‘The plank is a simple but incredibly effective core strengthening exercise which, when performed right, will not only strengthen and activate your core, but also your arms, bum, back and legs,’ says personal trainer Adam Stansbury.
‘It’s a static move that requires no equipment and can be performed anywhere. It engages multiple muscles at once and by improving the engagement of the core muscles, it will tighten your tummy, your bum and improve your ability to generate power and stability throughout the body, preventing injury and improving posture.’
5 steps to master a plank:
1 Plant your hands directly under your shoulders, like a push-up, and ground your toes into the floor; squeeze your glutes as you lift your body into one straight line, with ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles on the same plane.
2 Engage your core by imagining your belly button pulling in towards your spine and don’t let your bottom dip.
3 Look at a spot on the floor about a foot beyond your hands so that your head is in line with your back.
4 Contract the belly button and glutes as hard as you can and hold for 20 seconds, longer if you can; if your back begins to bow or shoulders sink, stop.
5 Take slow, controlled, deep breaths throughout.
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Try these variations:
Forearm plank ‘This is slightly easier. Place forearms on the floor, elbows below your shoulders, arms parallel to your body shoulder-width apart. Lay your palms flat, or clasp your hands together.’
Side Plank ‘This works your obliques – the muscles that run down the side of the core. Lie on your side with your legs on top of one another, the foot of your top leg just behind the bottom foot for stability. Prop your body up on your hand or elbow and hold. Keep glutes contracted so your lower and upper body stay in alignment.’
Alternating full plank ‘By taking one point of contact from the floor, your core works harder. From a basic plank, contract your abs and glutes, then lift an opposite hand and foot a little off the floor; alternate for 24 controlled reps.’
Medicine ball plank ‘Another way to add challenge, as you need to engage core muscles to stabilise. Do a normal plank, but this time with your hands on the ball under your shoulders.’