When it comes to anterior core strengthening, fancy and complicated exercises may not be the way to go, especially if you can’t rock more basic ( but often more effective) exercises like the plank.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. Planks….boring, ho hum. You are not alone. Lots of people get bored with planks and instead do acrobatic and complicated anterior core exercises without attention to detail, posture, or even whether it is the right exercise for them. Unfortunately, I have found that some of these same people have trouble with basic planking variations, where it’s all about stability and stiffness. Core stability and stiffness are a necessary precursor to more advanced multi planar or stability challenge exercises, so skipping this first step could result in injury and an ineffective exercise.
So… let’s get back to basics with a few plank variations.
The basic forearm plank ( also called a prone bridge) is a fabulous exercise that can be regressed or progressed depending on your fitness level. If you can’t hold a basic plank for 15 seconds, try a regression such as plank on your knees, shown below.
Often, I find my clients can feel their abs MORE with this variation, as you can really hone in on tucking the butt under and drawing in the belly button area without feeling exertion through the knees and thighs.
To progress a plank (once you can do a traditional plank for 1 minute), try some of the variations shown below.
In all variations, avoid arching the low back or lifting hips too high. This requires the glutes to be activated and tucked under and the abs ( especially the transverse abdominus) to be “drawn in”. When challenging the core with plank variations, this same stable position needs to be held. Hips should not roll right or left when lifting 1 arm or leg, nor should you lift the hips or sag the hips.
Lock It In! Contract as many muscles as possible ( while breathing through the lateral ribs and back and not just through the belly) and you’ll never find these exercises easy. And, no need to ever do a plank longer than 1 – 1 1/2 minutes. If you can do a perfect plank for over 1 minute, then it’s time to change things up. You could try standing anti rotation exercises, palloff press variations, or straight arm plank variations like hand switches or elbow touches.
Always include some plank variation in your exercise routine. It’s the baseline exercise for many many variations, so learn the basics, get great at it, and then challenge yourself with harder variations.