Here is one simple exercise that will improve all-over muscle tone and help you lose weight, by doing just this exercise.
The plank is one of the most popular and effective exercises for the abdominals and it doesn’t just make the abs and shoulder girdle work, it’s a workout for all the muscles in the body.
What it’s all about
The essence of the plank is to ‘hang’ above the floor for several minutes once a day, supported only by your hands and toes. No-one would say that it is easy to be in this ‘hanging’ state, even for only a few minutes. In this pose, a huge number of muscles are activated.
The Classic Plank
The plank is a static exercise. There’s no movement in it, so the main thing is to hold your body right.
- Lie on the floor stomach down. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees angles and transfer your weight onto your arms. Your body should form a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.
- Support yourself only on your forearms and the tips of your toes. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders.
- Hold your body as level as possible, tense your stomach muscles and don’t relax them. Try not to point your thighs towards the floor.
- Feet. Put them together. Keeping balance becomes more difficult, which increases the load on the stomach muscles.
- Legs. Should be straight and tensed. Otherwise, the load on the abdominals will be reduced. This is what is keeping the spine from bending.
- Buttocks. Keep tensed, and don’t relax them until the workout is over. Clenching the buttock muscles increases the activity of the whole muscular system.
- Small of the back. This is the most difficult part! If you do the plank right, the lumber region of your spine should be flat. That means you shouldn’t round or bend the small of your back. Imagine that you’re holding it flat against a wall.
- Stomach. Stretch it out, and then try to pull it towards your ribs. Throughout the workout keep your stomach in this position, but don’t slow down your breathing.
- Elbows. Keep them directly below your shoulders, so as not to create unnecessary strain.
It’s important to breath out when assuming the pose and stay in position until a reasonable level of muscle fatigue is reached. Try to keep it up as long as possible; at first 10 seconds is enough. As a rule, people with differing levels of fitness keep the pose for anything from 10 seconds to 2 minutes. If you’re new to all this don’t try to break any records; start at the minimum.
This exercise for the abs is more effective than a traditional plank as you hold all your bodyweight on two points points of contact rather than four. You will need to make more effort to keep your balance.
- While lying on your left side, place your elbow directly below your shoulder. Keep the legs straight. Put your right hand on your right thigh, still keeping those legs straight.
- Tense your abdominal muscles and raise your hip from the floor until you form a right-angle, balancing on your forearm and feet. Remain in this position for 30-45 seconds. If you can’t hold it that long, repeat the exercise until you have spent a total of at least 30 seconds in this pose. Change sides and do it again.
- Plank with raised leg. Raise one leg. By doing this you significantly increase the load on the muscular system and reduce support. This means your body will have to make an extra effort to hold the position. By reducing the area of contact with the floor the strain on the stomach muscles is significantly increased.
- Plank with raised arm. Raise one arm. This is similar to the first variaton. You’ll have to make an effort not to fall on your side.
- Side plank with arm and leg lift. Lie on your side, put your legs together and straighten them. Along with your torso they should make a straight line. Put your left forearm on the floor (with your elbow directly under your shoulder). Raise your right leg and arm. Hold this position for as long as you can.
- Plank on an exercise ball. Rest your elbows on the ball or put your feet on it.
Benefits of this exercise
Firm buttocks. This exercise is a workout for your glutes and calf muscles, so you won’t just get them into shape, you’ll get rid of cellulite too.
A strong back. During the exercise the lower back muscles are strengthened, as are the shoulder and neck muscles. This can help to safeguard against osteochondrosis and other bone diseases in the small of the back and neck. Also you’ll get rid of pain above and between the shoulder blades caused by carrying heavy bags or constantly sitting at a computer.
Slim legs. The legs take most of the weight in this exercise. All the leg muscles are active, from the thighs to the calves. Don’t be alarmed if you feel a burning sensation in your muscles; that just means they’re working.
A flat stomach. When your whole body is straining, both your lower and side abs get a workout too.
Toned arms. It’s quite obvious that along with the legs the arms also get an intensive workout. They support the weight of your upper body.
- The pelvis falls towards the floor and your body forms a hoop.
- The tailbone points at the ceiling and the small of the back forms a bend.
To avoid these mistakes, point the tailbone towards your heels and pull your belly in. The stomach muscles should be strong, just as much as the muscles of the thighs and knees. Push your thighs up. You should feel that your lower abs are taunt and the small of the back is being lengthened. Push the heels gently back.
Don’t allow the thighs to hang down and don’t relax the knees. Try to ‘hover’ above the floor by stretching the spine and tensing the abdominal muscles. Don’t let your whole weight slip forward onto your forearms. Try to hold the legs together, toes side by side, don’t let them slip away from each other. The wider apart they are, the less load there is on the abdominals and the more on the knees.
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