One Perfect Core Exercise Six Ways
When you want a beach-flat belly but your body is saying, “winter belly fat and beach season is rapidly approaching,” it’s time to take action. Or is it? The best flat belly exercise is a stabilization exercise. Dozens of crunches and sit-ups are neither your lower back’s nor your swimsuit’s best friend. It’s taken years, but even the Army finally agreed.
These plank exercises will firm up your mid section. To see that firmer core, pay attention to your diet and overall exercise routine. Emphasize protein, healthy fats, non-starchy veggies and low sugar fruits. Perform a total body strength training routine twice a week and regular cardio that includes interval training. You’ll score a solid core within weeks. You’ll begin to feel the benefits after a week.
Beyond the beach, a strong core keeps you free of injury. It might increase your drive down the fairway and enhance your walking speed. There are six variations of the plank here to guarantee you won’t get stale before you see progress. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, keep your plank exercises on your forearms.
All About the Plank Exercises:
- Turning on the deep core muscles is more important that long holds.
- Start with repeats of 10 seconds. Rest between briefly and repeat.
- Increase your hold by 10 seconds each week. If that’s too much, do what you can with good form and then rest. Regular practice will increase your endurance.
- Benefits from holding a plank decrease after a minute. If you’ve reached that, start using the variations below. Decrease rest time between the exercises to increase the intensity further.
The Perfect Plank:
- Press back through your heels. You should feel a stretch through your calves and feel the top of your thighs (quadriceps) engaged.
- Draw your shoulders away from your ears.
- Retract (pull together) your shoulder blades.
- Look at the floor a few inches in front of you to avoid neck strain.
- Keep your shoulders, hips and heels on the same level. To begin it’s better to do a perfect plank on your knees than to be on your toes with poor form.
- Perfect your basic plank before you add variations.
- Basic Plank
Follow the tips for the Perfect Plank above. Practice this one until it feels relatively easy to hold for a minute before you add variations.
- Plank One Arm Shoulder Tap
Perform this plank on your hands and toes. Place your feet a little wider than hip width apart. Tap your left shoulder with your right hand, place your hand down and tap your right shoulder with your left hand. As you transfer from one side to the other keep your hips and rest of your body as still as possible. Work your way up to 20 taps.
- Plank Crunch
Begin in a plank on the hands and toes. Bring your right knee in toward your chin and think of drawing your ribs and hips together. Extend the leg and return to the floor bringing the hips back down so you’re once again in a straight line. Repeat with your left knee and continue to alternate knees in. Do as many as you can with good form or work up to 20.
- Plank Frog Leg
On your forearms, bend your right knee and bring it out to your side and as close to your right shoulder as possible. Return to start and repeat on the left side. Continue alternating. Work your way up to 20.
- Plank Cross Over
Start on your forearms in a basic plank. Lift your right foot up a few inches off the floor. Cross it over the left ankle and return back to hover over the floor. Set it down and repeat alternating right and left. Work your way to 20 total.
- Plank and Plates
Use a paper plates under one or both feet. Hint: two will give you a little less stability, making the exercise slightly more difficult. Assume the plank position and then move your right foot out to the side as much as your range of motion will allow. Return to start and repeat 10 times before doing the left side. This works best on a hard wood floor but can also work on carpet and increases the resistance for greater challenge.
When to Plank
- Plank exercises are good finishers. That is, you can use them to end your exercise session. Perform one of the versions above multiple times or perform several different planks once each. You have endless combinations.
- Planks are also good posture breaks. If you’ve been sitting more than 90 minutes, take a few minutes to plank. You’re stabilizing your shoulders and upper back at the same time you’re waking up your core. You’ll come back to your chair with increased awareness of your posture.
Every body is different. If you can’t do one just move on to the next. There’s a variation for you.