By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
If you’re like me, you’ve probably been thinking about how you can keep your body toned and in shape amid social distancing and state lockdowns. After all, summer is on the way, and there’s nothing like a beach-ready body. But what’s there to do when the gyms are closed and your favorite fitness classes are suspended indefinitely?
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched my body transform from just regular plank workouts. Many of them just take a few minutes and I can do them right in front of my TV! Planking might look easy, but it’s an intense exercise that can be done just about anywhere. It’s a great strategy to keep your body looking good for the summer months without a gym.
Getting in a plank position is pretty easy. Simply elevate your body off the ground with your elbows while keeping your body perpendicular to the floor.
Line up your wrists with your elbows and keep your elbows right under your shoulders. Your entire body should be in a straight line. Your chest and abs should be nice and taut for the entire plank.
It’s essentially the same as holding yourself in an extended push up pose. You should feel a burn around your core and across your shoulders and arms if you’re holding the plank long enough. When starting out, aim to plank for 30 seconds. Rest for a minute or two between planks.
Planks are a great workout because they don’t require any equipment and can enhance body strength and flexibility for different activities. It’s one of the best bodyweight exercises out there! Many yoga routines incorporate the plank pose, while professional boxers and other athletes often plank in between sets of other exercises.
There’s a variety of plank variations you can try. Each of them challenge a different part of your body, but all of them will help tone and sculpt your abs and core.
Instead of holding your legs static, bring each knee to your chest, and then extend your leg back as quickly as you can. Keep alternating legs for up to one minute for the best results with the mountain climber. This plank variation will really get your core burning while also boosting stamina for your legs.
The side plank is a great variation if you’re interested in spine stabilization or exercising your oblique muscles. Instead of placing your body perpendicular to the ground, lean on one side of your body, using your hand or elbow as support.
Hold the position for up to a minute as you raise your top arm to the sky. Looking to make the side plank more difficult? Just raise your top leg as high as you can while you’re holding your core steady.
With a walking plank, get your body set in the traditional plank position, but get ready to move! Start by moving your right hand and foot to the side at the same time. Do the same on your left side until your body is aligned again. You should be moving laterally without stopping.
Aim to do walking planks in five-repetition sets. Be sure to do walking planks slowly to get the most benefit for your core. These planks aren’t meant to be done quickly.
This plank variation is great for those interested in a burn across their abs and lower spine. Start out in the traditional plank position, but bring your knee up to the outside of your elbow, and then bring your leg back to a normal plank position.
Make sure to keep your thigh hovering over the floor as it moves, and practice proper breathing while you bring your leg up and back. There’s nothing wrong with slightly rocking your body during the Spider-Man plank, but be careful to not rotate or let your hips sag.
Planks directly target your core muscles. A stronger and more muscular core not only looks great while at the beach. It also improves your mobility and enhances your abdominal muscles, which are vital in supporting the back and lower spine. Planks also tone the biceps, shoulders, and even your butt and thigh muscles.
Planks are a great at-home exercise because they help burn many more calories than other traditional core workouts for abs, like crunches or situps. Their high-intensity nature boosts your metabolism throughout the day. Aim to make a plank workout a daily routine before starting your work for the day at home. Even better, combine planks with other home HIIT workouts like box jumps.
I believe exercise is one of the best ways to de-stress and improve my state of mind. But did you know the plank is particularly effective in helping your body relax?
Muscles in the abdominals and legs are often strained and knotted, which often leads to stress across your body. For example, if your body notices your thigh muscles are tense, it will try and compensate by shifting weight somewhere else. This can lead to pain and tension in other areas of the body that aren’t equipped to shoulder the load.
Planking helps your body relax and de-stress by loosening up muscles in your core area, which positively affects your entire body. Plus, any sort of exercise is going to release a bevy of endorphins that make you feel good.
You don’t have to give up on your dreams of a beautiful summer body just because you’re stuck at home. Planking is a simple and effective exercise to tone and sculpt your entire core area. Even just 60 seconds in the plank position burns calories and pushes your muscles to the limit.
If you liked these plank exercises, and want to level up, then try the 1AND1 Life at home workout plan. You’ll get a great combination of strength-training and endurance exercises, for free.