This article originally appeared on Oxygen
Even if you’re the most disciplined lifter, it can be hard to make the humble plank exercise fun. Many would even say that nothing makes time pass slower than holding a plank. There’s also a common misconception that the indicator of a strong plank is simply being able to run them for a much longer period of time – and that notion couldn’t be more wrong, particularly if you’re not using the appropriate form.
The static plank and other isometric exercises are anaerobic, meaning “without oxygen”. (And no, that doesn’t mean without breathing, although breathing is something people sometimes forget to do when exercising!) Other anaerobic exercises like weight training, sprints or plyometrics tend to be done in short bursts as the body uses glycogen stores as its main source of energy. energy during these movements. This is why you will find that your muscles will begin to tire and your technique will break down, no matter who you are, even if you already have great muscular endurance.
For this reason, a 10-minute plank hold would do little to properly train the body in typical workouts. It makes more sense to keep the boards shorter and add variety based on your skill level. That’s why the following board progressions can be worth their weight in gold when taking your board game to the next level. Plus, they do a great job of killing the monotony of classic boards.
The basics: how to make a good plank
The plank is an exercise that puts all of the hands – or should we say muscles – on the deck. Your hands or forearms are positioned on the floor, with the only other points of contact being the toes. The body should form a generally straight line from shoulder to heel, with little or no arch in the lower back for a neutral spine. Squeezing your glutes as hard as possible and keeping your abs engaged will help you achieve this.
A good plank should be hard to hold – 30 seconds, in truth, should be enough to make your muscles shake if you haven’t trained regularly for it. If that sounds laughable to you, then you’re probably ready to upgrade to something bigger and better, like the following variations.
6 ways to inflate your boards
1. Iron Cross Plank
The only thing that differentiates the iron cross plank from a standard plank is the fact that your hands are now facing outward and the distance between them is twice as wide as a typical push-up or plank . This wider base of support seems innocent, but it’s a game changer when it comes to the level of difficulty of the board, and immediately integrates the chest, shoulders and arms into the picture (with even more demand on the core to keep a good position).
Not to mention, it gets you one step closer to the coveted plank – one of the most rockstar moves of all calisthenics.
2. Body saw board
Doing a simple change of plank levers is a great way to train a key component of core strength: the anti-extension. The truth is that your heart is not only responsible for create movement, it is also responsible for resist undesirable forces, too. This is the main reason why planks are a recommended move to start with and why this variation takes things to the next level.
Place your feet in a TRX or suspension system, keeping your body straight from shoulders to ankles and allowing your legs to hang down as your arms push back against your body. Even a six-inch range of motion is a massive demand for your abs to hold that position and prevent your spine from arching or extending. As soon as you release that tension, you’ll feel your back getting too involved — and that’s your sign to tighten things up and reduce the range of motion to what you can control. Focus on sets of 10 slow reps.
3. Wall Climbing Board
For this variation, you’ll be set up in a typical plank on your forearms, except with your feet propped up against a wall. Then slowly perform a mountain climbing motion one foot at a time while maintaining tension with your other foot. (Check out a demo here.)
Just adding pressure with your feet pushing into a wall instead of flat ground changes the board dramatically and involves more muscles. Not only is it harder on the abs since the feet are now elevated and moving, but it requires isometric tension in the shoulders, chest, and traps to maintain pressure so your feet don’t slide off the wall.
Of course, this movement should be performed slowly and under control so that the core remains engaged, the spine remains as neutral as possible, and foot placement remains precise. It is easy to let the feet crawl up the wall for easier lifting. Don’t let that happen. Start with sets of 8 strides per leg.
4. One-Arm Plank
This is probably the most accessible progression to the board on this entire list: just remove a support base from your standard board and be sure to stay strict with the shape. This means no twisting or leaning to the supported side, keeping the hips square. It’s surprising and amazing how challenging it can be when done with purpose.
If it’s a breeze for 30 seconds per arm, raise the bar using a BOSU ball for a little extra stability work.
5. Chinese plank with sweater
Many core exercises emphasize the front of the body, and perhaps the sides. Abs and obliques get our full attention, but that’s not all when it comes to a strong core. Truth be told, the core includes the muscles at the back of the body, like the spinal erectors and the quadratus lumborum (QL), which is your deepest abdominal muscle.
Flipping things over in a Chinese plank, in which you place your shoulders and feet on elevated surfaces (shown here), forces the entire posterior chain to hold the body without sagging at the hips. It is very easy to get out of shape during this humbling exercise, so be very careful while performing it. Adding a pullover pattern to this exercise adds anti-stretch into the mix.
As your arms move overhead, the tendency will be to extend your spine, and this will require a lot of abs to brace and keep the spine neutral and the stomach to flare up. Focusing on the reps done if you add a sweater helps take the focus off the time here, so doing sets of 10-12 reps is a good place to start.
6. Plate transfer board
Similar to the one-arm plank, the plate transfer plank removes a base of support from a typical plank while requiring the body to stay square. The only difference here: you now have a load to move from one side of the body to the other while doing it.
Stacking 3-5 light weights on one side of the body is all you need; 2.5 pound plates work best. With the hand farthest weights, reach out, grab a plate and pile them on the other side, one at a time. Then repeat with the opposite hand. Once you put all the weights back where they started, that counts as one rep. Set a goal to complete 3 reps without losing form or touching your knees to the floor for a break. Rest for 60 seconds after each set of 3 reps and perform 3-4 sets.
For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure and travel stories, plus discounts on travel, events and gear, sign up for Outside+ today.
#plank #variations #killer #core #workout