We all dream of a flat, and toned stomach, but abdominal muscles have a much greater importance than just the way they look in a bathing suit. Strong abs are good for more efficient movement of the hands and feet, for spinal protection, for injury and disc herniation prevention, and they help maintain good posture and balance of the body. In contrast to crunches that can often hurt the neck and back, experts recommend healthier and more effective plank exercises.
The exercises work on the 4 core muscles and the spinal erectors (which straighten and rotate the back) and are a perfect workout for strengthening the abdomen. There are many ways to perform planks and here we’ve listed five different and easy to perform methods that will help you strengthen your stomach without causing any bodily harm.
1. Basic Plank
This is the basic position of the exercise and once you’ve mastered it you can move on to more challenging poses. The exercise strengthens all abdominal muscles, and also works on stabilizing the pelvis.
- How to: Get into pushup position and rest your weight on your forearms, making sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. If this is your first time doing a plank exercise, hold your body for 10 seconds in position. If you are already a bit skilled at planking, try to hold the position for about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Recommendations: For beginners, it is recommended to perform three repetitions of 30 seconds, and between each rep take a one-minute break.
- Note: your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet, make sure your buttocks aren’t lifted.
2. Raised Leg Plank
The exercise works on the external diagonal abdominal muscle and is very popular. It is recommended for those who are looking for a way to increase the difficulty of the exercise without complicating the workout.
- How to: Once in plank position, lift one foot above the ground to a height of 5 inches and hold for a few seconds, bring the leg back down and repeat. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
- Recommendations: It is recommended to repeat the lift 2-3 times and do 10 reps for each leg.
- Note: Keep your shoulder blades stretched back.
3. Side Plank
The exercise focuses on the core muscles, particularly the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques and quadratus lumborum. It is recommended to place a pillow or similar object under your arm as this plank exerts a lot of pressure on it.
- How to: Start by lying on the side of your body while leaning on your forearm. Lift your pelvis in the air, lean on the forearm and sides of your feet, and come back down.
- Recommendations: It is recommended to do 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps on each side with a 1-minute break between each set.
- Note: Remember to bring your hips back to their starting position, and not to hold all of your weight on your forearm the whole time.
4. Up and Down Plank
This exercise focuses on the core muscles, as well as strengthening your shoulders and arms. This is one of the most active versions of the exercise and is a lot of fun to do.
- How to: Get into basic plank position and starting with your right arm lift yourself off your forearms to your palms. Do this cycle 5 times, then restart the cycle beginning with your left hand.
- Recommendations: Do 2-5 sets depending on your level of physicality.
- Note: Try not to wobble to the sides and keep your thighs parallel to the floor. Also, there’s no point in rushing through this exercise. It is better to pay attention to the movements and stay straight.
5. Knee to Elbow/ Spiderman Plank
The exercise focuses on the core muscles, especially the diagonal, and aims to increase stability. It will also activate your leg muscles and contribute to the flexibility of your joints.
- How to: Get into a basic plank position. Now bring the knee as close as possible to the elbow of the hand on the same side and then go back to the basic position. Repeat on the other side
- Recommendations: If this is the first time you’re doing this exercise, perform 10 to 15 reps on each side 2-3 times.
- Note: Keep the hips straight throughout the exercise. It is recommended to move your elbows farther apart to increase stability.