3 ways to do a plank for building muscle and weight loss

plank-on-rails

WALK THE PLANK YOU SCURVY DOG!!

Sorry,...I thought I was a pirate for a second.

Remember the craze several years ago, where everyone was posting pictures of themselves planking anywhere and everywhere they possibly could?

I'm not sure that what some of the people were calling planks, were actually planks. 

SO, IF THAT'S NOT A PLANK...THEN WHAT IS?

A plank is an Isometric strength building exercise for the muscles around the midsection. Depending on the variations of planks, there can be a lot more muscles involved, including glutes, back, arms, shoulders and hamstrings.

There is no equipment involved in a plank, unless you want to do a different variation, but essentially it is the most convenient and effective exercise that a person can do. However, if done incorrectly it will not provide the results that a person might be looking for.

DO PLANKS REALLY WORK YOUR ABS?

Yes, your core will thank you. As you get into the correct posture, your abs will tighten because you are holding yourself up. As you squeeze them yourself, they will become even tighter, this in turn will decrease the size of your midsection. It is not a cure all though, and it won't happen overnight. Remember, the fitness industry, would love for you to believe that all you have to do is plank to have 6-pack abs in 30 days. In the words of John Mclaughlin, WRONG!!!

There are many ab and core building exercises out there, but planks have the best results and can be performed anywhere. A good fitness test is to see how long you can hold a plank. If you can reach or exceed 2 minutes, then it is safe to say that you are in pretty good shape.

HOW DO I DO A PLANK?

There are multiple ways to perform a plank, but we are only going to cover two of them.

BASIC PLANK:

basic-plank

Watch the Video Here

  • Hold your elbows directly under your shoulders and place your wrists in line with your elbows.
  • Push your body up into your upper back and hold your chin close to your neck (like you’re holding an egg between your chin and your throat).
  • In this position, brace your abdominal's—contract them like expecting a punch in your stomach, squeeze your gluteal (tailbone) and thigh muscles simultaneously while continuing to breathe normally.
  • Hold a plank at least 20 to 30 seconds. (When using correct form, it is not necessary to hold it for longer than this amount of time.) Rest for approximately one minute and repeat three to five more times.
  • Start doing the plank using your elbows and toes (feel free to drop to your knees if necessary) and progress up to a high plank when you feel you have developed the necessary strength.

EXTENDED ARM PLANK:

extended-arm-plank

 

Watch the Video Here

This is done is much the same way as the basic plank, except your arms are extended and your feet are slightly farther apart.

In this position, if someone was to bump you or push you from the side, you shouldn't fall over. That is a good test. 

  • Extend your arms like you are in the push-up (up) position
  • Tighten your stomach, basically try to push your stomach to your back.
  • Tighten the gluteal muscles. 
  • Make sure that your back and butt are in line.
  • Try to hold for 2 minutes

One of the coolest workouts that I do with this extended arm plank is with a partner.

One of you does 100 sledgehammer strikes on a tire, while the other one holds this plank position until the other one is finished. Then you switch. It's a doozy, but it makes you strong quick.

When that gets too easy. Add a weighted vest.

Remember King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), in the movie 300? Yep, pretty sure he did all that too get those abs.

Yes, that is a spartan helmet over my face!

 

The Side Plank:

You will feel this one for a couple of days...I promise.

How do I do it?

  • Lie on your right (or left) side , in a straight line from head to feet, resting on your forearm.
  • Your elbow should be directly under your shoulder.
  • With your abdominal muscles gently contracted, lift your hips off the floor, maintaining the straight line.
  • Keep your hips square and your neck in line with your spine.
  • Hold 20 to 40 seconds and lower.
  • Repeat two to three times, alternating sides.

If this is too difficult, keep your knees bent. If it it too easy, try lifting your top leg up and down while planking, so it looks like you are a pair of sciccors.

 

HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M DOING A PLANK WRONG?

Common Plank Mistakes:

  • Do not allow your head, shoulders or hips to drop. If this happens the Plank has become noneffective and you run the risk of injuring yourself.
  • Holding your hands too close together, or your feet too close together. (WHEN IN THE PLANK POSITION, SOMEONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO PUSH YOU FROM THE SIDE AND NOT KNOCK YOU OVER)
  • Don't hold your breath. Breathe in and out slowly. Try breathing in through your nose, and out through your mouth slowly.
  • Don't hold the plank position if you can't, or if your hips start sagging. Just be finished, rest, and start over.

Most fitness websites, Instagram posts, or photos will show you people planking but doing it wrong. Here are a few.

All of those positions above are wrong, and will either gain you some funny looks at the gym, or some lower back injuries. Ummm...No thanks.

HOW LONG SHOULD I HOLD A PLANK?

  • A good plank should last around 30-60 seconds
  • If you want to challenge yourself, try doing a plank for 2 minutes or go for as long as you can without breaking form
  • Remember, Having good form is better than doing a plank for a long period of time with bad form. The longer duration will come naturally as long as you follow correct form.

PLANK WORKOUT ROUTINE

Run/run-walk/walk 1 mile

Then...

Complete 3 rounds of:

Then...

Run/run-walk/walk 1 mile

It might sound intimidating or a little overwhelming, but you can't think in terms of how much is required, but rather, just chip away at it. Focus on doing one thing at a time.

This is a great workout routine, and before you know it, you will fly through it. This is where it begins for you. Make a change that will last, focus on improving your fitness levels, and your mind and lifestyle will begin to shift along with it.

I also recommend several books if you want to dive deeper into mindset (Affiliates). These books will make you want to explore your new found love for fitness and will change your mindset.

As always, keep improving everyday. Anything worth doing is difficult, and always worth the alternative. Even though it doesn't seem like it.

Let me know in the comments if you have tried these plank workouts, what your favorite type of plank is, and how they have helped you in your fitness journey.

I look forward to hearing from you.

- Stephen