Somerset, a personal trainer and exercise physiologist from Edmonton, Alberta Canada.
He claims that holding a plank for as little as 15 seconds for four sets (with a five second rest between reps) will produce the same (or better) results over time.
Shortening the duration of the plank isn’t the only game-changing news we have for you. You don’t have to stick to traditional front or side planks either. The following three plank variations will challenge your core (and more!) in new ways, cut down on your body’s opportunity to break form and cheat, and make you a more well-rounded yogi.
When You: Want to get better at standing poses (or get serious about weightlifting)
In a standing pose Warrior II, you’ve probably been told to tuck your tailbone down and not let your butt flare out. Kneeling plank teaches the same alignment. The move “is all about getting the box (your ribcage) on top of bowl (your pelvis),” according to strength coach Dan John, who along with physical therapist Gray Cook created and popularized the move in fitness circles.
“It teaches correct posture as it quiets the quads, stretches the hip flexors and teaches the glutes to keep on going.” Kneeling plank has little tolerance for muscle weaknesses and imbalances. “Tight hip flexors will be an issue. If you live on your quads, they will tire. Only by squeezing your glutes and standing tall—or rather, kneeling tall—will the alignment happen,” John explains.
While learning this properly stacked ribcage-atop-pelvis position can be helpful to anyone, John says it’s especially crucial for people who lift weights.
“If you don’t have this position locked down, any loaded work you do—squats, deadlifts, overhead lifts—will be in a compromised position.” Lacking proper posture or mobility increases your risk of injury.
John offers several ways to identify other alignment problems that could be putting you at risk on his channel.
How to do it: Kneel down with a kettlebell placed between your shins. Engage your glutes, keep your shoulders back, and reach for the handle of the kettlebell behind you. Lift the weight off the ground. Be sure you’re “squeezing the cheeks,” so that your glutes (not your quads) bear the load. Hold for a minute or more.
Related: Should I Do Other Workouts in Addition to Yoga?
When You: Want to ace lower-body engagement in Chaturanga (or get a killer burn in your lower abs)
One of the problems with the plank is that there are so many ways to cheat the move.
Fed up with clients feeling planks more in their arms and shoulders than their core, Oregon-based trainer and movement therapist Christine Ruffolo took the upper body the equation.
The armless plank that results, she says, “is entirely focused on pelvic positioning and bearing weight with the feet. With the arms unable to provide help, you’re forced to buttress the weight with the lower part of your body.”
With this adjustment, your lower abdomen has do the work of lifting you off the floor; it can’t rely on your elbows or shoulders.
Going armless also makes it all but impossible to sag in your low back, which is another common plank cheat.
Any dip in the lower back will create a lot of tension in the lumbar spine, leading you to quickly adjust by posteriorly rotating your hips or by dropping the pose entirely.
The greatest benefit you’ll get from the no-arms plank is the engagement you’ll notice from hips to heels. Your hips will be in a proper, non-tilted alignment, and will reinforce the “heels back” positioning you want to maintain in Chaturanga. The sensation will translate to stronger, more fluid motion throughout the facedown movements in your flow.
How to do it: Lie on the floor with you arms flat on the ground in front of you. To lift up, shift your weight onto your toes and then drive your heels back. Your chest probably won’t come off of the floor, and that’s okay. Focus on the lower body.
If your pelvis is tilted, you’ll immediately feel it in your low back. Correct it by “scooping” the pelvis until it’s straight and you no longer feel back tension. If you have a hard time with your arms overhead, try placing them straight out to the sides instead.
Do 3-5 sets of 5-10 second holds.
When You: Get a full-body pump, fast
“RKC” is short for Russian Kettlebell Challenge, as the author of that book, Pavel Tsatsouline, is credited with creating the move. The idea behind it is pretty simple: Do more in less time by amping up the tension.
With RKC your goal is to find more engagement—and then even more. You know that feeling you get when you curl your arm and flex your biceps? Performed correctly, this move will give you the same sensation pretty much throughout your whole body.
You’ll find that you’re “feeling the burn,” even shaking, within a matter of seconds.
This more intense engagement is beneficial in several ways. First, it allows you to quickly and efficiently work tissues that might otherwise take a snooze during a long-duration plank.
“The primary problem with the traditional plank is the lack of deep core activation over an extended period of time,” according to John Rusin, a physical therapist and strength coach.
“Deep muscles of the spine, along with some of the deeper abdominal musculature (transverse abdominals) get overpowered by the core’s dynamic movers (mostly the six-pack muscles and obliques). Increasing tension through max contraction of all available tissues carries deep into the core, getting the little stabilizers involved.“
Another big plus for the short-but-intense version is that it helps you steer clear of the cheats people inevitably develop when they try to set out to hold a plank for several minutes: Butt in the air, shoulders and forearms doing most of the work, and so on. You hit the correct engagement, and do it forcefully, for just a few seconds.
How to do it: Start on all fours, as if you were about to cycle through Cat-Cow. Drop down to your elbows and clasp your hands together in front of you, interlocking your fingers.
Squeeze all of the muscles from your hands through your shoulders, being sure to keep your shoulders down and in (don’t let them come up toward your ears).
Press through both heels to lift your torso off the ground, being sure to squeeze your legs together and engage your glutes.
Once your body is up and parallel to the ground, here comes the element that makes the RKC unique: Focus on pulling your shoulders and elbows down toward your toes, and your toes up toward your elbows.
“It’s you’re trying to pike upward, except your glutes stay contracted [which keeps your body in a straight line],” according to Bret Contreras, C.S.C.S. and author of Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy.
This will generate tension from your upper torso to your toes.
Rusin recommends doing two to four sets of 10-second holds with a 30 to 45 second rest period between each if you want to use the RKC as a warm-up. Or you could turn the move into a workout on it’s own by performing anywhere between six to 10 sets of 10-second holds with shorter rest (10 to 15 seconds).
Photos by: Caitlin Steuben
3-Minute Plank Challenge
Planking has become one of the most popular “core” exercise known in the fitness industry. And as many of you might have noticed, it requires a lot of upper body strength, especially in the shoulders, abdomen, back and arms. Let's be clear. The plank should actually utilize every muscle in the body, including the legs.
Because this exercise requires one to suspend their body in mid air, and be supported by their toes and forearms (or hands), the trick to a good plank is to hold every muscle in an isometric contraction, including your lower extremity.
The other trick to a good plank is to ensure your pelvis is in a neutral position (not tilted forward) so that you can also contract your “core” muscles including your obliques, transverse abdominis along with the diaphragm which we also need to use to breathe during this exercise.
And get this; you need to figure out how to keep your diaphragm engaged for the exercise while using it to breathe. A lot of multi-tasking at its best.
Most planks are static, meaning, you just hang out in a basic plank. Not this plank. Instead, there is a dynamic component to it in that you will be timing the transitions and throwing your balance off within the basic plank format.
There is a little bit of proprioception involved, or spatial awareness, so that you can train the brain while training the muscles. You must focus on breathing throughout the transitions and keeping the spine neutral the whole time.
Keeping the spine neutral means not arching your lower back and not protracting your shoulders inward towards the ground.
According to physical therapist Dr. Mike Shapow, PhD, RPT of Joint Effort Wellness in Beverly Hills, “Attaining good core strength is preventative as well as curative for people with back and neck problems. Planks also help in creating muscle memory for good posture.”
So while planks might be challenging to do, they certainly benefit you in more ways than not.
So are you ready to do this 3-minute plank challenge? Do it, time yourself and be open to getting better at it over time. Be patient with yourself. If you hold it for less than 3 minutes on your first attempt, just do it again another day.
Practice is king! Once you've done it, consider introducing it to your loved ones, your peers, and everyone you know. Perhaps YOU start a trend on social media and challenge people to do this by sharing this link.
Friendly challenges are always fun and give people a purpose to get more fit. Just a consideration.
First Minute: Basic Plank
1:00-1:30: 15 seconds lift your right arm up, then your left arm for 15 seconds
1:30-2:00: 15 seconds lift your right foot off the ground, then your left foot for 15 seconds
2:00-2:30: 15 seconds lift your right foot and left arm off the ground, then your left foot and right arm off the ground for 15 seconds
2:30-3:00: Basic Plank
See the Video Demonstration HERE.
Directions for Execution:
Position your shoulders over your elbows and balance on your toes. Tuck your pelvis under aiming your tailbone in between your legs. Contract your abdomen, but breathe.
Keep your gaze down on the floor to neutralize the neck. Be sure to draw your shoulders down towards your back pockets so that your shoulders are away from your ears. Remember to contract every muscle in the body from head to toe.
The more muscle recruitment, the stronger you will feel in this posture.
Without compromising form, widen your stance as much as you need to in order to keep the crests of your pelvis pointing down to the floor. Bring your right arm behind your back. You will feel the need to shift your hip so watch that you stabilize the hips and spine. Switch sides.
Bring your legs together. Lift your right foot only inches off the ground. Tuck your pelvis. Relax your shoulders. Brace your abdomen and make sure you breathe. Switch sides.
Opposite Arm to Leg Variation:
The goal is to keep the basic plank formation with all muscles engaged.
Once you “braced” your core muscles then lift your right hand inches off the ground along with your left foot. Stabilize this contralateral move.
Your body will want to rotate so aim to have your hips squared to the ground as much as you can while keeping your chest facing the ground as well. After 15 seconds, switch sides.
The 3-minute plank variation instructional video can be seen HERE.
Photo and Video credits: Mr Smith
The Best Plank Variations for You
The plank can strengthen your core, fix poor posture, and reduce lower-back pain.
But as you’re hovering there, why not make the move do double duty? These five awesome plank variations provide all the benefits of the classic core-sculpting move, while also chiseling bigger arms, building a broader back, skyrocketing your heartrate, or increasing your flexibility. (Looking for more core exercises? Refresh your workout with these 25 Awesome Abs Moves.)
The uneven plank is just as much of a core builder as it is a triceps builder. “Un the standard plank, you'll lift one forearm off the floor,” says BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S., creator of Men’s Health StreamFit.
“Now your arm is holding the bottom position of a pushup, which instantly activates your triceps.” The longer you hold the exercise, the longer your triceps will be under tension.
And since you only have one forearm on the floor instead of two, your core has to work overtime to stabilize.
SIDE PLANK WITH QUAD STRETCH
This two-in-one move hits your obliques and improves your flexibility.
“You'll not only work the muscles on the side of your torso, but you'll loosen your hip flexors, a group of muscles on the front of your hips that allow you to bring your legs toward your chest,” says Gaddour.
Prolonged sitting can make these muscles tight, resulting in injuries hamstring strains and back pain. Keeping them loose is key to increasing your gains.
Performing a quad stretch in a side plank is more effective than doing the stretch standing, too. The reason: When upright, it's difficult to fully activate your hip flexors since your lower back can hyperextend, he says. But when you're in a side plank, your entire core is stabilized so your back can't easily move.
PLANK SINGLE-ARM ROW
If you want to hit your back while you’re holding a plank, try this move. The single-arm row works your upper-back muscles including your lats, traps, rear deltoids, and rhomboids.
And since you do all of your rows with one arm, before switching to the other, you’ll keep tension on your working muscles longer—which can lead to better muscle gains for your back, says David Jack, owner of Activ8 in Phoenix, Arizona.
The move hammers your core, too. Because you elevate your body with your hands on a bench, you’ll ly be able to hold the plank position better (and longer) while performing the single-arm row, says Jack.
Break a sweat and increase your heartrate by turning your plank into a dance move. When you perform the breakdancer, you'll quickly move your feet from side to side and across your body. However, you must maintain the same rigid, straight torso that you would when performing a plank.
”It adds a whole new level of difficulty because your core has to fight to stay stable against the motion of your legs,” says Gaddour. And when you go fast and mix up the moves, it doubles as a great metabolism-revving cardio exercise, too.
You'll not only have a chiseled torso, but you'll also have an impressive move to show off on the dance floor this weekend.
PLANK WALKUP TO PUSHUP
You’ll hammer your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and chest with this dynamic version of the move.
It requires you to keep a straight line from your head to your ankles, while going from a plank to a pushup position over and over again.
The faster you go, the harder it is to maintain a perfectly stable plank—and the harder your upper body has to work, says Jack. Just 30 to 60 seconds will leave your arms shaking and your core burning.
Dynamic Planks: 9 Bodyweight Exercises for a Strong Core
Sick of holding a plank in a static position? Why don’t you try one of these dynamic plank variations? Exercising with your own bodyweight is a lot of fun and gets you in great shape.
What is a forearm plank?
The plank is an exercise that uses your own bodyweight. It specifically trains your abs and core muscles. In a plank, get on all fours with your forearms on the mat parallel to each other.
Your fingers are pointing slightly inward; stretch your legs out straight behind you. Keep your legs and upper body in a straight line, your head bent down at a slight angle, as an extension of your spine.
Hold this position for several seconds or even minutes if you prefer. Watch this video to see how to do a plank right:
In this version of the plank, you’re not just holding a plank, you’re actually moving. All of these exercises are plank-based movements and they give the rest of the muscles in your body some extra work as well. Yes, they’re still going to give you a strong core and those sexy abs, but perhaps they’ll seem a little less tedious than trying not to move in a regular plank.
1. Plank to down dog
This plank variation is perfect for checking in with your body, especially the shoulders, hamstrings and calves. Make sure that when you lower your body down into the plank position, your feet, hips and shoulders are in a line (no sinking hips).
2. Side plank oblique crunch
Your oblique muscles run along the side of your stomach and wrap around your lower back. You cannot talk about shredded or six pack abs without mentioning the obliques.
This move targets the obliques directly and really challenges your stability and control. Make sure your body is completely straight (i.e.
if someone was looking at you from above, you would look a straight line not a V-shape with the butt pushed back).
3. Side plank knee to elbow
As if holding a side plank wasn’t enough, time to crunch it out! It’s not necessary to perform this move super fast. Slow and controlled can really do the trick. Be sure to exhale all the way on the crunch. Can you get your knee to touch your elbow? If not, go as far as you can.
4. Low plank twist
Pretend you’re wringing out your abs a wet dish towel. Remember that your hip should move towards the ground but not touch it. Be sure to maintain proper plank form and don’t let your hips sink down when performing the twist. You’ll get the most the move and the best range of motion when you keep your feet, hips and shoulders in a line.
5. Extended inchworm
Get those hands out beyond your shoulders for a couple extra steps – you can do it! You’ll really feel your upper abs activate when you go just a little bit further. You don’t have to take giant steps with your hands, a little bit goes a long way.
6. Side plank taps
Working in some hip rotation and upper body stabilization while challenging the abs – this one is a winner! Don’t let that foot slam down on the ground, try to make the tap as quiet as possible. Don’t forget that your hand should be right underneath your shoulder.
7. High plank shoulder taps
During this variation, try to keep the rest of your body still while tapping your shoulders. When you rock from side to side and use momentum, your abs don’t have to work as hard.
8. Ultimate plank jacks
This bodyweight exercise is a cardio and coordination bomb. This move is an amazing fat burner. The quicker you move, the easier it is. If you let all the weight come down with your feet, it’s actually much more exhausting. Do your best to complete them as fast and as controlled as possible.
9. Reverse inchworm
Your hands stay in place and your feet do the walking. Don’t worry if you cannot walk your feet all the way to your hands, go as far as you can. But, be sure to really lift your hips up (pretend someone is pulling you by a string up from your tailbone) in order to best challenge your abs and inch your feet closer to your hands.
Try out dynamic planks today! And to add more variety to your workout, check out these 12 squat variations you can add to your leg day routine.
10 Plank Variations to Challenge Your Core | Fitness
Even though Einstein’s theory of relativity doesn’t relate to the plank, it feels time slows down when you hold the position long enough. The list of benefits from planking is lengthy, but the exercise gets old fast.
The plank is a core exercise that targets most of your abdominal muscles. To start, lie on the ground on your stomach. Plant your forearms and toes into the ground and raise your body.
Form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. The only thing touching the ground should be your feet and forearms.
As your abs fatigue more and more, you might feel you’re in purgatory from staying in one uncomfortable position for too long.
To avoid plank purgatory, try these challenging and dynamic plank variations:
1. PPT Plank
This exercise seems a normal plank, but there’s a subtle difference. The PPT plank, which stands for posterior pelvic tilt plank, builds an incredible amount of tension in your core. According to a 2014 study published in Sports Biomechanics, it significantly increases abdominal activation compared to a regular plank.
The move: Start in a plank with your forearms on the ground. Roll your hips back a dog tucking its tail. Then, dig your elbows and toes into the ground and pull them toward the middle of your body. You shouldn’t actually move, you’re simply building tension by pulling in. Squeeze your abs so hard you can’t hold the position for more than 10–15 seconds.
2. Plank With Reach
Move slow and controlled to get the most of this exercise.
The move: Start in a plank and slowly reach one arm forward until your elbow is straight. Then, bring your arm back down to the ground and reach out with the other arm.
3. Side-to-Side Plank
It’s time to add a twist, pun intended, to your plank.
The move: Start in a plank and twist your hips to one side. Try to touch the outside of your hip to the ground, then come back to the center before twisting to the other side. Your feet shouldn’t move; only your waist.
4. TRX Suspended Plank
With a TRX suspension trainer, you can add some instability to the plank position. This increases the amount of work your abs do, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, because you’ll have to fight to stay in position.
The move: Put your feet in the TRX handles so your body is slightly suspended above the ground, then hold a plank position as still as possible.
5. Side Plank With Hip Drop
The standard plank works the front of your abdominals, but you need a different variation to work the sides, also known as the obliques. That’s where the side plank comes in.
The move: Lying on your side, plant your elbow directly under your shoulder with your forearm on the ground in front of you. Stack your legs on top of each other and lift your body off the ground.
Only your elbow and the side of your foot should be touching the ground. Form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. From there, slowly drop your hips toward the ground. Go as low as you can, then raise them as high as you can.
Try 10 reps on each side.
6. Plank Walkdown
If you’re struggling to master the pushup, the plank walk-down helps. As you do this exercise, try not to shift your hips from side to side or let your hips sag. Keep your body in a straight line. Think of it as a moving plank.
The move: Start on your forearms in plank position. Slide one hand back and plant it under your shoulder. Push up with that arm and repeat with the other arm. Now you’re in a pushup position with your hands under your shoulders. Reverse the steps to lower yourself down into a plank position.
7. Plank With Opposite Reach
Balance is key for this plank variation.
The move: From plank position, reach one arm straight in front of you as you lift your opposite leg off the ground. Now you only have one arm and leg on the ground. Pause for a second, place your arm and leg on the ground and reach out the opposite limbs. Alternate sides every repetition.
Note: You don’t need to slide very far back, because the exercise gets very difficult very quickly. Make sure your shoulders don’t go forward past your elbows, as this makes the exercise much easier.
The move: Grab a pair of gliders and put them under your feet then get in a plank position. Slowly press your arms forward into the ground. Since your feet are on gliders, your body will slide back instead of your arms sliding forward. Pull your arms back down until your elbows are directly under the shoulders to complete one rep.
9. Plank With Row
Using a resistance band or cable machine, you can make the regular plank infinitely more challenging. The cable or resistance band should be attached to a fixed object as low to the ground as possible.
The move: Get into plank position a few feet in front of the cable so you can fully extend your arm forward. Pull the cable back in toward your body then extend your arm forward to complete one rep. You can move your feet shoulder-width or even wider to create a more stable base.
10. Plank Crawl (Gliding Plank)
Staying in the same position and holding it for as long as possible gets boring. This exercise makes the plank dynamic, adding some excitement to the exercise.
The move: Start in a plank position with gliders under your feet. Slowly walk forward, pulling into the ground with your forearms.
It’s essentially an army crawl but the only parts of your body that touch the ground are your forearms and feet. Crawl six steps forward then six back. Try to go further every time you do this exercise.
If it’s still too easy, put a weight plate or sandbag on your lower back.
Discover and log these plank exercises via Workout Routines in the MyFitnessPal app.