Planks are a great core exercise. Planks help to train our core muscles to provide stability around a neutral spine, which, is an important function in both sports and everyday life. The only problem with planks is that once you’ve mastered them, it’s very easy to plateau. In other words, once you can hold a rock solid plank, how are you going to progress? We know that we need to challenge and overload our muscles in order to get stronger. But, if you’re holding your plank for a minute, two minutes, three minutes or longer… just how long are you willing to go to keep overloading and challenging yourself? Sure, you can just keep adding time, but eventually, those minutes turn into tens of minutes, then hours, and just how much time do you really want to hold your plank for anyway? So, with that said, once you’ve mastered a basic plank, here are a few different ways to progress your planks and challenge your core while saving yourself some time.
Try elevating your feet – elevating your feet will effectively change the leverage of the plank, stimulating your trunk and shoulder stabilizers in a different way. This variation will also provide a greater challenge for your upper body.
Try lifting a single extremity – by lifting a single arm or leg, you will create an asymmetrical load across your spine/hips helping train your core to simultaneously resist extension and rotational forces.
Add outside resistance – increase the challenge of a plank by adding more load. You can do this by using a resistance band or by having a workout partner balance a weight on your back.
Add movement to your planks – challenge your core by changing force vectors and moving your center of gravity. You can do this with plank variations such as shoulder tap planks, slow mountain climber planks, etc.
Increase the lever length of your plank – this is a crazy tough plank variation: simply walk your hands forward to increase the plank’s lever length and really feel your core light up.
Create instability – another great way to change the stimulus to your core is by creating instability while you hold a plank. You can plank with your arms or legs on a bosu/swiss ball or have a workout partner provide instability by gently pushing on your trunk in various directions while holding the plank.
Combine any of the above – the six suggestions above are just a few different ways to provide yourself a new challenge while holding a plank. Now get creative! Try combining any two of the suggestions above to really take your planks to the next level… maybe hold a plank on an unstable surface with added resistance. Try elevating your feet while also increasing your plank’s lever length. The possibilities are endless.
Not sure which option is best for you? Definitely stop by and ask one of our degreed Exercise Physiologists.
Until then, show us how you challenge yourself with your planks! Post an image of yourself holding your best, toughest plank variation and hit it with #DHACPlank. We just may share some of our favorites on our Dedham Health Facebook/Instagram pages! Happy planking!
-Jason L., Exercise Physiologist at Dedham Health