Up Your Fitness Game: Take The Plank Challenge Today
If you are looking for an exercise that strengthens your entire body, look no further
The plank is one of the most versatile and effective way to strengthen your entire body. From your shoulders, arms, back to hips, thighs, calves and legs, right down to your toes. It is a great way to work the core as well and has a great effect on your abdominal muscles too, which work as stabilizers and remain tense just holding up your body in a stable position. Planks can be done with or without shoes.
But before you do the plank, you will need a warm-up or ideally a 20-minute cardio, which can include skipping, with or without a rope, stair climbing, jogging on the spot and jumping jacks. You can use any movement that pushes up your heart rate. These exercises don’t require much space and can be done indoors. Wear supportive footwear and clothing for the exercises.
After the cardio, just mobilize the shoulders by moving the arms forward and back. They should be lifted as high as possible.
There are two versions of the plank—you can choose the one you are most comfortable with.
1. Full-arm plank: Get your mat. Get on your hands and knees. The wrists should be in line with the shoulders, with feet and legs shoulder-width apart. Straighten both your legs behind you to get into the plank position. Your body weight is distributed on the arms and the feet and the full body works hard to hold a stable position. You need to do 3 sets of 30 seconds each, with a rest of 30 seconds in between the sets.
2. Plank on the elbows: Instead of extending the arms, get on to your elbows. The elbows should be aligned to the shoulders in this position. Rest of the guidelines remain exactly the same.
Three-point contact plank: An advanced athlete can do a three-point contact plank where one arm can be used to tap the opposite shoulder. Or, you can tap out with your legs—one arm or one leg moves at a time.
Full-arm mountain climber plank: Maintain the full arm plank and bring your knees to the chest in quick succession as if you are running. Do alternate legs.
Precautions: Make sure the lower back does not dip towards the floor at any stage. If you are a rank beginner, the hip can be slightly elevated or you can do the plank on your knees.
The plank is a very popular part of functional training and used in zillions of different ways. It is a great way to work your entire body and it can be great fun too as the challenges never end.
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Nisha Varma is an American College of Sports Medicine-certified exercise physiologist based in Pune.