Friday, March 4, 2011

The Plank - It Ain't Just for Pirates!


Happy Friday, Everyone! Today is all about one of the moves we love: The Plank. Why do we love this move so much, you ask? Well, not only is it an awesome ab-tightener but probably one of the best all around core exercises you could do. If done correctly (With your whole body in a straight line, abs sucked in, and NOT with your butt sticking way up in the air! hehe) it engages all of those important core muscles: abs, obliques, hips, back, butt, and even the smaller ones that are often neglected.

We all know that having a strong core parlays into virtually all other areas of fitness. (Having a stronger core means you will be able to keep better form while you tire during running and then will be more efficient and able to go faster. A stronger core for basketball will mean you will be more agile on the court..etc.) Further we all can attest to the fact that having a tighter middle is also something to envy. BUT, not only will you achieve all of these things but you will also be safeguarding yourself from a potential injury. The core is kind of like your body's powerhouse and if you make it as strong as possible, especially those tinier muscles, you'll make yourself more resistant to a strain, sprain, or other kind of injury.

So, without further adieu, let's walk the plank!

Your Standard: The most common form of the plank is to balance on your forearms and toes; gut sucked in, butt straight in line with the rest of your body. Many of our workouts have you hold this position for an extended amount of time, and while it may look like a breeze, those seconds certainly tick by rather slowly when you're actually doing this exercise!

Kick it Up: What's also great about the plank is that it has TONS of variations and ways to make it harder...and we are always up for a challenge, right??! Test yourself with this one: hold the standard plank position but then do leg lifts. Raise your left leg up and down 10 times and then do 10 lifts with the right leg; the tricky part here is to really focus on keeping that straight plank form.

An Issue of Balance: For this one we'll test your balance even more. Get in the plank and first lift your left leg straight up in the air and hold it there; now extend your right arm up straight in front of you. Hold here now for 20-30 seconds, lower, and then lift your right leg and left arm. This will also isometrically hit your glutes and further help give that tush a boost!

Reversing It: There is also the reverse plank where you will face up, balancing on your heels and forearms. You'll still want to keep yourself in as straight of a line as possible, so don't let your bum dip or sag towards the floor. Again you can do leg lifts (this is great to strengthening your hip flexors, which are oft a point of injury if they are too weak) and balance work.

Take it to the Side: The side plank is done when you stack your hips, balance on only one forearm and the outside of your foot. You want to keep things all neat and in a diagonal line, so don't let your hips sag towards the ground. Pick a side, hold this pose, and then flip in the other direction. You can do leg lifts for this one too; for example if you're balancing on your left arm and leg, you can then lift your right leg straight up and down.

Whew, actually we could go on and on, but that's good for now. As you can see the plank is a top move and if you aren't already doing it you should be! So master this move and soon you'll be able to show even Captain Jack Sparrow a thing or two! (Actually, I'd take Johnny Depp in any shape or form! ;) hehe)

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