There is a reason why planks have overtaken crunches and sit-ups to become one of the most popular abs exercises among almost all celebrity exercise programs. They train your abs to get better at their primary function: to stabilize and resist movement. So, be it Jessica Alba’s post pregnancy routine, Chris Hemsworth’s bulking routine for Thor, Matthew McConaughey’s Magic Mike workout, Brooke Burke’s total body circuits or Fergie’s, Kelly Rowland’s or Padma Lakshmi’s workouts to remain fit and fabulous; there is a place for planks in everybody’s training. It is the ideal move to teach new lifters or sedentary people to learn or re-learn the ability to brace their mid-section while performing diverse movements. Why is that important? Because getting stronger and staying injury free directly depends upon your ability to keep your core muscles steady as you transfer force, back and forth between your lower and upper body.
For Beginners or people new to weight training:
You are better off finishing off your workouts with a plank every other day. After targeting all the large muscle groups, your abs are already tired and holding a plank for even 20 seconds will generate deeper activation of the core muscles and strengthen your lower back. Aim to hold a basic forward plank for up to a minute. From there on, move on to learn the side plank. Front planks build the foundation to hold the body up in the push-up position while side planks promote better core balance during leg workouts, especially with unilateral movements like lunges. How do you know if you are doing the forward plank wrong? Jennifer Burke, district fitness manager for Crunch in Los Angeles claims in ACE Fitness blog that you need to correct your form if you are feeling the brunt in your lower back and arms and not through your abs, glutes and quads.
For intermediate lifters:
Once you can hold the basic forms of plank conveniently beyond 60 seconds, you will not gain any additional benefit by working those same moves for a longer time span. Increase the intensity, by moving on to the following advanced versions that will target multiple parts of your body and aid in developing greater strength and definition. Advanced plank variations also serve as the ideal anti-dote for all the forward slouching one does bent over a desk all day. The following moves are optimal as a part of full body HIIT circuit. Alternatively, use them as metabolic finishers at the end of a weight training routine or team them up with isolation abdominal exercises like leg raises and crunches.
Apart from building a strong back, this move improves your shoulder stability and builds the necessary core strength to improve the ability to execute more push-ups with better form.
As opposed to typical static plank versions, plank jacks act as a calorie torching cardio move while targeting your hips, thighs and arms along with the core.
A full body calorie burning exercise often used in quick cardio drills or in between abdominal work, it also helps in developing greater hip mobility and strengthens the shoulders and triceps.
Spiderman Plank Crunches
Definitely not meant for beginners, one is likely to feel much stronger in their lower back, sides and abdomen when they find themselves capable of doing even 15 repetitions each side.
For Advance lifters:
Advanced lifters have different goals from the average person who hits the gym merely for the sake of vanity. They continually want to smash their personal records in the gym with every major lift. There might be others, who want to get faster and build greater endurance for a sport or simply want to stay injury free while pushing their body’s limits. Enter the Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) plank.
With a few tweaks in body-positioning, like your heels pressed together and hands clenched in fists, the standard plank converts to a ridiculously intense level, so much so, that holding an RKC plank for 10 seconds is enough to fire up the core at maximal level. The enhanced spinal stability built as a result, helps the core to withstand agonizing external loads. This conditions one to be a more resilient fighter, a faster runner, a higher jumper and become stronger at squats and deadlifts. Use an RKC plank as a part of a dynamic warm up before a heavy weight training session and you might find yourself surprised by your own body’s ability to shove around heavy weight.
Personal trainer, Bret Contreras demonstrates the exact, updated technique for the RKC plank in the following video.