Navigation

Content Part

Please enter your email below to receive blog updates and news.
RSS
Subscribe
Follow
Me

 

 

 

How To Improve Your Plank And Build A Solid Core

If I had to pick my top five exercises for developing core strength and stability for men and women over 40, planks would be right up there at the top.

In my book, the regular old school stationary plank is an awesome core exercise that’s often overlooked.

I’ll admit I was leaving them out of my workout routines for a minute, but I’ve gotten back to doing them and have picked up a little tip for you. It’s a training technique that will improve your planks significantly in a short period of time.

More after the jump..


Before I share with you this technique, let’s make sure we’ve got the basics down for doing a proper stationary plank. Having proper form and technique is critical to getting the most benefit out of the exercise.

One of the biggest mistakes I see being made with planks is trying to do them for a certain block of time without regard to proper form. Walk into a group exercise class at your local health club and you’ll see lots of folks with their hips hiked up in the air, faking their way through the plank circuit.

Truth be told, they’d be better off going for as long as they can with proper form and simply resting as needed.

Here are some coaching points to doing a proper plank.

  • Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders and you’re not leaning too far forward.
  • Maintain a flat upper back with your shoulder blades protracted so you’re not dropping down towards the floor.
  • Keep a neutral spine with your head parallel to the floor and not tucking your chin or looking up.
  • Maintain a flat lower black and don’t hike your hips up in the air. This is a common compensation pattern due to weak core muscles.
  • If you feel pain in your lower back, you’re compensating and need to work the plank from your knees in an extended position or take a moment of rest.

Now I should mention that many individuals just starting out will find it difficult to just get into a plank position. Don’t try to force it and put all the tension on your low back. Here’s a little technique I use with my clients who aren’t able yet to do a plank.

Go into a kneeling push-up position. Go into your kneeling push-up and when you’re on the way up extend your knees raising them off the floor upon your ascent. Return to your knees and repeat.

This is a great way to build upper body strength and core stability at the same time. You’ll also find that it helps you to get into doing regular push-up’s much faster as well.

You could also hold an arms extended plank instead of being on your forearms. This is in essence the starting position to a regular push-up. For beginners this is an excellent alternative as well.

Ok, let’s assume you’re able to get into a low plank position and hold it for at least 10 seconds. What’s the best way to improve your plank now over time?

Unlike a lot of exercises, you’re not doing stationary planks for reps; you’re doing them for time. The longer you can stay in a stationary plank, the stronger your core. That should be obvious enough, but here’s the thing, you don’t want to force yourself into hold times that are longer than you can maintain proper form (common mistake).

This brings me to the training technique that I mentioned earlier. I’ve used this technique really improve my plank hold times over the last couple of months.

Let’s say for the purpose of this discussion you can do a plank hold for 30 seconds with proper form. Instead of doing sets of plank holds for 20-30 seconds, try this instead.

Timed plank challenge technique

Get yourself two timers or stopwatches. You’ll be starting both at the same time. Set a goal of doing 1:30 in a plank. Now obviously you won’t be able to go straight through, but that’s the point. Start both timers and get into your plank. Go as long as you can go with proper form and then go to your knees and rest.

When you do stop one of the watches, the other watch continues to run. When you’re ready get back into your plank and hold again. Keep repeating this pattern until you get to 1:30 on the watch or timer that you’ve been using to start and stop. Stop the other watch as well upon your completion.

Let’s say it took you 2:20 to finish a 1:30 worth of plank holds with proper form. That’s your baseline now. You keep repeating your plank challenges during workouts seeing if you can get your time down. When you’re able to go straight through or get close to it, take the time of your plank hold challenge up to 2:00 and so forth.

This method in essence allows you to work at your own pace while adding the element of competition (either with yourself or a workout partner), and a means of measuring progress.

The first time I did this challenge, my workout partner and I set out to 5:00 of stationary planking. I think it took me like close to seven minutes to complete, but I was sore the next day like I’ve never been before from doing planks.

Now I’ll go ahead and tell you a 1:00 plank in proper form is a pretty good indicator of decent core stability in someone over forty. I’m talking a legit one minute plank with no hip hiking or cheating.

My goal is to get to a 5:00 straight plank which is proving to be quite the challenge. I’ll keep chipping away at it though and have some fun competing with myself and my training partner in the process.

I encourage you to set a reasonable goal and simply start low and keep scaling it. That may be 30 seconds in the beginning, but that’s ok.

Just keep challenging yourself to get better. The key is to do your planks with proper form and don’t cheat yourself. I’d rather see a 20 second plank with proper form than a 60 second plank with your hips hiked up in the air.

Another method I use with my clients is doing “plank intervals.”  This is where you’d hold a plank for a short period of time, say 10-20 seconds, and then rest for 10-20 seconds and repeat. If you could only hold a plank for 10 seconds at a time for example, this method would help build your core strength and stability without breaking form and compensating with longer hold times.

If you’re not doing some variation of a plank in your workout routines, I encourage you to start doing so. Not only is it a great core exercise, but it’s also very effective at developing shoulder stability and good posture.

Ok, that’s a wrap for now. Be blessed. – S

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. Shane specializes in helping middle age adults achieve a body transformation with personalized diet programming and burst training workouts. Learn more about the programs on this site and sign up for a free consultation today.

View Our Web Site - Click Here
RSS Feed - Click Here

Category: Fitness Training.