The Plank is one of the most “sacred” of core exercises. The minute you say the word “plank”, a look of fear comes across anyone who is being told to do it. This is because this exercise is challenging for EVERYONE who does it … every single time (regardless of whether you’re a fitness “newbie” or seasoned gym rat)! It’s total body work that is concentrated in a short amount of time and makes you feel accomplished every time to attempt it.
With that being said, because it’s a total body exercise that you FEEL, it’s one that many people avoid because it isn’t necessarily pleasant. In fact, your whole body is clenching to hold the position and you can’t wait to finish the second that you start! That’s why we’ve created the “30 Day Plank Challenge”!
This 30 Day Plank Challenge is designed to motivate participants to complete 30 consecutive days of plank exercises (for a total of 15 seconds to 5 minutes per day). The presentation provided above includes 30 consecutive days of workouts that start off with only a single 15 second plank and work towards the final day where you complete five minutes of plank exercises (10 x 30 seconds).
Avoid “Cheating” at the Plank Exercise
For example, someone can do a lot of crunches or sit ups if they have poor form (and cheat). The plank, because it involves holding your body’s weight against gravity (in a parallel position), doesn’t provide much opportunity to alleviate much of the work required of the core muscle groups.
With that being said, there are ways that you can make a plank exercise “easier”:
- Sinking into the shoulders (the scapula will start winging upwards)
- Sagging at the hips/waist (as the belly button drops towards the floor)
- Hyperextending at the knees
- Sinking forward into the elbow crease (slight forward tilt of the body)
Cues for a Proper Plank Exercise
In order to get the most out of the plank exercise you need to contract the body to stabilize it against the ground. Looking the part is not enough as ligaments and joints are areas that can take great benefit away from the exercise opportunity (i.e., sinking and sagging into the joints). Proper, coordinated isometric muscular contractions require your own “mind-body” connection and communication to happen. Below are teaching cues that you can use to ensure you activate all of the muscles in your body to get the most out of the plank exercise.
- Press your forearms (including elbows and palms) into the floor. Imagine you are facing a heavy metal door and you are using your forearms to get it open. You will feel your torso lift higher off the ground and elevate out of your shoulder sockets.
- Expand your shoulders. Imagine a bed sheet underneath your elbows and hands. Press the forearms into the bed sheet and try to rip it apart, feeling your shoulders expand.
- Squeeze your glutes. The majority of humans have lazy glutes so they naturally choose not to fire if other muscles do the work for them (i.e., the hip flexors or lower back). Imagine placing the narrow side of a credit card in between your “butt cheeks”. Squeeze the glutes together the entire time you are in the plank position (to ensure your body is in a straight line from the heels through the knees, hips and shoulders).
- Dig your toes. To fully engage the anterior core muscles (i.e., abdominals) press your toes into the floor like you are digging a hole into the ground and your toes are a shovel. Press the toes down and towards you (but do NOT lose the shoulder or hip activation).
30 Day Plank Challenge – Advanced Options
If this is not your first time doing the plank exercise, or would like to further challenge yourself on a particular workout day (or the entire 30 day challenge) you can try these advanced modifications to get ever MORE out of your core!
- Elevate the feet. By elevating the feet (so the body is completely parallel to the floor) the body’s center of gravity is furthest away from the arms and feet making the exercise the most challenging (without added resistance). As the feet go higher than the shoulders, more focus is put on the shoulders to engage, which makes it more upper body focused.
- Extend one arm forward. This requires more work on the other forearm and the abdominals and foot on the raised side.
- Extend one leg back. This requires more work on the other foot and the abdominals and arm on the raised side.
- Extend one arm forward and opposite leg back. This requires significantly more core endurance, balance and stability of the entire body.
- Move elbows ahead of the shoulders. This requires more core and shoulder stability as the center of gravity moves even further away from the elbows and toes.
Stay tuned for the 30 Day Plank Challenge – Level Two and Level Three!