Plank Your Way to Abs

With the launch of the renowned Active IQ courses, we learn from our in-house fitness expert Harry.

Exercise is one of the core pillars of optimal health. Your body was designed for movement and it’s never too late to get started. No matter how old you are or how out of shape you think you’ve become, today is the day you can start to improve your future.

Planking is designed to engage several major muscle groups simultaneously and help to tone your stomach, bum thighs and arms. As an added bonus, like other calisthenic exercises, it requires no extra equipment or weights, making it a convenient form of strength training if you’re on a small budget or are travelling.

Although this exercise is difficult at first, the more this is performed the more stable you will become.  So, what are you waiting for?

Harry says:

“One Exercise, multiple benefits.”

Can the plank positively affect your health?

Doing the plank for just one minute a day can have positive health benefits.  It has been found to noticeably reduce the onset of lower back pain, as it strengthens back muscles and makes them less susceptible to injury.

Planking can boost your overall stamina, and therefore your own physical fitness and thus your performance in physical activities.  It can also affect your mood in a positive way when practised on a regular basis.

How to master the plank:

  1. Find a suitable space on the floor.  Place your palms on the floor directly beneath your shoulders.  You can add an exercise matt for additional comfort.
  2. Stretch your legs out behind you with your toes touching the ground and extend your arms, pushing up, as you do when doing a push-up.
  3. Tighten your core for added stability and support; ensuring your body is aligned in a diagonal line.
  4. Breathe!  So many forget to do this simple part, throughout the exercise inhale and exhale slowly, controlling your breathing whilst focussing your mind.
  5. Make sure you squeeze your core muscles tightly without letting your back or bum sink to the floor.
  6. Hold this pose for 30 seconds at first, gradually increase the time of each exercise each time until you take it up to one minute.

Plank Variations:

Side Plank

Lie down on your side, keep the legs straight and align your body into a straight line.  Raise your body, lifting hips, legs and knees off the floor.  Use your left arm for support if necessary.  Squeeze your abdominal muscles and hold this for 30 seconds, increasing the time you hold the plank for., as you get progressively stronger.  Repeat on your left-hand side.

Reverse Plank

Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.  Place your hands on the floor, directly below your shoulders and push up.  Ensure your body is straight, and practice-controlled breathing throughout the exercise.  If this exercise proves too strenuous at first, try the exercise with your elbows on the floor until you feel ready to progress to the next level.

Be careful!

If at any point during exercise you feel any discomfort or feel as though the exercise may be having an adverse effect – stop immediately.  Do not do more than you are physically able to do.

Did you know:

The world record for holding a plank currently stands at eight hours and one minute, set by Chinese policeman Mao Weidong in May 2016.

Fancy giving it a go? Check out these great, convenient distance learning online fitness courses