Articles

Plank Challenge

Building a strong and stable midsection is no easy feat. Just like any other muscle, the abs and lower back need suitable training in order to become bigger and stronger. Despite many of us wanting a lean and toned torso with rippling abs and a tucked tummy, they’re probably one of the muscles people know the least about.

Firstly, in order to see your abs, you’re going to need to take control of your diet. Your diet is the number one factor when it comes to getting a six-pack because you can train your abs all you want, but if there’s a layer of fat over the top, then you’re not going to be able to see them.

Yet, if you want them to look the best when the fat is taken away, then you need to train them properly, and of course, the abs are for more than aesthetics. Both the abdominal and lower back muscles contribute to a variety of other lifts alongside important parts of your life such as your posture and avoiding injury.

Today, we’re going to go over some of the benefits of the plank, how to perfectly execute one, and a final challenge to really put you through your paces.

Benefits of the Plank

 There are a variety of benefits to the plank above and beyond what we can fit in this article, but here are just some of the main advantages to regularly holding the position and its variations.

  1. It carries over to other exercises: the plank is the starting position for the push-up and teaches full body tension which is necessary for many movements in and out of the gym.
  2. It’s easily accessible: you don’t need to be particularly strong to hold the plank nor do you need any expensive equipment; all that’s required is your body, dedication, and some patience.
  3. Reduces back pain: by strengthen the muscles in and around the back, you’re less likely to develop injuries and can reduce already occurring back pain.
  4. Improves your posture: training the core is one of the best ways for improving your balance, co-ordination, and posture which can carry over to older life where physical issues are more prevalent.
  5. Can Burn a Lot of Calories: the plank hold itself might not require a lot of energy, but once you’re efficient, you’ll be able to complete a variety of active variations which can help you to quickly rattle through calories in a short period of time. 

How to do a Plank

You might think of the plank as a strictly core position, but it actually involves the entire body which is what makes it such a challenging exercise.

The most important part of performing the plank is to maintain a stable and straight spine without letting your belly button dip towards the floor. In order to do this, you need to not only engage your abs and lower back, but also your glutes.

To get into the position, begin on your hands and knees with your palms against the floor just slightly wider than your shoulders. Your hands should be placed so that your index finger is pointing forward and the rest of your fingers are splayed out to keep you balanced.

Next, extend your legs behind you, going onto your toes as you contract your abs, lower back, and glutes. You’ll also want to engage your back and shoulders to keep yourself stable in the top half of your body.

As soon as you feel your stomach dipping or your hips rising and you can’t get back into the original position, that’s when to call it quits, rest and then try again. When you’re first practicing the plank, the best way to get used to the movement is to keep doing this and trying to beat your previous time with each new attempt. Make sure to rest at least 2 minutes between holds in order for your body to regain its strength back.

The Challenge

This challenge is designed as an individual workout with the aim being to complete the routine in the fastest time possible. If you ever find the challenge too easy, then cut the 20 second rest periods down to 10 second rest periods.

If this is your first time doing the plank and you feel inexperienced, then focus on the form opposed to your speed. The key to getting the most benefit out of the plank is to get it done right, and then when you’re more fluent in the position you can progress onto timing and speed.

The best part about this challenge is that it takes the plank from an almost relaxing position to something that can really raise your heart rate and burn calories. Once you can hold the plank for 90-120 seconds, there’s no point in trying to hold it any longer and that’s when you need to shake up your core training with challenges like this. Alternating between movements in quick succession will also help you to develop balance, stability, and co-ordination across your entire body.

  1. Plank Hold x 30 Seconds
  2. Rest 10 Seconds
  3. Shoulder Touches x 20 Reps
  4. Rest 20 Seconds
  5. Mountain Climbers x 20 Reps
  6. Rest 10 Seconds
  7. Reverse Plank x 30 Seconds
  8. Rest 20 Seconds
  9. Alternating Side Plank x 20 Reps
  10. Rest 10 Seconds
  11. Cobra Pose to Downwards Dog x 10 Reps
  12. Rest 20 Seconds
  13. Leg Lift- Plank x 20 Reps
  14. Rest 10 Seconds
  15. Forearm Plank x 30 Seconds
  16. Rest 10 Seconds
  17. Straight Arm to Forearm Plank x 20 Reps
  18. Rest 20 Seconds
  19. Burpees x 10 Reps
  20. Rest 30 Seconds