50-50-50 Challenge: Top 10 reasons to plank
Libby Norris, Canada AM fitness expert
Published Tuesday, September 3, 2013 7:50AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 3, 2013 8:45AM EDT
It's tough to imagine how and why a plank - a simple, stationary position - is such a great exercise and inclusion in your fitness program. Although you're not moving, it can feel challenging and uncomfortable and sometimes ridiculous. So why bother?
Many of our 50-50-50 Challenge participants were asking that very question as we included in almost everyone's program. To give you the incentive to start and the motivation to keep going with planks, we thought we'd share how this simple exercise helps and the endless options and variations you can do to keep it fresh, fun (well, sort of) and challenging.
Top 10 reasons to plank:
10 it develops "functional" core strength for everyday activities
9 improves your posture
8 it makes you a more efficient runner or walker
7 improves stability
6 increases upper body strength
5 strengthens hips and pelvic floor
4 there is always a modification for starting for any fitness level
3 increases low back strength and reduces risk of injury
2 the options for progressions are endless
1 those abs will look amazing once you've removed those layers over top!
That touches on another common misconception. Whether you do crunches, V-sits, roll backs or planks, more ab work WILL NOT flatten your abs. Unfortunately, you can't spot reduce. That lean look comes from reducing the adipose tissue (that's the fat!) and is best achieved with a combination of healthy eating and a balance of cardiovascular and resistance training.
With so many options and benefits, though, planks are a great exercise to ensure your abs are strong and supporting you during your workouts and in everyday life. Although it can be confusing just how to begin, here are 3 basic considerations to find the best fit for you!
Change the angle.
This is where planks are so flexible for any fitness level. The greater the angle, the more gravity is adding resistance. So if you're just starting out, have a weak upper body or low back, there's always an entry point. Start against a wall or with your hands on a counter. To make it a bit more challenging, bend the elbows a bit and you'll feel it more in your arms and upper body.
Once you can hold a plank for a 30-60 seconds, it's time to add more challenge. Start moving your hand position closer toward the floor.
The same principle holds true from the other end - your feet! If you're already doing planks from the floor and want to increase the challenge, you can star elevating your feet. Prop your feet up on a step, a stool, a chair. You'll start to feel that more through your upper body.
Shorten or lengthen the lever.
The longer the lever, the tougher this exercise is going to be. There are two areas to consider here.
1-Arm length. Executing a plank from the forearms will be easier than doing planks from your hands.
When you do planks from your forearms, it changes the angle but also distributes the weight over a larger surface. It's also much more comfortable if you have any wrist issues.
2-Body length. The length of this lever will dramatically impact the degree of difficulty. A great option to start is from the knee - a shorter lever. It can be tough to make the leap to doing a full plank position from the toe, however, so this is where a stability ball comes in handy. You can start with the ball under your hips and then very gradually increase the challenge by inching it along your thighs toward your knees and eventually to your toes.
Increase or decrease your stability
This can be fun and easy to play with and can be done by changing the stability of the hands or your feet. SO many options here including:
- hands or feet in a wide or narrow position
- walking from the forearms to the hands and back down
- from the hands or forearms, lift on arm
- from the knees or toes, lift one leg
- hands or forearms on a stability ball or bosu
- feet on a stability ball or bosu
- adding a weight to one hand (ex. a renegade row)
- adding movement (ex. thread the needle)
Progress gradually and have fun with all the options but think QUALITY versus quantity. Remember when you're changing any exercise in your workout - including planks - minor tweaks are enough to make significant changes in the degree of difficulty and how your muscle fibres fire. This is what helps to keep your body challenged, your workouts fun and interesting and avoid training plateaus.
It's not too late to join us!
Do you need some motivation and help to lose weight, get toned or increase health and energy? It doesn't have to be 50 lbs and
We've set up access and an amazing discount for our Canada AM viewers. , you can
For anyone wishing to join alongside our challenge, we've set up access to the online training site at an amazing discount and YOU can start ANY time.
If you have any questions on how and where to get started with your workouts, contact Libby at www.libbynorris.com. We love your feedback, questions and suggestions for segments.