Everyone wants tight abs and a flat stomach, and the plank exercise is one of the best ways to do that. For many women, however, this can be quite the challenge. Abdominal exercises can be very difficult and sometimes even painful. A key to creating a good plank exercise workout is to start small and build from there.
The Basic Plank
Before developing a routine, you should know how to do a basic plank pose. To prevent injury, it's important to pay attention to the placement of your arms and feet.
- Lie flat on the floor, belly down. For your comfort, it may be a good idea to use a floor or yoga mat.
- Place your forearms beneath you, flat on the mat or floor.
- Be sure to keep your elbows close together, as your arms will be supporting much of your weight.
- Slowly, lift up your body with your forearms and toes, keeping your back rigid and your heels together. Hold your abdominal muscles, or your "core," very tight.
- Pay special attention to your shoulders and upper back. You should not hold this part of your body too rigidly, as it will create tension.
Two Types of Plank Exercises
While there are many variations of the plank exercise, the most basic plank workout involves holding the body in the plank position for a certain number of seconds or minutes. Another, more challenging type, involves movement of the arm(s) or leg(s) for a certain number of reps.
How to Do a Timed Plank Workout
Timed workouts allow you to build your abdominal endurance. As you improve in your plank exercises, you will be able to hold the pose for longer and longer.
- Hold the plank pose for ten seconds.
- Don't forget to breathe!
- Release pose.
- Relax on the mat or floor for a few seconds.
- Repeat pose for the same number of seconds until you reach one minute.
If you can hold the pose for longer than ten seconds, count until you cannot hold yourself in proper form. If you feel yourself starting to break proper form, release immediately to prevent injury. At first, you may not be able to hold the pose even for ten seconds. This is okay. Hold the pose for as long as you can. Eventually, you will be able to work up to ten seconds or more.
Make a goal of one minute, three minutes, or five minutes, and try to work toward that.
Plank Pose with Arm Lift
- Begin with a basic plank pose.
- Hold for five seconds.
- Shift your weight to your right forearm.
- Lift your left arm off the floor in a slow, controlled motion until your arm is straight ahead of you.
- Your left arm should be level with your shoulder.
- Hold the position for five seconds. (Remember to hold your abdominal muscles tightly.)
- Return to the original plank pose.
- Repeat the movement with your right arm.
- Aim for three to five reps on each arm.
You can adjust the number of seconds for each pose based on your endurance level. If you are more advanced, you can do ten to 12 reps on each arm. For beginners, it may be helpful to relax on the floor or mat between each movement for an additional five seconds.
Plank Pose with Leg Lift
- Begin in a basic plank pose.
- Hold for five seconds.
- Shift weight to your right foot.
- Lift your left foot off the floor in a slow, controlled movement until your leg is extended with the toe pointed down.
- Your foot should be at least four inches from the floor or mat.
- Hold for five seconds and release.
- Repeat movement with your right leg.
- Aim for eight to 12 sets of reps.
More advanced individuals may be able to hold each pose for longer than five seconds. Those who cannot hold the pose for five seconds should try to aim for the same amount of time on each rep.
Plank Pose with Combination Lifts (Advanced)
- Begin in a plank pose.
- Shift weight to your right arm and your left foot.
- Raise your left arm (as noted above) and your right foot (as noted above). (Abs should be tight.)
- Hold the pose for five seconds.
- If you lose your balance or feel shaky, return to the basic plank pose.
- Keep movements slow and controlled to prevent injury.
- Return to basic plank position for five seconds and repeat with opposing limbs.
- Do eight to ten sets of reps. Increase the number of holding seconds for a harder workout.
Plank exercises are one of the best ways to get strong abdominal muscles. It's important to create a workout you can repeat on a regular basis (three or four times per week). It is often a mistake to attempt a routine so advanced you cannot do it again for several days. Those who are just starting out should build up to more advanced routines slowly to get the best results.