Getting the Most Out of the Front Plank

Front Planks - Ab WorkoutsThe plank is an incredibly popular and effective exercise for developing strength in your abdominals and core. According to the American Council on Exercise, it primarily engages your rectus abdominus, which is the major abdominal muscle, as well as your transverse abdominus and your erector spinae. However, an array of muscles around your shoulders are also recruited in order to maintain stability at your shoulder joints, and your glutes, quadriceps and calves contract to control movement about your thighs, knees and ankles. The plank is an isometric exercise, meaning it requires your muscles to contract and hold yourself in a position over time.

In order for it to be effective, it’s important to perform the front plank with correct technique. Beginners will often become fatigued rather quickly, but it’s likely you’ll develop the strength and coordination necessary to perform the exercise for a longer duration and to incorporate additional elements to increase the exercises’ intensity.

Getting into the Plank

Let’s start by talking about the proper way to get into the plank position. You can quickly rise up onto your elbows and toes and get to work, but doing so overlooks an opportunity to challenge your core. To properly get into the plank, first lie on a mat on your stomach. Position your elbows directly underneath your shoulders. Prior to rising up into the plank, you’re going to prepare your body beginning at the toes and moving up to your hips. First, tuck your toes into the floor. Then, lock your knees to ensure your legs remain straight. Lastly, clench your buttocks. Now you’re ready to pick your hips and torso off the floor by driving your elbows into the ground.

Duration versus Repetitions

Normally, you hold yourself in the plank position for as long as you can. If you’re just starting out, getting into the plank may be strenuous enough. If this is the case, try to hold the plank position for a couple seconds and then slowly lower yourself back down to the floor. As you do, you’re your torso and knees stiff as you did when rising up. Perform the exercise in repetitions instead of for time. Take a moment in between each repetition to gather yourself.

Increasing the Intensity of the Plank

If you consistently incorporate the front plank into your workout regimen, you’re going to see significant results rather quickly. Once you’re able to hold the front plank position for 60 seconds, consider increasing the intensity of the exercise by incorporating one of the following elements:

Arm or Leg Lifts

Leg lifts are not as demanding as arm lifts. To incorporate leg lifts, while maintaining the front plank position, slowly pick up one foot an inch off the floor. Return it back down and then repeat with the opposite foot. To incorporate arm lifts, maintain the front plank position and then lift one elbow up off the floor and raise it out slightly. Return it back down and then repeat with the opposite arm.

Elevated Plank

To increase the amount of resistance your core muscles must overcome, place your feet atop an object such as a small box or a BOSU ball. Despite your feet being elevated, be sure to still rise up into the plank with the correct technique.

Shifting Side-to-Side Planks

Once you’re in the front plank position, shift your hips to the left and then back to the right, all the while keeping your elbows and feet planted on the floor.

Front-to-Back Plank

From the plank position, rock through the ankles to shift your entire body forward and then backwards, once again while keeping your elbows and feet planted.

Circular Plank

Combination the movements of the side-to-side and front-to-back plank, draw a circle with your body over the ground. The bigger the circle, the more difficult the exercise. Be sure to draw circles both clockwise and counterclockwise.

About The Author

Kim Nunley - Article AuthorKim Nunley has worked in the health and fitness field for over 10 years. She received her Master’s of Science Degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (C.S.C.S.) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. She has been a personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, physical education instructor and athletic coach, and now works as a freelance writer. She also writes short and feature-length screenplays.

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References

Front Plank – American Council on Exercise

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