Are you tired of doing crunches with little in the way of results? Does it seem like your back hurts more than your abs during a sit-up session? Well, maybe it’s time you upgraded to a better core exercise; enter the plank.
Nearly all people who live a fit and healthy lifestyle know what a plank is. It’s the ultimate full-body pose: which tones your butt, legs, back, arms, and of course, your abs. But the major drawback with planks are how difficult they are to do for beginners.
Holding a plank position is one of those things that takes a good bit of time to be able to do well. You must build your core, leg, and arm strength to hold it for long periods of time. Obviously, this is done through practice. Which is why so many fail at mastering it; it’s hard to do so they quit.
What you need to do to keep from giving up and actually master the plank, is to incorporate them into your workout routine. But it if you really want to speed up the process, turn performing planks into its own workout routine. Not sure how to do that? Don’t worry, we got you covered.
Here’s a good routine you can add as, or addition to your current workout plan. For each week in this plan, you’ll start a plank challenge and repeat it until you have mastered it. Once you knock out one challenge, you’ll move onto the next one. You can practice this at your own pace and skill level, but be sure to work each day and continually progress every week.
Week One: Fixing Your Form
During the first week, we’re going to focus on fixing your plank form. This is done so you not only get the most out of the position, but also to make sure you’ll be performing the move properly when it gets more challenging in the following weeks.
The most important aspect to doing a proper plank is to make sure your body forms a straight line—head to heels. You’ll need to keep your core, legs, and glutes tight while you hold the position. This handy video below will better show you how to fix your form and perform a proper plank.
For the first week, you want to work on your form and start by holding the position for 20 to 30 seconds at a time. If this isn’t challenging enough, you can go for longer, but make sure you’re really squeezing your glutes and keeping your core tight while you hold the position. Take 30 seconds to one minute rest between sets.
It’s recommended you use a timer for this rather than counting seconds in your head. This is because you want to be accurate as possible in knowing how long you’re holding the position. As we said before, you can add planks to the ends of your workouts, or perform them as their own workout. Either way, aim for ten total minutes of holding the plank for every workout (you can do planks every day, but three to four times during the first week should be more than sufficient). This will greatly improve your core.
Week Two: Boosting Your Endurance
By the second week, you should already be able to maintain a plank for at least 30 seconds. But if you can’t just yet, don’t worry; practice makes perfect. You’ll be kicking things up a bit during this second week in the form of adding time, so you‘ll get where you want to be in no time. The important thing is to stick to the plan and don’t quit.
To boost your endurance (in the form of how long you can hold a plank) you’ll start each workout with a 30-second plank. After the 30 seconds, go into the Downward Dog position for five seconds to relax your core muscles.
After the micro-rest, go back into the plank and try to hold it for 45 seconds this time. Follow this set with another five-second downward dog pose, then go back into the plank. This time only hold it for 15 to 30 seconds.
After another five-second rest, try for a whole minute in the plank position. Most likely your whole body will hurt after the minute (or however long you could hold the plank for). Now, you can take a one to two-minute rest. After the rest, repeat the whole process one more time (or more if you can handle it). Every plank workout during the second week will consist of building endurance in this manner. Ultimately leading to a tighter, stronger core.
Week Three: Switch Things Up
After two weeks of steady plank work, you should now be able to add variations to your plank position. If you try but aren’t there just yet, don’t get down on yourself. Our bodies all develop at different paces and we all come from different starting points. All you need to do is double down and repeat the first two weeks until you get the hang of things. Remember, this isn’t a race, it’s a means of improving yourself. You aren’t trying to impress anyone else.
By switching things up, we mean you’ll be adding different variations to how you hold the plank position. This is done by moving the center of your mass. Start from a normal forearm plank, then drop your right hip so your right thigh lightly touches the floor. Hold for 30 seconds then return to the starting position. Then drop your left and hold this for 30 seconds (one minute total in the plank position).
The second variation to this is going to test your balance. From the regular plank position, you’re going to extend your right arm, parallel to the floor, straight out in front of you. You must keep your form perfect during this. Hold the position for 15 seconds, then switch to extending your left arm, holding for another 15 seconds. While still holding the plank, you’re going to extend your right leg and hold for 15 seconds. Then follow this with your left leg, holding for 15 seconds (a total of one minute holding the plank).
The final variation is going to change the level in which you hold a plank. Start in a plank on your forearms. Then press up onto your right hand, then your left, making you come into a high plank. Hold this for 30 seconds, return to your forearms, and hold a normal plank for 30 more seconds.
Once you master these simple variations, you can throw in more extreme ones to really kick things up a notch. The important thing, and reason for the 21-day plank challenge, is to keep you consistent with your core strengthening. The hardest part of doing planks is just starting out. Once you build up the strength and endurance, it’s a real cakewalk.
After completing the 21-day plank challenge, you should be able to move onto much more advanced variations. The video below gives you some kick-ass plank variations in a workout you should really try. Mastering the plank will improve your core and leg strength, tone your midsection and glutes, and reduce back and hip pain. So, do yourself a favor, stick with this program and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Here’s looking to a whole new you!