Planks are an excellent way to strengthen your core.
You will use a lot of different muscles to hold your body in a straight line, resting on your toes and forearms. This is a very demanding exercise and not to be attempted if you are just starting out with exercise or you have recently injured your shoulder or back.
In order to get strong enough to do this exercise you may need to do a considerable amount of preparatory exercise. I strongly recommend starting with push ups on the wall, progressing to lady push ups from your knees, until you can successfully perform 10 full push ups.
Here are 4 more exercises that will help to strengthen your core muscles and put that perfect plank within your reach:
Get into 4 point kneeling- (hands and knees). Keep your head in line with your back (look at the floor). Lift right arm so that it is in line with your body and your left leg out straight behind you. If you have any back pain with this try breaking the exercise down so that you only lift one arm or one leg at a time. Still sore? Consult your physiotherapist. Move to a ball to make it harder once you can do 10 easily.
Lying on your back bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor a foot or so away from your buttocks. Flatten your back and lift your buttocks. Hold for a 3 count and lower slowly. Do 10 repetitions – progress to putting your feet up on an exercise ball when this becomes easy.
Easy abdominals lie on your back close enough to the wall (or the headboard of your bed) to push your hands “up” into the wall. Bring your knees up to your waist and then drop one leg down so your heel taps the floor. Bring it back up to your waist before you drop the other leg. Start with 5 on each side. Once 5 on each side is easy go to 10 and then 15. Once you can do 15 easily start reaching out further with your heels. Make sure your back stays flat on the mat/floor/bed. If you have to arch your back you are reaching too far.
Inclined mountain climbers; Put both hands on the edge of the kitchen counter. Put your feet far enough away from your hands to create a 45 degree slope with your body .Your feet will be shoulder width apart and your body will be in a straight line between your shoulders and feet. Bend up one knee and bring your knee towards your chest. Lower and repeat with the other side. Start with 5 on each leg. Make it harder by dropping the height of the surface under your hands, for example go to the arms of a chair then the seat of the chair.
Similar to doing a yoga pose, the perfect plank requires you to hold the form in stillness and breathe. Weight is on forearms and toes. Your body is fully straight between those points and yes you can still breathe. If you can’t breathe go back to the exercises to get ready to plank.
Now that you can assume the position let’s talk about how long to hold it. Start with 10-15 seconds and gradually add 10 seconds at a time. I recently met a young man who was proud of his ability to do an eight minute plank! Yes he was in the physio clinic with pain, so maybe not 8 minutes! One minute static hold and then start adding movement, bend one knee at a time, or come up onto your hands, or put your forearms on a bosu ball. This will make it harder and therefore more interesting so long as you’re breathing!
Planks are not for everyone, so if you are unsure or you have any questions make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists to get some individual guidance. To arrange an appointment, please call our office at 604-228-1474 or use our online booking request form.