Strong core muscles improve performance in all sports and help to reduce spine pain. It is also important for posture, arthritis and prevention of osteoporosis. A fun and challenging way to strengthen the core muscles (abdominal and back muscles) simultaneously is to perform “plank” stabilization exercises. The plank is similar to sustaining the “up” position of a pushup but with nuances to recruit more muscles. There are many variations that can make this a great strength workout.
As the name implies, hold your body (spine and hips) straight as a plank during the exercise. By doing this, you will achieve a co-contraction of the abdominal and back muscles (muscle groups working at the same time). Contract your abdominal muscles to avoid a sway back position of the lower back. Avoid lifting hips too high. Keep your gaze looking at the floor and the back of the neck flat so your head doesn’t drop. Press your hands (or forearms) into the floor so you are pushing your ribcage upward. Avoid holding your breath so count, talk or sing during your hold time. Start with an easy version such as being on your forearms or knees and progress gradually. Pay attention to form and longer duration holds rather than the number of repetitions performed. For example, start by 20 second holds and repeat that five times. If you loose form or are in pain, shorten the duration and/or try an easier version.
- Plank on forearm and knees.
- Plank on hands and knees
- Plank on hands with legs long and straight.
- One arm plank
- Side planks on forearm or hands.
- Reverse plank (backside is facing floor)
- Plank with hands on foam roller
- Plank with hands on Bosu
- Plank using TRX straps
- Plank with exercise ball under legs. See Nelson Wellness Center website for plank photos.
Integrating a variety of plank exercises into your program 2-3 times a week will strengthen your core muscles and you will feel the difference. Good luck!