Welcome to the latest edition of 'workout Wednesday' when each week I share a new running or strength training for runners workout. I posted this video on Instagram this week and was reminded of a blast from the past.
A social media friend commented, "If I remember correctly, maybe eight years ago, this is how I met you! In a plank challenge."
Then it all came flooding back. Many years ago I had an ongoing plank challenge on my old blog. I challenged participants to hold a plank for as long as they could and share their best times. I maintained a leaderboard of the longest plank holders which, if memory serves, had hold times up to ten minutes long!
My personal record was over seven minutes, which I was quite proud. This was all before I was a trainer or a running coach, and I since learned that there is not much benefit of holding a plank for more than a minute or two, outside of impressing your friends. More is not better, you can build core strength and stability with one to two-minute planks (or less)!
I assure you today I probably couldn't hold a plank longer than two minutes if my life depended on it. It doesn't mean I am weaker than I was back then. I was training to hold a longer plank for the sake of holding a longer plank. There isn't much carry over to other activities. These days I spend my training time more wisely.
Today we are going to talk about how to proper plank form and how to progress, or level up, those planks once you get stronger.
BRACE YOUR CORE
Before beginning any plank, first, engage your core. Brace your core as if you were preparing for someone to punch you in the stomach. Take in a giant breath of air, blow out that air and engage your core. You should feel like you can pull it in tighter after you blow out the air. While continuing to engage, breath normally.
LEVEL ONE: STRAIGHT ARM PLANK
In a straight arm, high plank position, engage your abs while breathing normally. Make sure your shoulders, elbows, and wrists are straight up and down (not at an angle). Hold for as long as you can, up to a minute. If you can't hold for a minute, take a short break between holds. For example, hold for 20 seconds, rest, 20 seconds rest, 20 seconds then finish. Continue to progress by holding for a few seconds longer at a time until you can hold for at least one minute without rest.
LEVEL TWO: ELBOW PLANK
Position your elbows on the floor with your shoulders directly over your elbows. Your body should be in a straight line parallel to the floor. Be careful not to raise your butt in the air or allow your hips to sink down. Keep your neck neutral. Now set a timer and see how long you can hold it, up to two minutes.
LEVEL THREE: ADD MOVEMENT TO YOUR PLANK
This is where it gets fun. In an elbow plank position, take your right leg straight out to the side and bring it back in, then lift your leg straight up towards the ceiling and lower, then bring your knee out to the side and touch your elbow (or as close as you can get) and then return to starting position. Recheck your form (keep that butt out of the air) and repeat on the left side. Try not to let your body rotate as you move your legs. Challenge yourself with how many reps you can perform with proper form. Take a rest between reps if needed. Whew.
I made a short video and feel free to laugh at me because it's hard to do planks and talk at the same time! Hah!
Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Record a clip and tag @leagendersfitness on Instagram so I can cheer you on.
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